Anthropological Arguments in the Ethical Debate about Human Enhancement

  • Jan-Christoph Heilinger Munich Center for Ethics, University of Munich, Germany
Keywords: human enhancement, normative justification, ethical issues


The paper discusses the role of anthropological arguments in contemporary ethics as exemplified in the current debate about biotechnological human enhancement interventions. Anthropological arguments refer to a normative conception of what it means to be a human being and are highly contested in contemporary moral philosophy. Most often they are promoted to constrain the ethically acceptable use of enhancement technologies. I argue that anthropological arguments can play a fundamental and important role in assessing the moral qualities of enhancement interventions, but only if their normative justification and their specific content are properly determined. I offer an account how to do so, based on the contractualist and pragmatist ideal that all those who are affected by a decision of normative relevance should be included in what I call a “quasi-democratic deliberative process”. However, given that they stand in need of wide agreement, anthropological arguments resulting from such a process will be rather minimal in content. In the exemplary debate about human enhancements they hence turn out to be widely – though not fully – permissive and unable to justify a restrictive stance towards enhancement interventions.

How to Cite
Heilinger, J.-C. (2014). Anthropological Arguments in the Ethical Debate about Human Enhancement. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 7(26), 95-116. Retrieved from