The Techno-Human Condition (The MIT Press)
Braden R. Allenby
The MIT Press, 2011
240 pp., $24.95
Christina Bieber Lake
I understand, and have a lot of sympathy for, the authors' insistence that the "guiding precept for individual authenticity must be that which you believe most deeply, you must distrust most strongly." But this precept cannot be as absolute as they seem to want it to be. If held to by individuals entrusted to make larger ethical choices, it might eventuate in just the kind of capitulation to market forces that Allenby and Sarewitz seem to understand is not the best way forward. In other words, as Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and many others have pointed out, certainty about human progress is not the only failure of the Enlightenment. After we recognize that the values we hold are indeed historical and contingent, the next move is to understand that without some guiding narrative, ethical decisions are incoherent. Understanding this, it seems to me, is also a necessary part of muddling through our techno-human condition.
Christina Bieber Lake is professor of English at Wheaton College. Her latest book, Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood, will be published this fall by the University of Notre Dame Press.
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