Theses Doctoral

Enhancing 'Human Nature': The Human Enhancement Debate in U.S. Bioethics

Fisher, Joseph Andrew

It is often remarked that we are entering into a biotech age that will afford us with the unprecedented means to remake human biology. The question is: should we use our imminent techno-scientific powers to ‘enhance’ and even ‘transcend’ our ‘natural’ limitations or remain human ‘as we have always been’? But is this the right question? This dissertation critically examines the human enhancement debate in bioethics and bioethics-adjacent literature. More specifically, it mobilizes a wide range of disciplinary tools to reflexively explore the discursive resonances, effects, and shortcomings of human enhancement as a conceptual framework.

Through this exploration, I demonstrate that the well-established therapy/enhancement distinction depends upon deeply humanist ontologies that are insufficient for understanding and addressing the biotechnological ‘crisis’. In turn, I provide a posthumanist approach to thinking human nature, which highlights the relational, embodied, and differential character of subjectivity. Such an approach implies that we have always been cyborgs and, therefore, never been human as such. In doing so, I take a small step towards constructing post-enhancement frameworks for doing bioethics in our posthuman moment.


  • thumnail for Fisher_columbia_0054D_16892.pdf Fisher_columbia_0054D_16892.pdf application/pdf 2.2 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Taylor, Mark C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2021