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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 6, 1998

Contemporary Philosophy

János Boros, András Guttman
Pages 144-147

On Genophilosophy

Contemporary progress in life sciences, particularly in genetic engineering, is changing our concept of "human being" and a whole series of other philosophical and common notions. The conventional idea of "subject" will no longer be the final reference for philosophical thinking, since even the subject qua biological or psychological structure will enjoy a high degree of unpredictability. The results of gene technology require reinterpreting such concepts as reproduction, individuality, history, freedom and subjectivity. This paper focuses on the question of freedom, where freedom means the capacity to deliberate and choose between different alternatives of action. We hold that the issue of freedom is relevant for genetics. Considering that genes can "decide" between alternatives, it is possible to speak about the freedom of genes, at least in a metaphoric sense. It has been suggested that genes are "more free" than human beings because they encoded us. The human genome program thus helps us to understand what kind of structures human beings are dependent upon. The main question that we address in this paper concerns the entire human genome project and all its implications including the functions and effects of each gene, the possibility of technological manipulation, what kind of freedom, history, and "human being" will eventually "survive."

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