2008 Abstracts Stage 2

The Genetic Prison: an Exploration of the Predetermined Nature of Man

Claire Welford, 2008, Stage 2

Territory: I used DNA as my territory exploring the role that the genetic code has in the predetermination of humans and if there is the possibility of freedom within these constraints. Aims: The main aim of this project was to explore to what extent human beings are predetermined through their genetic codes. I was concerned with the idea that through the development of the scientific rationale in modern society, any understanding of freedom and autonomy that we had, did not belong with modern thought. Through exploration of the understanding that genetics have the possibility of predetermination, I was able to draw comparison between genetic inheritance and the theory of the eternal return. Through this comparison I was able to examine the possibility that we could break free from the determination of our genes and the cycle of repetition that we find ourselves in. It seems important for me to recognise that it was not only through our genetic make-up that we are predetermined, but that we are also greatly influenced by the world around us, and the society in which we live. We are influenced not only internally by our genes, but by all that surrounds us, adding to the idea that we are predetermined. This led me to question if it was at all possible for us to have freedom and negate that which influences us to allow us any sort of autonomy. The idea that humans are predetermined has major implications for moral responsibility. This is because the theory of predetermination seems incompatible with the idea of moral responsibility. If we are determined to act in a certain way then we cannot surely be held accountable because we did not choose to behave in such a way. I aimed to explore the idea that if we are to be accountable it is necessary for us to have some freedom, or at least the ability to gain autonomy. Philosophers: Predominantly I used the writings of Nietzsche, with particular interest to his theories on the concept of the eternal return. When looking at genetic determinism I compared his ideas with those of Dawkins and Matt Ridley. Through exploring the idea of predetermination through society I examined the writings of Locke with particular interest to his understanding of the Tabula Rasa and looked at how Nietzsche’s ideas related to this. Finally as I examined the implications of predetermination on moral accountability I looked towards the ideas of Durkheim, who saw man as being moral through his participation in society. I also looked at the work of Kant and his idea of transcendental freedom and morality through duty, once again comparing both thinkers with Nietzsche’s ideas.

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