David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):308-373 (2005)
Technologies are being developed for significantly altering the traits of existing persons (or fetuses or embryos) and of future persons via germ line modification. The availability of such technologies may affect our philosophical, legal, and everyday understandings of several important concepts, including that of personal identity. I consider whether the idea of personal identity requires reconstruction, revision or abandonment in the face of such possibilities of technological intervention into the nature and form of an individual's attributes. This requires an account of the work done by the concept of personal identity, and an explanation of what “conceptual impacts of technology” and “conceptual reconstruction” might mean. Our existing notions of personal identity and related ideas such as personhood and autonomy may seem unable to comfortably accommodate the possibilities of technologically directed trait formation and development. This is a matter of moral and legal importance because the idea of personal identity embeds major values and reflects value-laden beliefs and attitudes. The assumed endurance of identity underlies interpersonal relationships, the assignment of rewards and punishments, and the very idea of what constitutes an autonomous person. Perhaps radical restructuring or even abandonment of concepts are sometimes called for when the world changes drastically, but I suggest that conceptual modification is not “compelled” for personal identity except under extreme circumstances—the remote possibility of rapid human “shape shifting” where physical and mentational attributes can be transformed quickly and continuously. Efforts to enhance human traits, including merit attributes and other resource-attractive characteristics (e.g., intellectual and athletic aptitudes, physical size and appearance), may generate legal problems wherever the persistence of identity is presupposed. Some advance speculation is thus warranted on how trait change generally will be managed within our legal and socioeconomic systems, and more particularly on rights of access to trait-altering technologies. I mention the possible distributive effects of enhancing highly-resource attractive traits, including the strengthening individual powers to acquire still more increments in such traits in a self-reinforcing cycle. A brief review of some constitutional issues bearing on trait change completes the discussion. I conclude that existing and projected technologies do not impel the abandonment or remodeling of the idea of personal identity. We may, however, have to reconsider some uses of this concept in different settings, to rethink our understandings of ideas of merit and desert, and to deal with the distribution of resources that may enlarge and entrench the “distances” between social and economic groups.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
L. L. E. Bolt (2007). True to Oneself? Broad and Narrow Ideas on Authenticity in the Enhancement Debate. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (4):285-300.
Eric Olson (2006). Is There a Bodily Criterion of Personal Identity? In Fraser MacBride (ed.), Identity and Modality. Oxford University Press. 242.
Amartya Sen (2009). The Fog of Identity. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8 (3):285-288.
Michael Quante (2007). The Social Nature of Personal Identity. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (s 5-6):56-76.
Jennifer Radden (2004). Identity: Personal Identity, Characterization Identity, and Mental Disorder. In , The Philosophy of Psychiatry: A Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 133--46.
E. Furberg (2012). Advance Directives and Personal Identity: What Is the Problem? Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37 (1):60-73.
David DeGrazia (2005). Human Identity and Bioethics. Cambridge University Press.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads6 ( #195,517 of 1,096,601 )
Recent downloads (6 months)2 ( #153,658 of 1,096,601 )
How can I increase my downloads?