Let's make humans better: enhancement, technology & transhumanism


About this course

Daedalus famously designed wings so his son Icarus could fly, but Icarus ignored his father's warnings, flew to close to the sun, and fell to his death.
Humans have long desired to improve themselves: acquire new skills and new abilities. But they have also dreaded the risks and possibilities that such enhancement could bring. Today technological and pharmacological advances are opening the door to possibilities that our ancestors could never have imagined: improved attention, improved memory, direct brain-machine interaction, and perhaps even improved morality. The prospect of human enhancement, or even the enhancement of humans beyond recognition as humans known as 'transhumanism' is now more real than ever.
This course investigates the social and philosophical issues at stake in human enhancement and transhumanism. First we will ask what enhancement is; what does it mean to make people better. Does it matter whether enhancement happens through the environment or through the person i.e. does it matter whether I enhance your memory capacity by giving you a drug or by giving you a smartphone.
Second, we will discuss whether enhancement is a good thing: some people argue that we should not mess with nature, but others argue that we have a positive obligation to enhance humans. We will see that these arguments hinge on much larger issues: matters of justice, social obligation, and what it means to be human. Finally we will ask what our attitudes towards enhanced humans should be or rather what their attitudes should be to us. If we create 'transhumans', who compare to us as we compare to cows, then would it be permissible for transhumans to treat us like we treat cows? Come and find out!

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course students will:

  • Demonstrate in writing and in presentations an understanding of core concepts and ideas that are important in debates surrounding enhancement, such as 'enhancement' 'transhumanism', ‘human nature’, 'values' and 'justice'.

  • Reiterate key arguments in debates about enhancement and transhumanism.

  • Acquire an ability to analyse, summarise, rephrase, critically evaluate philosophical texts and arguments relating to enhancement and transhumanism

  • Write a structured argumentative philosophical essay, identify a relevant technological intervention/enhancement, and apply philosophical analysis to this particular existing technological enhancement.

  • Execute an engaging and informative presentation on an element of the enhancement/transhumanism debate, inlucuding leading a discussion with peers on these issues

  • Employ critical thinking, reading, and writing skills in the philosophical domain.

Required prior knowledge

You must meet one of the following collections of requirements

  • Collection 1
  • Completed Final examination Bsc program
  • Collection 2
  • Completed Pre-Master

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of TU Eindhoven.


  • Start date

    3 February 2025

    • Ends
      6 April 2025
    • Term *
      Block GS3
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      15 Nov, 00:00 - 5 Jan 2025
    Enrolment starts in 123 days
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University