Sarah Bianchi

Governing Oneself: Critical Aesthetics of Enhancement

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Philosophy
Humboldt University, Department of Philosophy
Berlin, Germany

Capstone Conference Talk

Friday (8/4) 6:10-6:30PM

Vulnerable Truthfulness: Imagining the Future from a Nietzschean Perspective

Nietzsche stated in 1879 that the more machines become perfect, the more an ethical perspective is needed. Our newest biotechnological developments, such as human gene editing, seem to confirm that Nietzsche was right. While imagining the future, we need a reliable - in Nietzsche’s words, a truthful - foundation, from which we can measure enhancements autonomously. Such truthfulness, however, is not self—evident; rather, it is socially constructed and thereby lays bare its vulnerability, conceived as risk and potential. As a consequence, every human being is challenged to ponder its own ethical decisions through an inner dialogue, weighing as “dividual,” following Nietzsche, the particular and general points of view. 


Capstone Conference Research Laboratory

SATURDAY (8/5) 9:30-10:40AM

Discovering Strength In Vulnerability

The purpose of this Research Laboratory is to unfold a differentiated concept of vulnerability that takes seriously that vulnerability is, at the same time, both a resource and a risk. This conception challenges widespread beliefs that vulnerability is a condition that ought to be avoided by persons and communities. In order to clarify the importance of this nuanced concept of vulnerability, the laboratory seeks to demonstrate how individuals and communities can discover strength in vulnerability; address interdisciplinary approaches by bridging the sciences and humanities to explore and understand vulnerability in its diverse dimensions; and to highlight how vulnerable individuals and populations can counter hegemony and thereby envision a future of freedom and flourishing. 

Research Laboratories allow audience members to interact with a panel of ELP Scholars and Interlocutors in addressing a problem of public relevance. We invite active participation from audience members in the creation of new knowledge.

Academic Biography

Dr. Sarah Bianchi is postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Philosophy, Humboldt-University Berlin (Germany). After being a short-term visiting scholar at Stanford University in February 2016 (awarded the PSCS Visiting Scholar Award from the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics), she continued her project as Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University (Department of Philosophy) supervised by Prof. Dr. Alexander Nehamas in spring 2016. Recently, her PhD thesis “Einander nötig sein. Existentielle Anerkennung bei Nietzsche” (“Necessary to Each Other: Existential Recognition in Nietzsche”) supervised by Prof. Dr. Volker Gerhardt and Prof. Dr. Rahel Jaeggi was published at the publishing house Wilhelm Fink (with a printing grant from the Geschwister Böhringer und Ingelheim Stiftung für Geisteswissenschaften). In spring 2015, she received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Kolleg Friedrich Nietzsche (Weimar, Germany) funded by the Klassik Stiftung Weimar. In this context, she edits the volume “Auf Nietzsches Balkon III: Schriften aus der Villa Silberblick” that will be published in winter, 2016.

Follow her on and on Twitter @postkantian.

Project Executive Summary

At the intersection between philosophical anthropology and biotechnology, Bianchi's postdoctoral project Governing Oneself:  Critial Aesthetics of Enhancement aims to contribute to the theory of human self-understanding. From a relational perspective, she is asking what technology do we ethically want to put into practice. To better understand the ethical and social implications of emerging technologies, she is developing a ‘relational map’ that aims to give orientation in the debate on enhancement.

The project contributes to the theory of human self-understanding. This debate is motivated by the current biotechnological challenge. Bio-conservatives, liberals, trans- and post-humanists argue for the advantages or warn of the risks of enhancement. In nearly all studies the individuals are misunderstood as isolated monads. The postdoctoral project at hand, however, will focus on the relationally embedded individual. Starting from that relational concept, two core hypotheses will be taken into account:

-       The first core hypothesis is guided by the presumption that the debate on enhancement needs to be grounded by re-actualising concepts of anthropology. This re-actualisation will start with the “self-interpreting animal” to open the space for concepts of an exemplary ethic embedded in the modes of living.

-       Whereas trans-humanist or post-humanist approaches seem to replace a divinity by individuals building their “Tower of Babel”, the second core hypothesis deals with the question of measuring forms of enhancement without limiting a priori. Based on the exemplary approach, the project aims to provide orientation in the biotechnological field. The modes in which this can be considered will be formulated as a form of a “new humanism”.