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A Better Life: Ethics between Givenness and Transformation 

(Frits de Lange [coordinator], Theo Boer, Pieter Vos, Petruschka Schaafsma)

Procreation, longevity,  human enhancement technology  - human life in its beginnings, middle and end – they increasingly become subject of reflexive decision making, and are drawn into managerial processes, both on an individual and a societal level.  “Life” becomes an object of engineering, in life sciences even biologically.  The increasing transformability of life has a enormous impact on the ethical responsibility for the future of human life. When theological ethics is understood – as this ethics group does  – as the faithful reflection on the search for the good life,  the question to deal with is whether and how these transformations can make life really a better life.  How to evaluate the ‘soteriological’ ambitions and implications of a trans- or post-human future? 

At the same time: being born as a child, growing up and being raised in a family, to be educated, to work for a living, to face the adversities and contingencies of bodily life (illness, old age, and death) – they continue to be the basic conditions of human existence in its factuality.  Fragility, dependency, vulnerability and finiteness  will probably stay the fundamental features of the human condition.  The question is whether they are not only obstacles for, but also preconditions of the good life.  Hence the appeal to the regulative normativity  of ‘nature’ in some ethical traditions. The ethical task then is to search for the good life between its givenness and transformability. Can life ‘as it is’ / life ‘as it goes’ – with its tragic components – ever be a good life? What do the Christian narratives of creation, grace, redemption, and eschatology have to offer in the common search for a better life? 

The ethics group will focus particular attention on the ethical tension between the givenness and transformations of human life in the areas of family, work, old age and end of life - areas where the frailty and vulnerability of the human body and mind, and its dependency on others are palpable, and intensely experienced.