Agglutinative languages ​​aren't just fantastic

The ethics of discourse in building an ethical act in the manipulation of the species


SANTOS, Miguel da Silva [1], FERRIZ, José Luis Sepúlveda [2]

SANTOS, Miguel da Silva. FERRIZ, José Luis Sepúlveda. The ethics of discourse in building an ethical act in the manipulation of the species. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Volume 05, Ed. 01, Vol. 07, pp. 151-173. January 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, access link:



This article presents the arguments used by Habermas to establish ethical mechanisms with regard to the issues of genetic manipulation, more precisely the problem of eugenics. Communicative reason in the philosophy of language is the basis of the course as well as the discourse and consensus that is mediated through the argumentation of valid moral sentences between subjects who are capable of acting and speaking. The self-understanding of existence and the ethical self-understanding are found as elements of intersubjectivity, freedom and human dignity of the person, which are also present from their conception on. Kierkegaard's concepts of existence are combined with the post-metaphysical perspective of analytical philosophy, with the focus on the ability to become an individual in the face of an ethical self-understanding of the species. It raises the question of the human dignity of the embryo, supports the beginning of human life and its acceptance into the world of life. In addition, concepts and concepts related to genetic biology are presented in order to clarify the technical terminology presented during the development of the thesis. The methodology to be used is structural and is generally presented in Habermas' works. Bibliographical research of theoretical references is used as complementary material.

Keywords: Habermas, Communicative Reason, Eugenics, Ethics, Autonomy.


Philosophy as a discipline of thought is always ready to penetrate the various disputes whose concepts of the ultra-obvious in science are positioned in an autonomy that is limited, among other things, by natural, cultural, social factors, and in turn requires answers, sometimes immediately, to the questions that affect man in his various anthropologists. Human life is based on moral principles and values ​​that dictate behavior in harmony with others. For Rousseau (2000), human nature is good and society is the one that corrupts it. This natural goodness would then gradually be destroyed and corrupted by civilization. Hence, society could be morally and politically adjustable by itself. On the other hand, Hobbes (2009) brings in his writings that human life in the state of nature is in a war of all against all because all people are allowed to own everything through their passions and desires.

In this case, society would need an authority to which everyone should submit their natural freedom. Perhaps not so much for Hobbes, not so much for Rousseau, but it is necessary to establish a set of behaviors that are a condition of the support and constancy of the individual and his collectivity on the planet. In this context, bioethics comes into play, born to give the necessary provisions for ethical procedures that involve decisions about terrestrial biota, with a great bias in man's manifestations about nature, which includes man himself. The handling of Homo somaticus by homo faber must enter this discussion under the penalty of ethical chaos. Here is the genetic manipulation of the human species, which, in its most delicate part, looks at the question of the "well-born," i.e., eugenics.

In its strongly relativized form, i.e. liberal, eugenics here becomes an open door to the koisification of the rational soul, in that it ignores its freedom of choice as an agent when it chooses a possibility of an “improved life”. The topic is of great relevance because it contains the future of a human race that will not have the opportunity to reverse decisions made by mediators of a purely one-sided discussion. With its inclusion in this discussion, philosophy has the important function of creating the basis for the elaboration of moral and legal norms that set the limits of behavior. The purpose of this article is to try to understand how philosophy is positioned in relation to ethical action in the behaviors of human genetic interventions, since they have been practically approached in the fields of medicine, law, and theology.

The question raised here has to do with the freedom of the individual, which is ontologically and therefore inherent in man and which, in our view, leads him to make his decisions out of henoma's epistemological will. The study is based on the work The Future of Human Nature by Jürgen Habermas (2004), one of the great contemporary thinkers, who brings a somewhat innovative approach to the ethical topic in question in a scenario of the predominance of post-metaphysical philosophy and thus adds to the problematic question: How can habermasian postmetaphysics collaborate in researching an ethical action in the manipulation of the human genome? The structural method used in this study is peacefully recognized as the method that best fits philosophical texts. The architecture used is based on the agglutination of different areas of thought, ideas, knowledge and knowledge that are coordinated by this whole.

By analyzing the structures and their overlapping dispositions and triggering their intellectual processes, we can bring an interpretation closer to the meaning that the author gives to the philosophical text by understanding its entirety. The article is divided into three main parts that outline the necessary fundamentals for understanding the evolution of the author's ideas and extract our analysis and reflection from them. Since it is a topic that includes knowledge in the field of genetic biology, the first part takes a conceptual approach to this topic, particularly genetic manipulation and eugenics, in order to introduce technical knowledge that is later related to the philosophical aspects in Is brought into line. The second part develops the topics that involve postmetaphysics, especially that which Habermas relies on to develop his theses of communicative action and himself, with the latter being included in the Kierkegaardsche Ethics immersed.

In this chapter the path of traditional philosophical thinking - the philosophy of consciousness - is shown, which will be present through the so-called language-pragmatic turn in language games that contain subject, action and language in an intersubjective relationship. Habermas also brings Kierkegaard, another existentialist, into this context (HABERMAS, 2004). This is the thinker who examines the individual in his ethical phase, plunging him into the need for self-knowledge of his intersubjectivity and his power to be himself in the existence of life. In this chapter the formulation of a discourse-based ethic is exposed, the subjectivities of which of the protagonists are subjected to the concepts of morality and ethics.

In the third part, the restoration of all the topics of the previous chapters and the profiling with Habermas' ideas in the fundamental work of this study - O Futuro da natureza humana - shown how to go down the path to understand the topic proposed in this thesis and to establish an ethical stance, and the thesis will attempt to address the problem that brought it up. The study undergoes an understanding of eugenic models, the definitions of boundaries between therapeutic interventions, phenotypic improvement [3] and the ethical responsibility of the characters of this genetic manipulation when it comes to the involvement of a second person by the "you" in ontological decision-making referred to as. It also deals with this chapter of human dignity as a result of the autonomy and authenticity of the individual, a dignity that is inserted into the legal norm - an implicit theme in the author's work. This raises the question of the eugenic “production” of the “I” in the instrumentalization of human life.


Genetics is one of the branches that has contributed most to the advancement of biological science. As a science, it is part of a broader and deeper scenario that seeks explanations for the origin of species, the extension of human life, and an understanding of phenomena previously only fully accepted by common sense. With the advent of powerful tools such as the improvement of cell and electronic microscopes, the advancement of molecular biology and biochemistry, and the increase in scientific studies of the human genome over the past two centuries, some paradigms have begun to go unnoticed, such as sex determination in the embryonic phase, what about the, biology and medicine for the postmodern and, why not, for a plural world?

From a technical point of view, questions related to the use of biological elementary units are to be seen primarily in topics such as human reproduction, cloning, development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), transgenes, gene therapies, genetic improvement and research with embryos and stem cells. Genetic manipulation, in turn, is part of all of these issues (or areas) and therefore it is necessary to conduct genes handling for its guidance. The current reading focuses on so-called genetic engineering, which mainly deals with caused or induced genetic changes. The origin of the discussions lies in the changes that are caused in the DNA or parts of it in order to achieve a deviation from the natural path of the species from its most remote countries of origin.

Segments of DNA that contain genetic information are called genes. All of the genetic information of a particular person, such as hair color, eye color, physical structure, and other hereditary traits, is present in the person's DNA. Genetic engineering determines the model of the species we want and fulfills certain needs or desires of the individual or the collective. And practically everything starts with the identification of a particular gene of interest in the structure of DNA, its removal, modification by cutting (using the so-called restrictive enzymes) and then insertion into another structure (using the so-called DNA ligase), as in Figure 1 shown. Thus, the era of manipulation of genetic messages contained in sequence fragments that make up the hereditary code and nucleotides (each DNA-forming unit) is established.

It is worth noting that it was from this moment that, for example, the sphere of genetic engineering began to cut or modify DNA molecules, using certain enzymes to carry out this process. Equally important to note is that the insertion of fragments of DNA with information of interest on another chromosome is aimed at producing something called new or improved organisms. This is used in the fields of medicine, pharmacology and food production. Another area of ​​application that surfaced in the 20th century and intensified in the present century relates to the manipulation of genes to improve the human species and the prevention and cure of certain pathologies. These lawsuits are called eugenics.

In 1883 the Englishman Francis Galton (GALTON apud GOLDIM, 1998) used this term, which comes from the Greek word Eugénios - “well born”, to define a process aimed at choosing between the most capable and the less capable human species To conceptualize eugenics as the study of agents under social control who can improve or impoverish the racial qualities of future generations, whether physical or spiritual. With the advent of genetic manipulation, manipulating genes with the aim of human improvement was defined as positive eugenics, and the so-called therapeutic use of genetic alterations used to cure and anticipate the diagnosis of diseases took on the name negative eugenics.

Figure 1: Inserting genetic information

kungHuman inheritance is the background to lead ethical discussions, both in the way they are conceived and in the way in which they can carry on their generated product. Therein lies the ethical conflict, as genetic manipulation occurs in an embryo that is collected during its development in the process of human reproduction in order to assess its pathological or phenotypic status through what is known as Genetic Preimplantation Diagnosis (GDP). The advancement of genetic science leads to reflections on certain ethical questions, such as the uncontrolled nature of mankind in the use and acquisition of human embryos. It is notorious that assisted human reproductive techniques enable couples with conception difficulties to have children, but on the other hand they are mostly faced with deciding the fate of excess embryos that are not used in the medical procedure. One of the thinkers who deals with the ethical relevance of these contemporary issues is Jürgen Habermas. He will be our lead author throughout this work. In O Futuro da Natureza Humana Habermas asks the following challenge question: "Can philosophy allow itself to allow the same moderation [5] also in questions of the ethics of the species?”(HABERMAS, 2004, p. 1). His involvement is part of it, and he realizes that dealing with the dilemma of genetic manipulation only in his scientific sense means treating the subject in isolation, and the study must take into account the subject in connection with the world and the subject with the Subject to be carried out. At this moment postmetaphysics enters its language costumes, but essentially has language in communicative actions. It will lead to a sufficient objectivity of the biological sciences for the necessary intersubjectivity of actions and language and interpret the essence as the person formed in its origin for every understanding: normative, sociological or theological.


It can be said that the fundamental universe in which Habermas ‘ethical thinking develops is that of the philosophy of language. In this context, he positions ethics in the field of discourse and communication without losing sight of rationality, which is why he speaks about a communicative rationality. And it is anchored in the prototype of language that Habermas refuses to return to philosophical-historical assumptions such as metaphysics. In other words, in Habermas ethics guide the communication paradigm. In his argumentative structure he also applies Kierkegaard's ethics of being himself and the Kantiana theory of justice, with the exception that this applies in its abstraction and to the universal whole. He defends the idea that "post-metaphysical thinking must impose moderation on itself when it comes to taking final positions on essential questions about the good or unsuccessful life" (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 1).

But when genome manipulation comes into play, he also wonders whether "philosophy can allow the same moderation in questions of species ethics?" (idem). Based on these reasons, Jürgen Habermas will include an ethic in the formulation of his post-metaphysical thinking that is based on discourse, intersubjectivity and freedom. Postmetaphysics was an alternative that from the 19th century tried to conceive the reason by including the intersubjective element in the construction of values, which was mainly based on communicative action. Despite the abandonment of ontological concepts about the totality of the person, post-metaphysical thinking recovers from ontology as the subject of objective reality and is constructed in this reality with intersubjectivities.

In the new philosophical construction, the subject is in a different scenario, moving from the consciousness of the subject to the subject of consciousness.Acting through language and engaging in communicative actions in building a rationality are the foundations for trying to solve one of the emblematic questions of philosophy, which is individuality. In this context, Habermas says:

The transition from the philosophy of consciousness to the philosophy of language brings objective advantages, but also methodological ones. It leads us out of the aporetic circle in which metaphysical thinking collides with the anti-metaphysical, i.e. where idealism is operated on to materialism, and also offers the possibility of attacking a problem that is unsolvable in metaphysical terms: that of individuality (HABERMAS, 1990, P. 15)

It replaces the philosophy of the self, the consciousness of the subject (philosophy of consciousness), with another one whose model is based on language. The subject now becomes the articulating subject of phrases, signs, language, able to understand through language and to give meaning to the communication of his thinking and his ideas [6].

Those who are able to speak and act, who understand each other about something in the world against the background of a common lifeworld, may have both a dependent and autonomous attitude in the middle of their language: They can use the systems of grammatical rules that use their practice for their own benefit enable (HABERMAS, 1990, p.52).

In this aspect she introduces the Habermasian communicative action with some clarity, because intersubjectivity is necessary for the movement of a whole that is shaped by the action of everyone, which leads to consequences, that is to readjustment, in the ethical action of the Kantian categorical imperative , which is expressed as follows: “Only act according to such a maximum that you want it to become a universal law at the same time” (KANT, 1993, p. 70). Proceeding from this, the subject that is now localized is not as the essence of the philosophy of consciousness or as the essence that hangs in the ideal quantum of metaphysics, nor as the person who interacts in the world of Heidegger's nothing. It is a being that becomes a subject with the subject in the world. From this, Habermas developed his Theory of Communicative Action (TKH), which is based on discussions about action, language and semantics, with the aim of providing a more pragmatic reference to philosophical and social questions that previously pursued the practical supra-theoretical ideas.

His concern is not to create a revolutionary concept of philosophy and rationality, but a theory based on communicative action that is aligned with the structures of the world of life. The “world of life”, a concept that stems from phenomenology, now extends not only to the horizon of consciousness, but also to the context of linguistic communication, the communicative practice of everyday life that is achieved through language. It consists of three structural components: culture, society and person. When we later analyze the issues of genetic manipulation, the approach to these concepts will have a concrete case scenario of materializing the historical transformations of humanity - application of the Marxist concept - in which “humanity is practically ready to write its history for what it is Incidentally, always does, with will and conscience ”(HABERMAS, theory and practice, in PINZANI, 2009, p. 48). In Habermas (2004) discussions were based on the following historical movements of the great philosophia:

  1. The emergence of the experimental method of the natural sciences exposes the judgment of totalizing thinking with a view to the one and the whole.
  2. The emergence of hermeneutics as a science clashed with the idealism of transcendentalization.
  3. The change from the philosophy of consciousness to the philosophy of language, which directs subjectivistic self-understanding into the center of reason.
  4. Communicative action is displacing the old tradition that gave priority to theory over practice.

The discussions dealing with the genetic changes induced or provoked in the human species run through this series of approaches, but they have a strong pull in the latter two when an ethical discourse of intersubjective construction from language into the communicative action is discussed. In the post-metaphysical formatting that Habermas used in his work O Futuro da Natureza Humana introduces, he brings to light a post-metaphysical view of the concept of ethics from the perspective of a contemporary existentialist philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard, who examines the concept of the self (HABERMAS, 2004). Being able to be oneself can only be understood if one understands the reality of the individual within his subjectivity, and Kierkegaard (2013) brings this subjectivity with him as the main element of the subject that exists in the world of facts in order to achieve his freedom.

It is the world of possibilities that moves through three phases of the subject's life: the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious, which as a world of possibilities also means decisions. Subjectivity in Kierkegaard therefore means choosing yourself in order to become a perfectly free individual, that is, to become yourself. One is established in this search for the inwardness of being. It is the result of existence that always makes us transform our choices that make up our existence, hence this existence is necessity and possibility and this is the root of the individual's natural fear, which is caused by self-knowledge and recognition of his singularity must become. The individual can be himself if he is able to become into this inwardness and if he is part of his own reality through decisions.

Only the individual has access to this reality, which is subjective and is the source of his truths, ie this subjective reality is the truth. In the midst of these possibilities, existence is free, it can be. When the individual harmonizes with the power of being, ie with the possibilities, he can choose the scenario of his life that will lead him to freedom. This scenario, which Kierkegaard calls stages [7] - aesthetic, ethical and religious (NUNES, 1967) - represents the whole and the individual without losing their subjectivity and without establishing themselves in their existence. Here he chooses his stadium on the basis of his self-confidence and self-image [8], as he knows that the transition from one to the other is a qualitative leap. The ethical is characterized by intersubjective relationships without withdrawing from subjectivity. Here the subject has a horizontal perception of his belonging to the world, because this horizontality leads him to approach what is similar and to put himself in another place.

The self is that freedom that arises through individuality in order to give meaning to existence; and being yourself is something like a forcethat the individual has acquired since his emergence, that gives him free access to his self-understanding and his intersubjectivity and that only fits the self of the other if this freedom is not impaired. The subject then becomes the author of its own existence and can, by consensus, build an ethical discourse based on moral arguments which it confirms. When the philosopher deals with moral and ethical questions of communicative action for the investigated genetic manipulation, he suggests the systematization of a communicative ethic and works it out based on his Consciência moral e agir comunicativa (1989). According to Habermas, in the world of life there is a radical connection between reality and language that is practically fused and permeated.

This connection is also associated with action and manifestations in the way of reasoning ideas generated by reasoning: arguments aimed at validating a discourse for the construction of an ethic based on the behavior of subjects in the real World is applied. Habermas ’ethical compendium is based on the project of this communicative ethics, which was started in the 1970s, guided by norms, i.e. deontological, universal, created by procedures (discourses) whose people can participate within their interest class. In this discourse ethic, moral questions turn to questions of the lifeworld and relate to the good life, which means that despite its universality, only the participants of this world can, concretely, realistically, judge whether a norm is acceptable or not. In this context, it is part of a sentence-based distinction between essence and must, which ascribes a claim to validity to the assertoric act (being), a claim to truth and, the deontological act (must be).

That has to be part of the argumentative process itself in ethical sentences, and on the other hand the argument guides the essence and duty to be, since assertive sentences may prove true or false and the deontic argument may or may not be valid. The concepts developed in the theory of communicative action are consistent with this propositional distinction between the two forms of action - strategic action and communicative action. In strategic action, the individual works to make another person act as he or she deems appropriate (assertion that claims to be truthful), and in communicative action, the subject tries to convince the other that he should act appropriately by citing him to his position (deontic sentence with pretext of validity). In the case of the standard, the verification of its effectiveness and legitimacy, since it can be effective and illegitimate, gives it validity.

According to Habermas, “we have to distinguish the social fact from the intersubjective recognition and the fact that a norm is worthy of recognition” (HABERMAS, 1989, p. 82), so that the intersubjective recognition relates to the effectiveness and dignity of the recognition of legitimacy. The application of these two components of practical morality gives us the opportunity, from an ethical point of view, to analyze the eugenic questions of both the past (HitlerIan Arianism) and the current genetic movements in this sense. The rules that are considered to be valid must be recognized, accepted (agreed) by all “parties concerned”, since they deal exclusively with their common interests. According to Habermas, every applicable standard must meet the following condition:

that the consequences and guarantees that (foreseeable) lead to the satisfaction of the interests of each individual, that they are generally followed, can be accepted by all parties involved (and are preferred to all consequences of alternative and known possibilities of domination) (HABERMAS, 1989, p. 86 ).

In order to make the ethics of the discourse a reality, it is necessary that the argument about the validity of the deontic sentences (norms) is realized in the effective exercise of the discourse, ie in the communicative action with a view to consensus and understanding, in which " every valid norm would find the approval of all those involved if they could take part in a practical discourse ”(HABERMAS, 1989, p.148).


To be (assertoric) and must be part of the ontological and deontological structure, hence philosophical, that have formed the ethical-universal study of society since classical antiquity. This study has its main axis of support in universality. However, when it comes to the demarcation and limitation of people in their spaces of self-power, through the manipulation of Homo somaticus by homo faber, we may have to rethink which ethical model we should apply to face the new moral consumption patterns of this century. The rethinking of philosophy as the first science lies within the framework of modern thinkers, especially in the area of ​​morality and ethics, such as Hans Jonas, Emanuel Lévinas, Alasdair MacIntyre, among other things, since humans, as the subject of ontology, anthropology and epistemology, are next to generation social facts, changes in time and spatial dimensions.

Habermas' question: "What should I do with the time of my life?" (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 3) before an interpretation that is shaped in human individualization and subjectification presents itself as a necessity for attempting traditional ethical paradigmatic disturbances without the loss of principles that designate humanity as the substance of human beings, because it is also a matter of maintaining values ​​that are obsolete in this moment of transition. Based on John Rawls' theory of justice (2000), Habermas introduces the idea of ​​a just society as a society that “leaves what they want to begin with the time of their lives to the discretion of all people” (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 5) and “ it guarantees everyone the same freedom to develop an ethical self-image in order to form a personal idea of ​​the “good life” according to their own abilities and criteria ”(idem).

The author points out that there should be a transition from a universalized ethics to an ethical autonomy of the individual who can build his own life model. In this sense, the question "What should I do with the time of my life"To be answered by the subject who makes it, that is, everyone decides how to lead their life, everyone is responsible for using their power to intervene in life, a challenge that seems to be the current model of freedom, even with a look at the self-determined and hetero-determined behavior of genetic manipulation. Ethical self-image will serve as a framework for a self-image of existence, which is a key element of morality, justice and politics in order to give answers to the right action. Without it, nothing really becomes effective, because the subject must be a person and be able to be himself, and this intuitive perception of existence will give the excerpts that characterize a good or failed life.

This brings us to the basics on which Kierkegaard traces his model of behavior back to the individual, because existence and “state of life” are part of his post-metaphysical thinking. Kierkegaard's power to be himself is realized in human existence, which navigates a dialectic of “self to itself” without denying one for the other. Being able to be oneself means choice and so Kierkegaard deals with the autonomy of the relationship / will of the individual who has to build control over his life from his own consciousness. The person who has had his life instrumented by genetic manipulation then becomes hostage to the will of others and this awareness of historicity, instead of being an attribute of his existence, also becomes a product of social manipulation that began in his prepersonal life.

Ethical consciousness that wants to be, as well as subjective morality, arises from the recognition and relationship to “someone” who stands above every limitation, from a power that is not available in us. This transcendental force, which is located in the Kierkegardian religious stadium, can be conceived for a trans-subjective understanding in the horizontal recognition of another, who puts us as partners in the process of communicative action, as subjects capable of speaking and acting. This creates a tangent between the post-metaphysics of language and the power to be existential, which has a connection with transcendentality. A conversion of Kierkegaard's post-metaphysics into a post-metaphysics of language is being built here, without, however, losing the connection between them.

Language and action are means of communication between moral subjects, but the logos of language are connected to something that goes beyond the subject (transubjective), which offers us the conditions for ethical self-understanding. Understanding through communication does not come through simple act and simple language. From the logos (of reason) we build this exchange of messages, from one with each other. This combination of post-metaphysical thoughts leads to the disruption of the moderation (comedition) of post-metaphysics when it comes to the ethics of the species. Philosophy is suitable for the discussion of the topic, since the topic, which is now made possible by language and action, begins to have an ethical self-image. When one has a natural body or is building a body, then a debate arises in which objective existence must be analyzed along with the subjectivity of existence.

In some ways, the relationship between “being body” and “having a body” can have different connotations depending on the subject who sees it and the perception they have of the human species. As soon as existential and ethical self-understanding has no relevance in universalized morality, the individual is taken hostage, from his prepersonality to goals that do justice to cultural modernity, which are only protected by the simple duty to be legal. This leads to the liberality of the intervention, for example in the human genome through eugenics practices. Despite such genetic interventions, the personal history of the individual, that is, the biography itself, dispenses with the conditioned process and unpredictability that both are inherent in the nature of the human "being" and interfere early in his self-image of being. It is relevant what Habermas says:

With the irreversible decision that one person makes in relation to the “natural” constitution of another, an unknown interpersonal relationship develops to this day. This new type of relationship damages our moral sensitivity, since it forms a foreign body in the legally institutionalized relationships of recognition in modern societies (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 20).

The author goes on to address the question of self-awareness as a primal element of subjectivity when one realizes that both in genetic manipulation and in dealing with genes in adults for cloning the question can be traced back to this inner ethical understanding of humanity as a whole. Yet even if this is necessary to parameterize understandings and conceptions, what one sees is the speculation of moral and legal norms in order to give legitimation to the axiological orientations, which means that man is currently conditioned, practically below these norms to live. The morals and natural rights of the individual and collectivity cannot be attached and would not survive as long as our minds remain focused on a Hobbesian state.

Since the human condition (as we saw in the previous chapter) is that of war one against the other, everyone is governed by his own reason, and there is nothing that man can use to help him fight his life to preserve one's enemies, everyone has the right to everything, including the body of others ”(HOBBES). 2009, 98).

When Francis Galton coined his thesis entitled Eugenics in 1883, it was possible for him to envision his social purposes on the basis of the ethical context as well as the grouping of moral norms of the time, looking primarily at the European continent. On the other hand, genetic engineering evolved as a scientific innovation from the 1970s, although the controversial ones were already incorporated into its concepts (like eugenics itself) with the aim of assessing the state of human life in the face of the weaknesses the body faced Weather and degeneration has to improve and so regain the welfare of a collectivity. Eugenics has served its purpose or is on the same path as other great revelations that soon turned into uncontrolled B’Lide.

As we advance in science, the cult that lends itself to the human person in his latent life is emptied, first indulging in the desires of healing that later merge with the whims of improving a victorious phenotype. The embryo, whether searchable or not, can be cured or genetically enhanced and has directed its manipulation through diagnoses such as PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis). When it comes to therapeutic purposes, the self-understanding of the ethical process is tied to the self-understanding of existence, and these have the power to overcome regulatory norms. Here genetic interventions are sought as a form of healing from undisputed and irreversible pathogenesis. Negative eugenics is therefore affirmed as correct ethical behavior.

As for the intervention for genetic improvement, its demands and purposes are initially clear. But one question has been speculated in attempting to establish an ethical study that looks at the moral norms of eugenic manipulation: there are situations where the concept of cure in concrete cases approaches that of improvement and creates a weak threshold between them ( see Figure 2), which is exacerbated by the lack of stricter criteria for its definition and regulation. Habermas: "With the genetic diagnosis of pre-implantation it is already difficult to respect the boundary between the selection of undesirable hereditary factors [9] and the optimization of desirable factors" (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 29) [10].

Figure 2: The interface between eugenics.

This has given way to the creation of a possibility of intervention in any situation, legitimized by normative doubts. Habermas calls this liberal eugenics, catalyzed by interests that obscure moral principles and ethics. Based on the rationality that has developed from communicative action (contrary instrumental reason), [11] Habermas exposes Kant's concept of the categorical imperative, which, through one of its derivations, defines the person as an end in itself and not as a means, as a moral principle in dealing with other people. This refers to the meta-formulation of the categorical imperative in which Kant invokes the absolute value of human existence: “It acts in such a way that one can use humanity both in the person and in the person of another, always as a goal at the same time and never just as a means ”(KANT, 1993, p. 79).

Here the categorical imperative forms an interface between instrumental reason and the reason for communicative action, especially when it places the subject in the formulation of morality and extends from the arguments of moral sentences in ethical discourse to the universal “we”. The formulation of this imperative must be part of the solution of conflicts whose axiological orientations are not reconciled with one another if the subjects of the discourse have to look for the norm that can concretely be applied to him and everyone. The saying “no” must be part of the rational discourse, important in order to create the universal norm by consensus that applies to all parties involved. The condition of being able to say no or yes is part of the power-to-self structure that leads to an understanding of being in the world. Yes, and they are not in language and action, but part of the ethical stage of the individual, which manifests itself in presumptuousness.

Genetic programming is a threat to being able to be oneself because existence has the body as a tribute, that is, only when the kneaded subject feels in the body does he understand that he is himself. This body feeling only comes about through natural development and not through technical imposition. In Hannah Arendt, Habermas draws from her thesis that birth is not a continuity of life history (it is not a historical process, a doing again), but something that has become new and this new doing only comes through natural birth, as it is in philosophy is expressed:

The new beginning inherent in every birth can only be felt in the world because the newcomer has the ability to start something new, that is, to act. In this sense of the initiative, all human activities have an element of action and thus of birth (ARENDT, 2007, p. 17).

The genetically modified individual does not allow a renewal of the self-image of his genetic education, because of the previously established morality in an alienated way, which in a figurative sense makes him a third person who, out of his ethical freedom, does not naturally include himself in his socialization process and the one its abilities and shortcomings can be. According to Habermas, he is someone “who has a clone” (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 87). The programmer of the genetic intervention imposes a modified character who will irrevocably determine the understanding of the person who changed his book of life, with no chance of revision, based on a one-sided rational decision. The problem is not reduced to a simple moral or legal normative prescription to protect the first person or the “person there” in the world of life.

Rather, it evaluates how to deal with people in order to understand them in our ethical self-image. It also goes through past inclusion, based on the moral imperatives of communicative action, of the future person, in consensus and decision about “what should I do with my life”, because:

we have to ask ourselves whether future generations will ultimately adapt to the fact that they no longer see themselves as unique authors of their lives - and as such will no longer be held accountable (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 93).

With regard to a collective weighting of morality, we can, for example. absorbing liberal eugenic practices as recognized morally, and even pushing therapeutic interventions into the background. This possibility of a completely relativistic eugenic future must be moderated and conveyed through the ethics of discourse, i.e. through communicative action, which still refuses to accept the self-integration of man into his rule of nature from the processes of self-instrumentalization. Knowing how to rightly recognize falsehood is a phenotypic rational characteristic of “homo sapiens” and it is this virtue that also confronts the self-instrumentalization of the human species and the uncertainty in a world in which this self is derived from an ethical Self-image must result, to be able to be yourself.

There is the basis for the involvement of the second person in the process of socialization, acting as a matrix of ethical construction, the moral values ​​of the “eternal status” of nature and the communicative action that takes place when the subjective being from intersubjectivity and also starts out of otherness into the world. The appropriate model for integrating philosophy into the interdisciplinary nature of the bioethical topic of genetic manipulation of the species had the necessary basis in Habermas' way of thinking to review the foundations of traditional philosophy. It tries to achieve an understanding of morality and ethics in the rule of natural becoming, caused by the anthropologization, which brings changes in the ontological and anthropological scenarios, whose own human being is therefore both active and passive.

The changes in the genomes are attitudes that cannot be found universalized in morality by the ethics of discourse or in the freedom to be oneself of the individual, especially when it is aimed exclusively at genetic improvements, because it is autonomy and equality of the People exceeds [12]. Therefore, he advocates genetic manipulation only for therapeutic purposes and criticizes positive eugenics:

The body full of prostheses designed to increase performance or the intelligence of angels engraved on the disk are fantastic images. They erase the boundary lines and undo the coherences that have so far presented themselves to our daily actions as transcendently necessary. On the one hand, the organic being, which has grown naturally, merges with technical production; on the other hand, the productivity of the human intellect differs from the subjective subjectivity (HABERMAS, 2004, p. 58).

Through this subjectivity, the person quarreled about intersubjectivity and otherness in the ethical world of life. And if you ask "What to do with the time of my life”(HABERMAS, 2004, p. 3), it articulates itself from a reflective ethical self-understanding in order to make a jump to another question of greater moral content, that is:“What should I do, what should we do?”(HABERMAS, ibidem, p. 5). She is now looking for the answer with the inclusive “I” and “we”, whose identity of the “I” is linked to what I wish for the other, and the dignity and freedom of each in his process of historical construction of life keep intact. In this context, the questions of genetic manipulation are included, which, as good scientific providence, converged on one of the most controversial topics of the present day - eugenics.

The question of the subject in the lifeworld, in the face of genetic interventions, begins to be treated by Habermas as a necessity to recognize the self-understanding of existence, whose individual, who has an ethical self-understanding, becomes the object of intersubjectivity by working out moral propositions and argued to intervene in the ethical discourse. Liberal eugenics as a probable chapter of history must be treated as something deconstructive of human dignity, which, combined with the loss of authenticity of the individual with the change in his genetic identity, through chromosomal changes, imposes new challenges on philosophical ethics.

At this point Habermas shifts the thought to the reason of language, leaving aside the traditional ethical models based on idealism, abstraction and starting to formulate an ethical model, or at least its foundations, the science, politics and postmodern society awakens the need for reflection on the future of a fragile and potentially instrumentalized human race. In some ways, while cautious on such a topical issue, caution needs to be exercised in making crucial moral arguments. Thus Habermas suggests, as we have already emphasized, that the subject should be treated by viewing the subject in such a way that it is as it is the ethical discourse [13]. In the language of communicative action, even overburdened, moral values ​​are constructed in order to be implemented in ethical action, precisely according to ethical self-understanding, before norms of the moral or legal are introduced, disseminated and internalized in political decisions.

Such an ethical awareness, according to Habermas, must penetrate the minds of those who, through heterodeterminacy, decide to bet on an “improved” phenotype that will eugenically change the human genome, that is, by having a will that does nothing to do with a second person has to do, which should take part in an intersubjective counseling, imposes a will. On this basis and in accordance with Habermasian's ideas on this topic, the decision about eugenics must be examined (see Figure 3). In this case, negative eugenics can be accepted morally and legally, because then one can try to integrate the individual into a threatened dignity. This weighting reaches the definitions of the sometimes weak boundaries between negative and positive eugenics, i.e. between gene therapy and the search for perfection.

Figure 3: Matrix of values ​​for the weighting of procedures for genetic techniques.

technologyEffects ascribed to technologyvalue
GDP· Chromosomal information for embryo implantation

· Disposal of unhealthy embryos


researchDisposal of embryos of any kind

· New discoveries for medicine


intervention· Healing, which, morally justified, enables the second person to be included in the socialization process

· Genetic improvement, asks about the loss of the individual's autonomy in the socialization process


Source: Author (2020)


Habermas does not bring a definitive, definitive recipe to solve the problem presented in this study. However, it does draft in which it presents the moral mechanisms that can be applied in decisions that involve the self-affirmation of the existence of human life. He is very concerned about the direction that eugenic manipulation can take if these mechanisms that interfere with human activity are not taken into account. Therefore he relies on communicative reason, intersubjectivity, validation of moral arguments under consensus and ethical self-understanding in order to try to avoid a disappearance of the identity and autonomy of the individual in the future of human nature. Figure 4 summarizes Habermas' proposal.

Figure 4: Synthesis of a proposal for the ethics of eugenics.

Since rational communication through philosophical language becomes an instrument of practical ethics, it can also be extended to other human relational horizons, such as politics and the family. Platonic ideas and Hegelian models of formatting ethics stay apart because, as we have seen, they are found in the reality of the lifeworld, giving priority to practice over theory.Science, theology, and metaphysics, in our view, should not be denied as means of knowledge, but ethics must be anchored in a ground that pervades the connection between the thoughts of the subjects, which manifests itself in action and language, and hence there are subjects who who are always able to speak and act, which makes it possible to reach a consensus on the moral values ​​that are relevant to the ethical action of a collective.

After all, we believe that one's own should not be just a possibility, but a natural right in the broadest sense, and so an individual acquires it in the fore person as well, and so the human embryo, even in the blastocyte phase, may not be one yet Person in their completeness, as Habermas adds, but is subject to all rights to be a person. Reason helps the author in referring to the dignity of human life since conception. We also believe that this is the necessary basis to counter the dubious interests of science, politics and the market, which today inhibit the establishment of legal norms with authentically moral ballasts. It may seem strange or atypical of our society to create cultural behaviors and changes from an understanding that is driven by self-understanding, but philosophy cannot tremble at this mission


ARENDT, H. A condição humana. Trad. Roberto Raposo. Rio de Janeiro: Forense Universitária, 2007.

GALTON, Francis. Hereditary Talent and Genius. Apud: GOLDIM, José Roberto, 1998. Eugenia. Disponível em: Acesso em: 05 jun. 2018.

HABERMAS, J. Consciência moral e agir comunicativo. Trad. de Guido Antônio de Almeida. Rio de Janeiro: Edições Tempo Brasileiro, 1989.

HABERMAS, J. O futuro da Natureza Humana. Trad. Karina Janini. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2004.

HABERMAS, J. Pensamento Pós-metafísico - Estudos Filosóficoa. Trad. de Flávio Siebeneichler. Rio de Janeiro: Edições Tempo Brasileiro, 1990.

HOBBES, T. Leviatã - ou a matéria, forma e poder de um Estado eclesiástico e civil. Trad. Rosina D`Angina. São Paulo: Martin Claret, 2009.

KANT, I. Fundamentos da Metafísica dos Costumes. Trad. Lourival de Queiroz Henkel. Rio de Janeiro: Tecnoprint, 1993.

KIERKEGAARD, S. Ou - Ou: Um fragmento de vida. Lisboa: Relógio D’água, 2013.

NUNES, B. A Filosofia Contemporânea. São Paulo: Editora Buriti, 1967.

PINZANI, A. Habermas. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2008.

RAWLS, J. Uma teoria da Justiça. Trad. Almiro Piseta. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2000.

ROUSSEAU, J. J.doContrato Social. Trad. Pietro Nassetti. São Paulo: Martin Claret, 2000.


3. Phenotype: apparent or observable property of an individual, determined by genetic interaction and environmental conditions.

4.htttp: // Access from September 3rd, 2018. Public Domain (Access on September 3rd, 2018. Public Domain).

5. It means that postmetaphysics is the limit of its epokhé (judgmentsaussetzung) in dealing with matters related to the real life or the failed life, when the ethical self-understanding of “subjects capable of speaking and acting” comes into play, that is, it is the moment when it is no longer just can be contained in the spaces in which it has previously acted.

6. In summary, Habermas' thinking is characterized by its criticism of positivism and the reformulation of Marxist theory and also criticizes what is also known as “instrumental reason” by stating that people know through the use of language and action acquire and use and express their wishes and goals. Communicative action occurs when the subjects of action willingly agree on their goals and give the tone of rationality used to achieve them. There the criterion of intersubjectivity, the interaction between subjects (people) is emphasized as an alternative to “instrumental reason”, which is defined as “faculty that judges, recognizes, composes, relates, arranges and coordinates the means with the goals”. Through this communicative act, the individual manages to create his own space, free from the bonds of the world of consciousness.

7. It relates to the different spheres of life and does not mean states of evolution; hence they are called stages.

8. According to the Informal Dictionary of the Portuguese Language, the way the person perceives and interprets himself is what does not always correspond to reality.

9. Reason for therapeutic genetic intervention

10. Reason for Genetic Enhanced Improvement

11. The instrumental reason focuses on the domination (control) of nature and of man himself. The subject interprets the world in his own way.

12. Habermas brings from Kant autonomy as a greater principle of morality

13. It is a preview of the individual's decision based on the consequences an intervention has on a projected socialization of the future human person who has the ability to speak and act.

[1] Postgraduate in Environmental Management, Graduation in Chemical Engineering, Graduation in Philosophy, Special Student of the Master’s Course in Philosophy at UFBA.

[2] PhD in Ethical and Political Philosophy from Complutense University in Madrid-Spain. Master in Advanced Studies in Philosophy from Complutense University Madrid-Spain.

Submitted: October 2019.

Approved: January 2020.