Human Cloning Revisited: Ethical Debate in the Technological Worldview


  • Roman Altshuler


Like many controversies about new technologies, debates over the ethics of reproductive cloning are divided between utopian (pro-cloning) and dystopian (anti-cloning) approaches. The former see the rise of cloning a simple case of technological progress, backed up by an insistence on respect for reproductive rights; the latter argue that the possibility of human cloning threatens individuality and raises the danger of turning human beings into mass-produced commodities. I evaluate these debates through a Heideggerian reading, arguing that the dystopian position falls prey to the typical setbacks confronting humanism, while setting the entire controversy within the assumption - shared to some extent by both sides - that the humanity of human beings is reducible to their physical nature. Utopian arguments either defend their position on ethical grounds, which conflict with this basic presupposition, or simply reject the relevance of ethical debate to what are largely questions of progress driven by market forces. Dystopian arguments, by contrast, tend to defend human uniqueness and dignity, but these attempts are undermined by the underlying assumption that humanity is directly  shaped by its biology, so that a proliferation of cloning will inevitably change the human world into a posthuman one. I argue that given this assumption as the guiding framework within which the controversy takes place, no genuine ethical debate is possible; both sides, by reducing humanity to biology, undermine the grounds of ethical discourse. I conclude that the condition of possibility for an ethical debate over cloning requires an understanding of the human that does not reduce the essence of humanity to physical nature, allowing for a confrontation with the essence of technology rather than one fully circumscribed by its limits.

Author Biography

Roman Altshuler

Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Philosophy, State University of New York Stony Brook






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