, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 237–246 | Cite as

Human Enhancement and the Anthropology of the “Entire Human Being”

  • Richard Saage
Invited Contribution


About one and a half decades ago, two prominent reports were published in the United States (US) which strongly influenced subsequent international discussions on the topic of human enhancement: a 2002 report on “converging technologies for improving human performance”, based on a workshop which was organised by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Commerce in December 2001, and the first report of US President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics (PCBE), published in October 2003 with the title Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. The 2002 report included a wide variety of contributions from academics in various fields of research, from representatives of US institutions, and from companies. Due primarily to the influence of the two NSF staff editing the report, it can be regarded as the first major instance of the influence of transhumanism, a techno-futurist ideology and movement, on the US technology and innovation discourse. The PCBE report, on the other hand, is a prime example of a conservative critique of the transhumanist notion of human enhancement. In this invited contribution, these two crucial publications are analysed mainly in order to point out the relevance of philosophical anthropology as developed since the 1920s by Helmuth Plessner and others. This remarkable school of thought is experiencing a revival in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, and, to some extent, in the English-speaking world. In this article, it is argued that philosophical anthropology provides us with an important alternative to both anthropological essentialism and scientism, two approaches that are still highly relevant in current discourse on human enhancement.


Philosophical anthropology Human enhancement Transhumanism Helmuth Plessner Adolf Portmann Converging technologies Essentialism Scientism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Saage
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  2. 2.Sächsische Akademie der WissenschaftenLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.BerlinGermany

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