Buchanan Human Status and Moral Enhancement (Summary 2nd Half)

Moral Status and Human Enhancement by Allen Buchanan Buchanan, in this article, deals with the widely held beliefs (or fear or anxieties) about the possibilities of producing an enhanced human species through biotechnological interventions that can, then, raise claims to a higher moral status and a different set of human rights. Although even such possibilities are ‘yet to be explored’ the issue does raise concerns as the materialization of such a possibility can very well bifurcate human beings into enhanced and unenhanced or rather ‘persons’ and ‘post persons’. It is precisely the possible cleavage between these two categories, the problems that could be resulted in due to the persisting gaps that are under question in this essay. Buchanan treats this larger question under two subsets, the first of which deals with the question “If enhancement did result in posthumans, what implications would this have for the concept of human rights: would it make that concept obsolete, as some have claimed. and if it did, would this be a moral catastrophe, as they have intimated?”. The second subset, which and the further sections are under analysis in this paper, deals with the question “Could the emergence of post humans result in there being a moral status higher than that of persons and hence require a rejection of the widely held Moral Equality Assumption, the assumption that all who have the characteristics sufficient for being persons are of equal moral status?” (353).
The second question which rather addresses the concerns regarding privileging the enhanced group of persons – post persons – and thus resulting in a higher moral status raises questions regarding the very basic assumptions regarding moral equality. Buchanan, in the second section, contemplates on this basic assumption and challenges those concerns on the basis of the “inviolability”, which should be understood as a threshold concept, of this assumption (363-364). That greater “personhood” does not confer “greater inviolability” seems to question the belief that ‘persons’’ interests might be sacrificed in the interests of the ‘post persons’ (364). Even in times of “supreme emergency” when persons might literally have to be sacrificed for the benefit of many it does not follow that there is a difference between the values of the former and the latter (364). Buchanan justifies himself by referring to instances of racism, ethnic minorities, developmental and physical disabilities etc., where similar concerns popped up and were dealt with on the basis of the assumption of the inviolability of equal assumption. That even when one section of the human beings (that is the white, especially from the West) indeed emerged as supreme beings over the rest of the population (that is the rest but especially the Black) the gap thus resulted was mitigated and then abolished altogether on the basis of this assumption. The same is the case with the other instances.
Nevertheless he adds to another dimension of the same problem by bringing in the instance of card players’ group where there is conflict of interests and capabilities. that some of them ‘can’ play bridge whereas others ‘cannot’ reflects the extent to which the ‘can’ group need to adjust for the ‘cannot’ group (373-374). This reflects upon the ‘fact’ that one group will have to adjust and cannot proceed with its “legitimate interests” (374-377). The same scenario recurs in the participation of economic and political processes where the minimal competency of the unenhanced “persons” is under sever threat. The fact that their very participation is seldom if not nil makes it necessary for enhanced “post persons” to compensate for such a disability in the form of commodities etc., which can’t last for long. Buchanan calls this the failure of the “enhanced cooperation” (378).
Through the instance of how human beings dealt (and still dealing) with people with developmental disabilities Buchanan shows how even in the present there exists ‘differences’ between people with different capabilities. Hence the issue at hand is not the creation of a higher moral status but a “practical worry” that concerns about the reflections of such persisting gaps in capabilities and interests (369-375). That there are some who possess a higher level of intelligence and practical reasoning could seem to invite inequalities that will have to be dealt with from a different perspective.
Buchanan, Allen. “Moral Status and Human Enhancement.” In Philosophy &amp. Public Affairs. 37.4 (2009): 346-381