Chapter 14: A better way of being? Human rights, transhumanism and the utopian standpoint of man
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In this chapter, Van Beers builds on Helmuth Plessner's philosophical anthropology to come to a better understanding of the relation between two contemporary utopias: the humanist utopia of human rights and the transhumanist techno-utopia of human enhancement. According to transhumanist thinkers, transhumanism is the logical extension of humanism. They stress that their school of thought, like humanism, presupposes a rather utopian account of the human based on which individual choice and freedom are to be pursued and protected. For them, human enhancement is not only compatible with, but even commanded by, human rights. Based on an analysis of the utopianism involved in humanism and transhumanism, I argue that this position only holds superficially. Upon closer examination, the transhumanist's quest for techno-utopia, even if he uses human rights as a starting point, is likely to pave the way for a world that can hardly be viewed as utopian according to humanist standards. To come to that conclusion, Van Beers offers a comparison between humanism and transhumanism through the lens of Plessner's first and third fundamental law of anthropology: the law that humans are artificial by nature and the law of the utopian standpoint.