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The subject of enhancement: Augmented capacities, extended cognition and delicate ecologies of the mind

Meacham, Darian Evan


Darian Evan Meacham


This paper argues for an inflationary and capacity-relative understanding of human enhancement technology. In doing so it echoes the approach followed by Buchanan (2011a, 2011b). Particular emphasis is placed on the point that capacities themselves are relative to demands placed on the organism by its environment. In the case of human beings this environment is institutionally structured. On the basis of the inflationary and capacity relative concept of enhancement I argue that the subject of enhancement must be understood in terms of a bundle of capacities that is both extended (Clark 1998) and ecological. This consequence of the inflationary enhancement concept has some surprising upshots, namely that the subject itself must be considered as a technological enhancement and not a "platform" or subjectum upon which the enhancement enterprise builds. This conclusion clashes, I argue, with some of the presuppositions of liberal philosophy, which starts by assuming a reflective subject. The paper ends with some reflection on the desirability of reflective subjectivity for human flourishing and addressing the ecological crisis.

Key words: Enhancement, Capacity, Function, Subjectivity, Language, Liberalism, Illness, Culture, Institutions, Alan Buchanan.


Meacham, D. E. (2015). The subject of enhancement: Augmented capacities, extended cognition and delicate ecologies of the mind. New Bioethics, 21(1), 5-19

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Journal The New Bioethics
Print ISSN 2050-2877
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 5-19
Keywords enhancement, capacity, function, subjectivity, language, liberalism, illness, culture, institutions, Alan Buchanan
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Not for commercial use. Online hosting platform: Publisher's website:


The Subject of Enhancement - accepted MS The New Bioethics [UWE Repository Version] 120215.pdf (396 Kb)

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