Subhuman, Superhuman, and Inhuman: Human Nature and the Enhanced Athlete

  • Eric T. JuengstEmail author
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 52)


Some critics argue that the problem with performance enhancements in sports is that their use distorts the humanity of the athlete, in of three ways: (1) that performance enhancements demean athletes, by treating them as less than fully human; (2) that the use of enhancement interventions by athletes represent a wilful form of ‘playing God’, transcending the natural limits of human nature; or (3) that performance enhancements ‘dehumanize’ athletes by distorting natural talents with human artifice. These arguments all have standard rebuttals in the sports ethics literature, linked by the problem that, to be persuasive for policy purposes, they must assert boundaries for human nature without a substantive account of what those boundaries enclose. I argue that, while seductive, the content-less vision of human nature employed in these critiques leaves the critics in a dangerous trap: in their efforts to be fashionably agnostic about the content of human nature they are forced back into a hierarchical genetic essentialism for sports much like those that have so repeatedly proven oppressive in other spheres of human activity.


Human Nature Natural Kind Performance Enhancement Athletic Performance Sport Competition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UNC Center for BioethicsUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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