The Future Of Human Nature

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Recent developments in biotechnology and genetic research are raising complex ethical questions concerning the legitimate scope and limits of genetic intervention. As we begin to contemplate the possibility of intervening in the human genome to prevent diseases, we cannot help but feel that the human species might soon be able to take its biological evolution in its own hands. 'Playing God' is the metaphor commonly used for this self-transformation of the species, which, it seems, might soon be within our grasp.

In this important new book, Jurgen Habermas - the most influential philosopher and social thinker in Germany today - takes up the question of genetic engineering and its ethical implications and subjects it to careful philosophical scrutiny. His analysis is guided by the view that genetic manipulation is bound up with the identity and self-understanding of the species. We cannot rule out the possibility that knowledge of one's own hereditary factors may prove to be restrictive for the choice of an individual's way of life and may undermine the symmetrical relations between free and equal human beings.

In the concluding chapter - which was delivered as a lecture on receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for 2001 - Habermas broadens the discussion to examine the tension between science and religion in the modern world, a tension which exploded, with such tragic violence, on September 11th.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Thoughtful and stimulating."
Times Literary Supplement

"A rich introduction to current ethical thinking in Europe and to the relevance of philosophy to society."
Canadian Medical Association Journal

"When a philosopher of the stature of Jurgen Habermas makes an intervention into contemporary genetics it pays to sit up and listen. Habermas has produced this short but sharp analysis on the ethical sides of genetic engineering and technology that never seem to be discussed at any length by professional philosophers."
Disability and Society

This book is of particular interest for two sorts of reasons. For those interested in bioethics, it contains a genuinely new set of arguments for placing serious restrictions on using prenatal genetic technologies to "enhance" offspring. And for those interested in Habermas's moral philosophy, it contains a number of new developments in his "discourse ethics" - not the least of which is a willingness to engage in applied ethics at all. It is greatly to Habermas's credit that he has squarely faced this issue, depsite the fundamental challenge it poses for discourse ethics."

"When one of the most famous living philosophers takes a stand on certain moral dilemmas that arise from the current boom in developments in the bio-sciences, it is natural that it should provoke great interest."
Radical Philosophy

"Habermas' thoughtful and self-critical contribution reads like the start of an important conversation."
Jon Turney, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A very useful source of philosophical understanding of these issues."
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law

"We are fortunate to have Jurgen Habermas writing about bioethics. His intelligence, moral seriousness and intellectual sophistication make him an exemplary figure on the Left."
Mark Blitz, Claremont Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745629865
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/1/2003
  • Pages: 136
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jürgen Habermas is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. He was awarded the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 2001.

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Table of Contents

Publisher’s Note.


Are There Postmetaphysical Answers to the Question: What is the “Good Life”?.

The Debate on the Ethical Self-Understanding of the Species.

I Moralizing Human Nature?.

II Human Dignity versus the Dignity of Human Life.

III The Embedding of Morality in an Ethics of the Species.

IV The Grown and the Made.

V Natality, the Capacity of Being Oneself, and the Ban on Instrumentalization.

VI The Moral Lmits of Eugenics.

VII Setting the Pace for a Self-instrumentalization of the Species?.


Faith and Knowledge.


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Customer Reviews

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