A great summary and review, particularly the discussion of Agar’s conclusions and how his view has evolved since his last work, Liberal Eugenics.
Agar is acutely aware that talk about the threat of becoming alienated from experiences that give our lives meaning sounds awfully like those “bioconservatives” he used as foils inLiberal Eugenics. And he is acutely aware of the contempt that can be heaped upon anyone who dares to suggest, as he does, that suffering can sometimes be an essential feature of some meaningful and valuable human experiences. Watch out she who dares to ask the “ecological” question, concerning the possible interconnectedness of what is hardest about our lives, including suffering and death, and what is most meaningful! Next she’ll have to answer the enthusiast’s question, “Oh, and do you think that we should reintroduce small pox to give more people more opportunities to find meaning?”
To his credit, Agar isn’t cowed by that question. Indeed, he says that it exhibits “an overly simplistic view of the human significance of disease and suffering”(pg. 181). It fails to duly acknowledge the ecological insight and thus fails to take seriously a reason for exhibiting caution in our efforts to extirpate what’s hardest. Like the so-called “bioconservatives,” Agar explicitly seeks a way to reject the opportunities for meaning making that disease might give us—and to affirm the fact that our species has evolved such that what’s hardest and what’s most valuable or meaningful can sometimes be distressingly interconnected.
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