2009 Lectures: Allen Buchanan

Professor Allen Buchanan

Professor Allen Buchanan

We were honoured to welcome Professor Buchanan to Oxford to deliver the Annual Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics in 2009.

The lecture series was entitled 'Beyond Humanity?: The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement', and published as a book by Oxford University Press in 2011.  

The lectures were recorded and are available to watch on YouTube (see below).

Allen Buchanan is the James B. Duke Professor of philosophy at Duke University. He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1975. He has written six books covering such topics as Marx, applied ethics (especially bio-medical ethics), social justice, and international justice, including the foundations of international law. Buchanan served as staff philosopher for the President's Commission on Medical Ethics in 1983. From 1996 to 2000 he served on the Advisory Council for the National Human Genome Research Institute.


Lecture 1


Lecture 2

Lecture 3


Book cover: Beyond Humanity?

Oxford University Press

  • New work on the hottest topic in practical ethics
  • Allen Buchanan is one of the world's leading moral philosophers
  • The latest developments in this highly controversial debate
  • Introduces clear and careful argument into a debate dominated by rhetoric
  • Presents practical proposals for just and cautious public policy regarding human enhancement

Biotechnologies already on the horizon will enable us to be smarter, have better memories, be stronger and quicker, have more stamina, live longer, be more resistant to diseases, and enjoy richer emotional lives. To some of us, these prospects are heartening; to others, they are dreadful. In Beyond Humanity a leading philosopher offers a powerful and controversial exploration of urgent ethical issues concerning human enhancement. These raise enduring questions about what it is to be human, about individuality, about our relationship to nature, and about what sort of society we should strive to have. Allen Buchanan urges that the debate about enhancement needs to be informed by a proper understanding of evolutionary biology, which has discredited the simplistic conceptions of human nature used by many opponents of enhancement. He argues that there are powerful reasons for us to embark on the enhancement enterprise, and no objections to enhancement that are sufficient to outweigh them.

"an important book worth reading independent of one's views about the topic. It is well argued, clearly written, and presents a comprehensive analysis of the relevant key questions in the debate. To my knowledge this volume is the most wide-ranging exploration on human enhancement, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a good grasp of the current debate. Both camps, bioconservatives and anti-anti-enhancement/pro-enhancement people, will benefit from the arguments Buchanan advances." - (Fabrice Jotterand, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

"a remarkable book that argues in favour of biomedical enhancement ... this book is admirable for its rich inventory of new ideas and its unmerciful criticism of the all-too-convenient arguments which abound in the usual ethical literature. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everybody interested in bioethics" - (Christoph Henning, Journal of Critical Realism)

"A level-headed discussiion of ethical issues raised by prospects of biotechnological enhancement... A great deal of rhetoric is thrown about. What we need, and what the author brings, is clarity, dividing his analysis into eight sections on character, human nature, consequences, justice, potential abuses and the rish of a new eugenics." - (scimednet.org)

OUP Webpage.