Researcher in Focus: Professor Michael Hauskeller
Posted on: 5 July 2018 by Nick Jones in 2018 Posts
Meet Researcher in Focus Professor Michael Hauskeller, Head of Department, Department of Philosophy, and discover more about his current research projects.
I joined the University of Liverpool as the new Head of the Philosophy Department in January 2018, and I am very glad I did. So far it’s been a most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating experience. The people I work with are great and have already inspired me in so many different ways that it is difficult not to get too excited about all the new opportunities that continue to emerge.
My research in the past few years concentrated on the philosophical, social and ethical implications of the human enhancement project (which is roughly the idea that we can improve the human condition by improving human nature through biotechnological intervention). This has resulted in three monographs, Better Humans? Understanding the Enhancement Project (Routledge 2013), Sex and the Posthuman Condition (Palgrave Macmillan 2014), and Mythologies of Transhumanism (Palgrave Macmillan 2016). Although I will no doubt continue to work on human enhancement in future, I have now also embarked on a new project on the relation between death and meaning, or more precisely the question how our sense of living a meaningful life is impacted by our knowledge of our mortality and more generally our experience of death.
There is of course a connection to my work on enhancement. Philosophical questions arising from our growing involvement in the human enhancement project have concentrated mainly on the question whether human enhancement in general, as well as particular suggested changes in the human condition (such as the retardation and possible reversal of ageing processes), are a) desirable or undesirable, and b) ethically permissible or impermissible. Yet changes of the human condition can only ever be seen as enhancements with respect to certain purposes that have to be assumed as worth pursuing.
However, there is no agreement about which purposes are ultimately worth pursuing. The main difference between those that are generally in favour of human enhancement and those who adopt a more sceptical stance is that they have different views about what matters in life. Thus the whole human enhancement debate is, in its core, a debate about meaningfulness, and the questions that are being asked about desirability and permissibility cannot really be answered before the more general question about what gives meaning to our life has been answered in a satisfactory way.
Currently I am working on two monographs on the topic, one with a more historical orientation, providing detailed discussions of classic theories of meaning (from Montaigne to Camus), and one that engages with the contemporary analytical debate on meaningfulness in life.
Keywords: Researcher in Focus.