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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17824

Title: When the "Twilight of Justice" Meets the "Dawn of Nanotechnology" : A Critique of Transhumanism and the Technological Imperative in the Light of George Grant's Moral Philosophy
Authors: Rosales, Janna
Advisor: Schmidt, Larry
Department: Religion, Study of
Keywords: technology
ethics
nanotechnology
George Grant
moral philosophy
transhumanism
progress
technoscience
social and ethical implications of nanotechnology
technoprogressivism
technological imperative
nihilism
justice and love
tyranny
Issue Date: 25-Sep-2009
Abstract: This dissertation examines how contemporary Western ethical perspectives frame moral judgments about technologies intended to expand or enhance human abilities. Of particular interest are technological advances that involve nanotechnology, a realm of technoscience that seeks the precise control of matter through deliberately designing structures, devices, and processes with novel and useful properties at the molecular scale. In this thesis I analyze trends in the emerging dialogue about the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. There is growing awareness that technological “progress” should not outpace critical reflection over the means and ends of those advances, but I argue that there is a tension between the role of ethics and the practice of technoscience. By ethics I mean ongoing public discussion that contemplates what it means to live a “good life” and that maintains limits to human actions. By contrast, the practice of technoscience appears to be guided by the “technological imperative” which holds that we can only know what is good by first figuring out what is possible. Despite concerted interdisciplinary efforts to address the broad range of ethical issues posed by nanotechnology’s proposed goals, the prevailing tone of the current discussion tends to reveal what I call a “technoprogressive” bias, or the belief that technological development is a primary way to improve the human estate and that it leads inevitably to cumulative progress. However, because technoprogressive commentary on nanotechnology focuses on concerns that are framed mainly in terms of risk assessment, cost-benefit analyses, and utilitarian principles, technoprogressive ethics overlooks crucial ethical questions of a different nature, questions that deal with the limits of human action, the nature of justice, and the meaning of being human. To analyze the implications of technoprogressive ethics, I employ the moral philosophy of Canadian thinker George Grant because he articulates an underrepresented yet valuable critique of Western society’s relationship with technology. Grant speaks for a type of transcendental moral realism that challenges the primacy of the technological imperative, insisting that justice ultimately must be grounded upon non-negotiable limits, and that there are objective norms to which human freedom and human self-assertion have to answer.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17824
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department and Centre for the Study of Religion - Doctoral theses

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