The next issue Babich raises within her article is a very important one because it concentrates on the content of the ideal of the good, which is connected to transhumanism, and not only the formal role of the good with which I dealt in section 3:

Beyond Sloterdijk, the message of Kurzweil’s vision of the ‘technological singularity’ as it has been embraced by (at least some elements of) popular culture, when it is not the message of the genome project or stem cells, is indeed anthropotechnics, which is all about not becoming the one you are but, and to be sure becoming the one you wish you were, becoming the one you should have been all along. Call this the Harry Potter effect, or everyone is a boy wizard, quidditch player, best in sports, all secret greatness and unfair discrimination, at least, in the germ, at least after the singularity.

According to Babich, transhumanists are in favor of “becoming the one you wish you were, becoming the one you should have been all along” which is supposed to be different from Nietzsche’s demand to “become who you are”:

Thus Nietzsche excludes the kind of transhumanism Sorgner and others speak of, because and exactly qua “enhancement,” it transpires that what is meant by transhumanism is no kind of self-overcoming.

Overcoming and not enhancing the human (or perhaps better said, the all-too-human) is the meaning of the over-human as the meaning not of the human but of the earth. In part this is the meaning of Pindar’s word to the seldom encountered, that would be the few, that would be Pindar’s word spoken to the rare: become the one you are.

She implies that the transhumanists’ goal is linked to the following utopian vision:

Everything will be perfect after the revolution.

She repeats the claim in a different way in the following two statements:

transhuman is the transitional human, on the way to a perfect model that the marketing department, rather like the iphone…

Much rather, have we perfected the body, so say the last men, and, as Nietzsche tells us, they blink.


Hence, she claims that there is one strong, and detailed ideal of the good which is associated with the concept of enhancement and enhancement is only enhancement when it leads toward this perfect ideal, and in a sense, she is right, because it is the case that Bostrom does uphold such an ideal, as I pointed out before in the Beyond Humanism article:

Bostrom stresses the Renaissance ideal as a concept of the good that is worth aspiring to.

Actually, there are reasons for holding that Nietzsche has a similar ideal in mind, as he regularly stresses the relevance of the classical type or ideal. When Nietzsche compares the qualities of geniuses and higher human beings in Zarathustra, it also becomes clear that a fully developed and flourishing Renaissance human being is what he associates with his ideal of the good which is worth aspiring for.

There seem to be some central similarities between Nietzsche’s position and that of some transhumanists, because both identify the Renaissance ideal or the classical type with the good, which is worth aspiring for. Given that this is an appropriate reconstruction of both concepts of the good, it becomes relevant to make further inquiries concerning the epistemological status of this concept of the concept of the good within both of their philosophies. As we noted earlier, both Nietzsche and Bostrom do not claim universal validity for their views of the good, which also implies that these concepts should not contain universal moral duties.

However, this judgment is not valid for all transhumanists or transhumanist friendly thinkers. Savulescu’s concept of the good has a different epistemological status. He holds that there is a universally valid account of the good, which he has grasped and which he includes in a central moral principle of his, the principle of procreative beneficence. However, in contrast to Nietzsche and Bostrom, his view of the good is a much less detailed one, because it merely stresses the relevance of intelligence, memory and health. Still, I think that even a weak universal account of the good has morally problematic implications.

A stronger account of the good with a weaker epistemological status, as it is being upheld by Bostrom, does not lead to a universally valid moral duty, and hence I regard it as less problematic than Savulescu’s position. If Bostrom, however, wishes to employ his strong and detailed account of the good for creating moral or maybe even political obligations, then the issue would be different and his position would have to be seen as a dangerous one. As long as he merely advocates and advertises his stronger account of the good, as I think he is, the worries concerning his position do not have to be serious ones.

The question concerning the content of the concept of the good which is being used for moral and political judgments is a highly problematic one, and much more could be said about it, but I plan give a more detailed account of that topic in a later publication. As I alluded to in this section, I think that it depends a lot on the epistemological status of one’s concept of the good, how problematic it is. If someone holds that he has grasped a universally valid truth, then his position is far more problematic and dangerous as someone else’s position, which implies that what he upholds is not a certain truth but rather a plausible position which he himself regards as subject to revision given new and further information.

What is important to realize here is the following. Some transhumanists as well as Nietzsche identify the classical or the Renaissance ideal with the good life. However, they also relativize this insight by stressing that it is not universally valid. This aspect is being considered when Nietzsche stresses the need to become who you are: It is in each person’sinterest to consider the needs of his body and to live in accordance with them. In transhumanists’ reflections, this aspect is being taken into consideration by stressing the norm of negative freedom on a political level: Many concepts of the good life are valid, and it ought to be possible for human beings to realize them. On the one hand, there is the affirmation of the classical or Renaissance ideal of the good life, but on the other hand, the realization that a plurality of views of the good is valid. Hence the goal of becoming who you are and the goal of becoming who you wish you were can both be found in Nietzsche’s philosophy as well as in transhumanist reflections.




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