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Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”


Jesse I. Bailey

July 2014 Oct, 2014

Link to article

I argue that Heidegger’s account of technology as “enframing” is a helpful lens through which to understand the possible effects and dangers of transhumanism. Without resorting to nebulous concepts such as “dignity,” Heidegger’s analysis can help us understand how new technologies employed to modify the body, brain, and consciousness will enframe our own bodies and identities as something akin to “standing reserve.” Under transhumanism, the body is enframed as an external, technologically modifiable product. I indicate some of the problems that might arise when our own bodies no longer appear as central to our identity as embodied beings. Further, I argue that, by treating aspects of our own consciousness as technologically modifiable, we will be driven into a commodified and inauthentic relation to our identities. By examining the work of prominent transhumanists – including Brad Allenby, Daniel Sarewitz, and Andy Clark – I show how the threat that technology poses can be hidden when the essence of technology is not uncovered in a primordial way. I argue that by threatening to obscure death as a foundational possibility for Dasein, transhumanism poses the danger of hiding the need to develop a free and authentic relation to technology, Truth, and ultimately to Dasein itself.


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