To treat as "settled" or as "neutral" value questions that are and should remain under contestation about what human ends are worth optimizing for and what human lifeways are actually wanted is to circumscribe the terms of what is humanly possible and important in a profound violence that tends to precede and indeed function as the precondition for certain techno-fixated and techno-transcendental eugenic discourses on "enhancement" that like to promote themselves as celebrations of choice. [I have quoted the whole sentence, which "Jay" actually snipped a bit to focus on just the first part, with what seems to me a possible loss of sense for those who haven't actually read the post that prompted the intervention. Also, the unexpurgated quote better sets the stage for how I will come to respond to the intervention in my view. --d]then goes on to comment:
"That's a pretty good definition of freedom of religion. The simple facts are that people seriously disagree about what gives life value, if anything, and that attempting to settle the question has resulted in far more carnage than clarity, a dozen Boko Harams for every Gandhi. Leaving the matter perpetually peacefully contested is the best compromise we've worked out so far."
To this I replied, perhaps a bit glibly:
Quite so, which is why I'm a cheerfully nonjudgmental atheistic aesthete, so long as people don't try to pretend their faithful/tasteful oughts are pragmatic/scientific ises.That exchange set the stage then for this more substantial subsequent one, beginning with "Jay":
"Jay again. That doesn't leave you much room to judge anyone who wants to enhance themselves (whatever they decide that enhancement is). You can, on an aesthetic basis, say that they're icky. That shouldn't carry any more weight than the opinion of tens of millions that your lifestyle is icky. If some harebrained "enhancement" scheme is what they choose to give their life meaning, on what basis could you challenge that?"
In the piece into which these paragraphs have been inserted and in the companion piece on prosthetic self-determination/morphological freedom to which they refer, I make something like that very claim.
Of course, when "enhancement" is discussed in a futurological context this may come to seem rather fraught and thrilling, but only because futurologists tend to discuss "enhancement" in comic book terms that ill connect to reality. (Sooper powers, godlike amplifications, sooper-villains, clone armies -- all hyperbolizing deliberation-deranging rot.)
An informed, consenting adult getting a graduate education, getting a tattoo or their ears pierced, enjoying a recreational substance in the privacy of their own home, or choosing to get an abortion provide more relevant contexts for the contemplation of the stakes of "enhancement" in my view.
Should anything like the more fanciful non-normativizing "techno"-medical interventions transhumanoids and their ilk pine over ever arrive on the scene, one can be sure that they would be rightly regulated for safety considerations, to ensure the practitioners providing them were competent, that subjects choosing these procedures were well informed about their objective costs and risks and not under duress and not subject to fraud and so on. And so they should be on my view, else the intervention could not be undertaken in a legibly consensual way.
So long as "harebrained enhancement schemes" by my lights are not unduly unsafe or peddled with false claims or undertaken by unlicensed practitioners, then I think it is a good thing that those actually informed, actually competent, actually consenting adults who actually want to undergo them are not unduly constrained by my aesthetic taste or moralism from doing so.
But as you see, as with most topics that have been futurologically flummoxed, my position is not utopian but pragmatic, not anarchic but civil libertarian, not market libertopian but articulated by well-regulated sustainable social democratic equity-in-diversity. Futurists tend to skew the topic -- as most topics -- from a technical, pragmatic, legal, moral, ethical, aesthetic, and political vantage. How unfortunate, then, that theirs are the terms through which non-normativizing "enhancement" medicine fetishized as "technological" (no medicine isn't, of course, which is why I say "fetishized") tends to be imagined when it is imagined.