Patrick Deneen on the science of politics and the conquest of nature :

For the ancients, man was bound by but not wholly defined as part of nature. The studies of natural phenomena and human affairs had to be distinct disciplines, for all of the reasons that nature and man are distinct in kind. On this view, “political science” was a distinct form of study from that of natural phenomena, requiring very different assumptions and approaches. The inauguration of the modern period was marked, among many other things, by the belief that human beings could be wholly understood through the same methods as natural things; thus, a new “science of politics” based upon the ideals of predictability and even control and manipulation of human beings was seen not only as possible but greatly desirable. The modern period also saw the reason for scientific inquiry shift from merely understanding how nature was governed to understanding how human beings could master it. Nature became not subject but object; and human inquiry was set not only in service of understanding politics, but manipulating nature for political ends.

It ought to come as no surprise, then, that these ideas might be carried further, so that human beings, as merely part of nature, could also be regarded as natural objects for manipulation. Man, too, could become no longer just subject but object. Many of the great horrors of the last century — from economic failures of all sorts to eugenics and worse — arose from this understanding. But a new movement today, calling itself transhumanism, carries these notions to their logical conclusion: human beings are not only manipulable objects , but raw, manipulable material ; man himself, his very form, might be tinkered with, enhanced, and “reengineered,” like a species of crop or livestock. What becomes of the political animal when politics seeks not to meet his ends but to unravel them — not to serve him but to remake him?


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