Human development or human enhancement? A methodological reflection on capabilities and the evaluation of information technologies

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Coeckelbergh, Mark (2011) Human development or human enhancement? A methodological reflection on capabilities and the evaluation of information technologies. Ethics and Information Technology, 13 (2). pp. 81-92. ISSN 1388-1957

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Abstract:Nussbaum’s version of the capability approach is not only a helpful approach to development problems but can also be employed as a general ethical-anthropological framework in ‘advanced’ societies. This paper explores its normative force for evaluating information technologies, with a particular focus on the issue of human enhancement. It suggests that the capability approach can be a useful way of to specify a workable and adequate level of analysis in human enhancement discussions, but argues that any interpretation of what these capabilities mean is itself dependent on (interpretations of) the techno-human practices under discussion. This challenges the capability approach’s means-end dualism concerning the relation between on the one hand technology and on the other hand humans and capabilities. It is argued that instead of facing a choice between development and enhancement, we better reflect on how we want to shape human-technological practices, for instance by using the language of capabilities. For this purpose, we have to engage in a cumbersome hermeneutics that interprets dynamic relations between unstable capabilities, technologies, practices, and values. This requires us to modify the capability approach by highlighting and interpreting its interpretative dimension.
Item Type:Article
Copyright:© The author
Faculty:
Behavioural Sciences (BS)
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Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/publications/76105
Official URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10676-010-9231-9
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