2. Bioethics

Bioethics and the Posthumanities: A workshop funded by the British Academy

Royal Holloway, University of London, 11, Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RF

Posthumanism is an umbrella term for humanities-led approaches to ethical, political and conceptual problems which aim to be less anthropocentric. The posthumanities combine advancements in technology and the sciences with philosophical thinking to develop alternatives to humanism, a way of thinking which, in its focus on the centrality of ‘Man,’ is no longer sufficient to address the ethical and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. In the context of bioethics, posthumanism invites us to ask questions such as:

  • What new questions are posed by recent advances in biomedical technologies?
  • In what ways might the posthumanities help us to address the implications of these?
  • How useful is the idea of human nature in helping us to develop a response to technological advancement?
  • Can we distinguish between therapy and enhancement?
  • How should we understand the relationship between human and animal health?
  • In what ways might a conversation between posthumanists, bioethicists and philosophers of biology inform the development of bioethical policy?

This workshop brings researchers from the sciences and the humanities together with policymakers to open a dialogue around these issues.

9.30-9.45am Arrival 

9.45-10am Introduction: What are the Posthumanities?

10-11am Session 1: Bioethics, Advisory Roles and Policy-Making

Talks from Julian Sheather (Special adviser in ethics and human rights to the British Medical Association and an ethics adviser to Médecins Sans Frontières) and Sarah Chan (Reader and Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Edinburgh), followed by discussion. Chaired by Danielle Sands (Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Royal Holloway and Fellow at the Forum for Philosophy, LSE).

11-11.30am Tea and Coffee Break

11.30-12.30pm Session 2: Bioethics and Policy: Two examples

Talks from Pete Mills (Assistant Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics) and Ruth Chadwick (Professor Emerita, University of Cardiff, Visiting Professor, IDEA Centre, University of Leeds, and HUGO Ethics Committee Member), followed by discussion. Chaired by Matt Hayler (Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literatures and Digital Cultures, University of Birmingham).

12.30-2pm Lunch 

2-3.30pm Session 3: Bioethics: What do the (post)humanities have to offer and how can we include them?

Roundtable discussion between Stefan Herbrechter (Writer and researcher, co-director of Critical Posthumanism Network), David Roden (Lecturer in Philosophy, Open University) and Sarah Bezan (Newton International Fellow, University of Sheffield). Chaired by Megen de Bruin-Molé (Teaching Fellow in Digital Media Practice, Winchester School of Art andEditor, Genealogy of the Posthuman).

3.30-4pm Tea and Coffee Break

4-5.30pm Session 4: Bioethics from Research to Public Perception: Attitudes, approaches, language

Roundtable discussion between Rick Dolphijn (Associate Professor, Utrecht University and Honorary Professor at Hong Kong University, Michael Wee (Education and Research Officer, The Anscombe Bioethics Centre), and Anna Roessing (Doctoral Researcher, University of Bath). Chaired by Zosia Edwards (Doctoral Researcher, Royal Holloway, University of London).

5.30pm Closing remarks