The President’s Council seeks to address the issue of happiness from the perspective of wholesomeness than what he terms as the superficial means through which medicine has been seeking the same. The age of biotechnology has introduced a great deal of challenges and issues that need to be streamlined so that they do not take society in an unexpected direction. However, the issue has not entered national discourse as much as it should. The most important thing in regards to biotechnology is the definition of what should be considered normal health. The author says that there are many aspects to this definition. The most applicable one, however, is the World Health Organization, which refers to health as a state of mental, physical, and social well-being. In this case, any enhancement, biological or otherwise, promotes health (President’s Council on Bioethics, pp. 15).
Question: Do you think society emphasizes more on mental wellness over any other form of health today? Why?
Happiness is an individual issue, and is not necessarily tied to physical impairment or health. Although they indeed play an influential role, some people find happiness in the midst of physical impairments. As a result, happiness should be regarded separately from health. Therefore, while setting standards would be controversial in regards to enhancement, as the author claims, it should be left to individual choice, since one determines their own happiness in regards to their own personal experiences.
Society’s moral direction has changed gradually from looking outwards to larger society, to looking inwards. According to philosopher Charles Taylor, this change started to take appear towards the end of the 18th century (Elliot, pp. 29). This philosophy advances the idea that authenticity is the ideal way of life; that the construction of identity should define the primary moral direction. Everyone has their own idea of how to live their life, irrespective of the perception or influence of society.
Body modification, while expanding the notion that it brings a sense of fulfilment to the person using it, is also a move directed outwards. In actual sense, it reflects the feelings brought about from viewing the society in regards to their definition of the ideal body, then applying this definition to the self (Elliot, pp. 43). LSD came about as a recourse to solve the high prevalence of inward oriented perspectives, which, rather than influencing the persons to do anything they would normally consider drastic, they reflected upon themselves a bit more. This is because people present different versions of themselves, depending on the crowd in which they find themselves.
Question: What is the relationship between personality disorders and the “performance” of identities to which the author refers? Do you think performance depends on personality, or does it occur in everyone?
Authenticity has a higher societal perception than the attempt to gain acceptance from society by following society’s rules on normalcy (Hardin pp. 45). One should focus on forming a genuine version of themselves, rather than trying to look as society dictates. This way, they are more likely to find happiness.
Society has specific definition of the “norm” and ostracizes those that veer from this definition even minimally. These definitions of what is normal are in fact unjust to society in general. Some people try their best to match the expectations of normal from society. However, society still does not treat them kindly. In this regard, authenticity holds a higher value than trying to stick to societal norms (Parens, pp. 23). Drugs are unlikely to lead to such authenticity, instead being temporary measures to solve mild or serious issues.
- Elliot, Carl. Better than Well: American Medicine meets the American Dream. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2003.
- Hardin, Russell. Indeterminacy and Society. Princeton UP, 2006.
- Parens, Eric. “Is Better Always Good? The Enhancement Project.” Enhancing Human Traits. Georgetown UP. Washington, DC. 1998.
- President’s Council on Bioethics. Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington, DC. October 2003.