Sandel's argument of giftedness and the prohibition of genetic enhancement.

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Evangelos-Marios Nikolados


Analyzing an Argument (3-5 pages)


October 19, 2014

Sandel's argument of giftedness and the prohibition of genetic enhancement.

In The Case Against Perfection, Michael Sandel argues against the employment of various forms of biotechnology to enhance human traits. The possibility of enhancement forces us to ask what the 'proper stance of human beings toward the given world' is (9). Those who embrace enhancement adopt what Sandel calls the stance of mastery; those who oppose enhancement adopt the stance of giftedness. Those who favor mastery prompt us to use our knowledge to bring about changes that will improve the lives of people. Proponents of giftedness counsel us to be happy with what we have, to honor nature and acknowledge the fact that 'our talents and abilities are not wholly our own doing'. Regarding this, Sandel makes a sustained argument for the superiority of giftedness. He underlines that if a person's natural endowment is not due solely to the genetic lottery, then there will be no restraint to 'our tendency toward hubris' and claims that giftedness provides a rational basis for opposing the employment of genetic enhancement.

Many do express moral hesitation about enhancement and are concerned that 'it would be difficult to view our own talents as gifts for which we are indebted rather than achievements for which we are responsible'(86-87) if the myth of the 'self-made' man was to come true. However, a closer examination reveals a weakness in the relationship between the notion of the 'gift' and natural talents. It may be that giftedness does not generate the requirements that Sandel claims, and that in some cases the very idea of giftedness makes sense only within a framework that is too narrow to shape social policy.

Two competing perspectives on the given are...