Is human enhancement a threat to solidarity?

Ruud ter Meulen

Summary: 1. Human enhancement and the ideal of Enlightenment. 2. The communitarian critique on human enhancement. 3. Access to enhancement technologies. 4. Distributive justice and solidarity. 5. Enhancement, solidarity and mutual recognition. 6. Human enhancement and dignity. 7. Conclusion.

Abstract: In this article, I analyse the possible impact of human enhancement on social and moral relations, particularly the alleged threat on social solidarity and collective responsibility for vulnerable individuals in our society. The article starts with a short philosophical reflection on human enhancement technologies, followed by an analysis of the communitarian critique of human enhancement solidarity as a threat to solidarity. It continues with a discussion of the access to human enhancement technologies and the impact on disadvantaged groups seen from the perspective of distributive justice as well as from the idea of humanitarian solidarity. An important part of the article discusses the idea of solidarity as a concept that expressed the relation of responsibility and recognition of identities and the impact human enhancement may have on this relation. Finally, I will introduce the concept of ‘reflective solidarity’ which argues that individualisation and solidarity do not oppose each other as claimed by communitarian authors. In the conclusion, I will argue that human enhancement technologies are not necessarily resulting in social fragmentation and diminished social responsibility if they are introduced in a reflective approach which pays attention to individual autonomy and social values at the same time.

Keywords: Human enhancement, ethics, justice, solidarity, reflective solidarity, recognition of the other.