Philosophy Today 65 (3):727-745 (2021)

Michael James Bennett
University of King's College
This article responds to several liberal bioethicists’ criticisms of Jürgen Habermas’s The Future of Human Nature by placing it in the context of his intellectual influences and career-spanning theorization of communicative rationality. In particular, I argue that Habermas’s critics have not grasped his interpretation of Hannah Arendt’s concept of natality. Far from merely ventriloquizing his friend and teacher, Habermas distinguishes his construal of that concept from Arendt’s, which he presents as a naturalistic foil to his concerns about the potential ethical impact of preimplantation genetic interventions. Whereas, according to Habermas, Arendt reasons directly from the biological fact of birth to the capacity for political action, he himself construes natality as implying a “divide between nature and culture” at the level of the “lifeworld.” Identifying Habermas’s interpretation of Arendt in this way explains why Habermas claims not to be a biological determinist and why the bioethicists’ criticism, according to which he is, fails.
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DOI 10.5840/philtoday2021524416
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