New Dimensions of Body-Perception in the Present Biotechnological Context

Teodora MANEA
New Dimensions of Body-Perception in the Present Biotechnological Context
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University, Iaşi
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Biotechnologies have introduced at least two new perspectives on body-perception. The first is determined by the new methods of analyzing, investigating and interpreting the body. We know more and more about our body and we can predict some of the diseases that we or our children are going to develop. We tend to believe we can find our destiny in our genes. The second perspective concerns the new “products” of biotechnology, which can justly be called biofacts. A biofact is a living artefact, a new kind of being that is no longer autonomous and which is designed and engineered in a laboratory. These new perspectives on body-perception urge a reconsideration of the ontology of body. In my opinion, this ontology is dualistic. My thesis is that the materialization of the body, its reduction to a material substratum, and its separation from rationality and emotions, has turned the body into an artefact. I will describe in the first sections of this paper some aspects and key stages of this transformation, namely: 1) the externalisation of the body; 2) its interpretation and treatment as a machine and artefact; 3) the programming and reprogramming of bodies; 4) the social body; 5) undefined bodies (transsexuality); 6) hybrid bodies, and 7) bodies no longer alive (the "Body-Worlds" exhibition). In the last two sections of my paper, I stress the importance of ontology for ethical debates. We manage to realize the potential danger of the new technologies only if we know what kinds of entities they are related to. I follow Levinas’ definition of ethic as optic. Without an adequate perception we cannot gain adequate definitions of the new types of entities and of the new existential situations created by biotechnology. And as long as our language is inexact, we cannot formulate relevant ethical imperatives.

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