Max-Weber-Kolleg (Steinplatz 2) / Raum 510 (4. OG)

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Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Steinplatz 2
99085 Erfurt


Universität Erfurt
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 90 02 21
99105 Erfurt


Unleashing Life from its Boundaries

Contemporary modern society is marked by an increasing availability of technologies, products and therapies that enable a greater control over the functional decline caused by ageing. From within the realm of life techno-sciences and medicine, a more or less explicit idealization of ageless bodies (L. Kass) is taken as a normative reference of healthcare. A general concern with healthy lifestyles and a diffuse fear of bodily decline, in a society characterized by demographic ageing, also endorse the expectation of scientific and technological amelioration of human senescence.

Understanding, controlling and treating ageing constitute an example of the promise of availability – making (H. Rosa) promoted by modern science. This promise meets its prime with the rise of the biotechnologies, i. e., with the idea of engineered lives, which open a new phase of scientific development, characterized by the prospect of the experimentum humanum (H. Martins). The project understands it as a qualitative leap in the modern lure of unleashing life from its boundaries: a leap from the idea of freeing human life from social constraints to that of freeing it from its constitutive, natural constraints – ultimately, from its humanness.

The main social actor through which these developments are shaped is the biotechnology company. As an intersection of scientific endeavour and venture capital, the biotechnology company promotes a particular image of human life as an instance of enhancement. Therefore, anti-ageing biotechnology companies will be brought under analysis in this investigation. As mentioned above, the boundary of ageing seems to be socially, economically, as well as culturally, more relevant than ever. Besides, human ageing has a special significance for what it means to be human, for, differently from other constraints of the conditio humana, it encompasses life as a whole and is the necessary counterpart of living. Furthermore, ageing is a constant reminder of human mortality and, therefore, of human ontological boundary.
This project aims, firstly, to comprehend the representations of human life that guide the technoscientific anti – ageing enterprise. More specifically, the project asks: what the conception of ageing as a treatable phenomenon tells about the biotechnological conception of what human life is and should be? Secondly, the project aims to study in depth the anti-aging biotechnology enterprise as an exemplary manifestation of a modern, non-resonant mode of world – relation (Weltbeziehung).