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David Stein

22 February 2018

Juice in the Talent Pool: How Human Enhancements Benefit Sports

In Human Enhancement, written by Eric Juengst and Daniel Moseley (First published

April 7, 2015 in the The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), the contributors discuss how

human enhancements, defined as “biomedical interventions that are used to improve human form

or functioning beyond what is necessary to restore or sustain health,”(Juengst) create a situation

of questionable ethics. By actively going out and requesting a body augment or additive,

individuals are able to bring their bodies past a state that is needed to support a previously livable

way of life. While the contributors cover a wide array of ethical questions surrounding human

enhancements, I will focus on the question of whether or not it is ethical for human

enhancements to be used in sport. Throughout my analysis and evaluation of portions of the

authors’ written work, I will refute the argument that the use of human enhancements is unethical

in a sport.

To correctly convey my argument, I will first establish a few key terms and how they are

to be interpreted in reference to my argument. Human enhancement, in addition to the earlier

provided description, is to be referenced to items having direct relevance to sport. Something

such as religion as a human enhancement is not applicable in this written work, nor is it

discussed in relation to sport in Human Enhancement. The next term to define is “sport”.

Following the text in Human Enhancement, sport is defined as being a construct that has a heavy

emphasis on hierarchical measurements (athletic records, high scores, etc) between participating

members. More specifically, the social structure of sports places great emphasis on the
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comparison of athletes. With the key concepts made clear, I will now present the statement

against which I will present my claims. “Sport...grade[s] people in terms of their (virtuously

perfected) inherited traits and glorifies the best specimens as champions. What is unfair about

enhancement, on this view, is that enhancement interventions undermine the ability of sport to

distinguish those who passively inherited their talents from their progenitors from those who

actively acquired them from their physicians”(Juengst). Within this concluding statement lie

several points which I will contest. The first is the idea of what virtuously perfected inherited

traits are. The second and third point I will contest are the concept of passive inheritance of

talents and the active acquiring of ability enhancement from distributors.

Early in Human Enhancement, virtuose perfection is described as the basis of why sport

is celebrated- to cherish socially admirable habits and traits. While such a holistic view of sport

commemoration holds true in part, much of what a sport brings to its observers is an inspiration

to become better human beings. Admirable habits and traits serve as secondary benefits that are

conveyed on the back of the demonstration of physical excellence (elite sport performance).

Socially admirable habits and traits alone are not able to influence masses to the same degree that

physical excellence is able to on its own. Physical excellence alone is able to demonstrate human

greatness vividly and is able to inspire individuals to live in that likeness. Therefore, physical

excellence, from a formulaic standpoint, holds greater significance over habits and traits- even

when a combination of the two sides are unified. From a utilitarian perspective, the capabilities

of physical excellence outweigh socially admirable habits and traits. To further this point, the

display of human qualities never before seen or achieved will inspire others to increase their

output as human beings whereas the demonstration of another individual with good habits will
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do little for the masses. From an ethical standpoint, it is better to cultivate masses to grow rather

than to demonstrate a straight line consistency with that which has already been proven and

shown.

The arguments presented by the authors conveys meaning for sport in seemingly two

different ways. One is the honoring of honing skills in an environment of purity. The other, more

social version, is the ranking of individuals by capabilities. I will go into honing skills with the

use of human enhancements later in the paper. For now, I will talk about one of the fundamental

roots in sport- to be the best and to break existing human limits. An example of such a situation

is the career of baseball player Barry Bonds. Bonds was a discovered steroid user who had an

immense impact on his viewers. Bonds’ stunning performance and gameplay raised the standard

of baseball and demonstrated greater human capabilities. From an ethical standpoint, Bonds’

choice to take steroids led to an overall human gain. Bonds as a regular, non enhanced human,

would have had little impact over so many people- even if he held strong habits and traits. The

choice to use human enhancement acted to both benefit him and the people surrounding him.

From the example of how Bonds used human enhancement not only do we see an overall

quantitative gain, but we also see a consistency of following the concept of hierarchy in sport. In

an ideal world, no enhancements exist to provide benefits to sports participants. In the world we

live in, a multitude of human enhancements exist and function towards seemingly amplifying

human abilities (physical). Sport holds an ethical balance between the viewers and the

participants. Amongst the participants, the relationship between each individual is towards

establishing hierarchy. The relationship between the participants and the viewers is to

demonstrate human excellence (from participant to viewer). The relationship between viewers is
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to absorb what they are witness to and shift that inspiration deeper into society. The aspect of

virtuose perfection is covered through human enhancement by the principal of bringing out the

best in sport participants and viewers. While human enhancements may vere from traditional

habits, it compensates for any fault in that criteria by providing an abundance of material for

individuals to cherish and admire in the realm of sport. For the aspect of virtuose perfection,

human enhancement stands to be the more ethical choice in sports because it leads to an overall

greater ethical benefit while also driving the social aspect of sports- to break records and

dominate interpersonal hierarchies (sports related) in order to identify the best specimens as

champions.

With the environmental aspect of the argument discussed, I will now move onto first the

people who “passively inherited talents from progenitors” and next onto those who “actively

acquired them [talents] from their physicians”. The aforementioned aspect of the honing of one’s

skills using human enhancements will be discussed in the portion on acquired ability. Passive

inheritance of talents from parents in and of itself sets a low bar for the standard of sport- saying

that sports serve simply to judge who was born more capable in the realm of athletics. Eric

Juengst and Daniel Moseley argue that human enhancement use in sports is unethical because it

creates ambiguity between athletes who naturally achieved certain accomplishments and athletes

who used human enhancement. If we are attempting to calibrate human capability through sport-

to establish the hierarchy that the definition of sport draws on - why should human enhancements

not be applied? Afterall, human enhancements that act as amplifiers instead of fixed modifier

(Steroids vs. titanium implants) act on the basis of one's preliminary human capabilities (one’s

talent in the realm of living). With this notion, the use of human enhancements only serves to
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purify the impurities a person holds. Sport seeks to bring out the human maximum. Only by

comparing human maximums can we declare true hierarchy. This is true because of the

amplification provided by human enhancements. As the enhancements do not function equally

with different individuals, the enhancements serve as another criteria for body related talent

while also showing a more accurate picture of ones’ talent. The body related talent is one's’

ability to react to human enhancements and the accuracy brought about is the demonstration of

one's’ true unhindered maximum. In a hierarchical environment, ones maximum abilities and full

talents should be displayed without impediment. Take for example archery in the Olympics. In

an environment facilitated to demonstrate the talents and human capabilities, why should human

enhancement not be allowed for solely this reason. The administration of Beta Blockers

(diminishes anxiety and more specifically performance anxiety) allows for the archers to

demonstrate their talents without the influence of the setting they are in. In doing so, the

competition demonstrates a hierarchical ranking of talent and maximum human capabilities

without additional external factors separate from the sport. When sports, such as with the archery

example, reduce outside influencers, they push human capabilities to their maximum potentials

and purify the demonstration of talent. From an ethical standpoint, this is significant because it

creates equal opportunity in the realm of the sport. A sport tests an individual’s ability to perform

a set amount of actions. Human enhancing items that allow for one’s maximum human abilities

to permeate reduce the inequality created by genetic differences. If an individual is born a great

athlete and struggles in social situations, it is not fair to lower his sport hierarchy based on

out-of-sport constraints. To summarize, human enhancing items allow greater equality within
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sports while also better calibrating participants that are now capable of showing their unhindered

talents - all in all heavily suggesting that the use of human enhancement in sports is ethical.

I will now move onto addressing the basis of sport participants “who actively acquired

them [talents] from their physicians” and will delve into the honing of skills with the use of

human enhancements. The authors of Human Enhancement provide the claim that ethical issue

arises because of the difficulty to differentiate between sport participants that rely on natural

talent and those who supposedly acquired talent from their physicians. The main problem with

the theory provided by authors of the publication is notion that talent is given by a person

separate from the sport participant. To speak against this claim, I will provide two examples. The

first example is use of anabolic steroids on a sports participant. The anabolic steroids act as a

non-fixed human enhancer. The steroids, while acquired from a physician (or whomever is

supplying), do not simply give the participant talent. The steroids simply allow the individual to

train and recover to a maximum quantity whereas before, greater rest was needed. In doing so,

the participant is not suddenly given the ability to hit home runs (or any random sport talent), but

rather the participant is given the ability to practice and hone his skills. Skills are not given

directly as the authors had stated, but rather the ability to hone one’s skills within his talent pool

is granted. The same principle can be applied to the use of hormones, diuretics and beta blockers

for talent honing. The argument presented by the authors falls short on two strands of thought for

non-fixed human enhancers. The talent is in not quantitatively handed to the participant and the

participant himself does not receive benefit plainly from his acquiring actions but rather is

simply allowed greater honing of talents. The second example I will provide is a fixed human

enhancement. Recall years ago when the professional golfer, Tiger Woods, underwent Lasik eye
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surgery. Conversely from the steroids and other non-fixed human enhancers mentioned earlier,

this situation of a human enhancement provides a direct acquisition of ability from a physician

(or whomever performed the surgery). Woods did not practice harder or hone his talent in any

way in order to receive benefit from the operation. While the surgery in and ofitself gave Woods

an “undeserved” boost, when it is applied to sports, it only serves as a method to open the

participant’s talents and does not increase them. The physical requirements of golf as a sport are

that the ball is hit into the designated hole. Woods’ ability to see better grants him an undeserved

advantage in the standard world, but in the world of golf, the bettered eyesight is a negligible

perk. The bettered vision allows for Woods to employ his maximum quanta of talent. The

possession of greater vision does not suddenly make him a better golfer, but rather, allows him to

demonstrate the entirety of his golf talent and skills. Compared to the conclusion with non-fixed

human enhancements, fix enhancements act in relation to talent in a different way, but ultimately

both human enhancement types allow for individuals to demonstrate their full talent. To

summarize, the idea that talent in relation to sports can be granted by a physician is false on the

grounds that the talent will either be allowed to be earned by the participant or will become

accessible. The talent is not simply acquired from a physician and no new talent is spontaneously

generated through this sort of interaction. To summarize, actively seeking human enhancements

from physician and dealers alike does not create an unethical disbalance nor does it create

confusion between “natural” participants and “unnatural” participants because the level of talent

within the individuals remains the same - the amount of throughput is adjusted but this talent is

sourced from talent before any human enhancements are performed.


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With the argument analyzed piece by piece, I will now combine the argumentative

paragraphs into a single summation. In Human Enhancement, written by Eric Juengst and Daniel

Moseley, the authors present the argument that it is unethical for human enhancements to be used

in a sport environment because such actions violate clarity between the so called “natural” and

“unnatural” with the foundation of a virtuose perfection and hierarchy. By creating a setting that

measures athletes in terms of their abilities, a hierarchical system emerges among those engaging

in sports. Within this environment individuals are tasked with demonstrating the utmost total

character as humans. Habits and traits hold a lesser value than the physical human demonstration

and therefore physical maximization is seen as having higher ethical value. Additionally, the

basis of comparing individuals, one of the key pieces of sports social systems, is made accurate

and optimal with the implementation of human enhancements. Human enhancements provide

inspiration for viewers greater than that which is provided through proper character while also

bettering the hierarchical ranking system in sports. From this foundation we move to human

enhancements in passive situations of talent and in active situations of acquiring talent. In the

both situations, the cumulative amount of talent an individual has does not change. With talent as

the merit of hierarchical prowess, in the passive and active, human enhancements do not increase

or add talent. In these situations, enhancements allow for individuals to tap into all of their talent,

demonstrate their talent or train within their talent. Overall, the environment of an ideal of

maximized human performance being the better ethical situation is catered to with individuals

accessing their own talent pools. This situation overall is multiplicative from its participants.

This means the better the participants can perform, the greater good comes to society and sports.

With the passive and active human enhancement situation shown as ethical, it is valid to engage
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in human enhancement for the greater good of society and sports. Overall, I have shown that in

the confines of this argument the use of human enhancements is overall ethical for the greater

good of sports and society. With this conclusion, I have refuted the argument presented in

Human Enhancement, as written by Eric Juengst and Daniel Moseley.


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Works Cited

1. Juengst, Eric and Moseley, Daniel, "Human Enhancement", The Stanford Encyclopedia of

Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

<https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/enhancement/>.

2. “Drugs Banned in Sport: World Anti-Doping Prohibited List.” Drugs.com, Drugs.com,

www.drugs.com/wada/.