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Control and manipulation of life : a critical assessment of genetics through the perspectives of Hans Jonas, Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault

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2006
Bilginer, Onur
This study is on the political and ethical aspects of recent advances in genetics. Its aim is to explicate the scientific and technological premises of genetics along historical, philosophical and political axes by employing the critical perspectives of Jonas, Heidegger and Foucault. Starting the discussion from a brief account of scientific and technological revolutions initiated in the 16th and 17th centuries, I defend the thesis that the idea of control and manipulation of life is not a novelty introduced by genetics, but a historical orientation underlying modern man’s metaphysical reasoning. That is to say, ‘the idea of control and manipulation of life’ is not an unintended technological excess of genetic practices, and hence a transgression of our moral principles. Rather, this endeavour is a scientific and technological ‘project’ which has been at the very core of modern man’s rational political agenda. Therefore, any attempts to understand genetics from a naïve Baconian utilitarianism and optimism fails to grasp its complicated political nature. For the ethical concerns to become more comprehensive, three genetic cases (prenatal screening tests, cloning, and genetic engineering) are examined in the light of the philosophical reflections of Jonas and Heidegger. Besides, following Foucault’s critical assessments of medicine and bio-power, a ‘fourth spatialization of disease’ is proposed at the end of the study in order to evaluate the transformations with the introduction of genetics into medicine. Consequently, it is argued that geneticized medicine might sign a new regime of bio-power a reconfiguration of knowledge, power and subjectivity.