On September 11, 2012, Axel Kahn gave a lecture on the relationship between science and ethics to students from Nantes, AUDENCIA, at the Nantes Business School.
The inviting students had prepared this lecture so well that in their introduction, as well as in the questions, they went beyond what the committed geneticist professor expected of them, much to his delight.
Extract from Raphael's fresco "Conciliation Plato and Aristotle, the Timaeus and Ethics".
For the humanist geneticist, "life is not an object". Axel Kahn began by referring to September 11, 2001, recalling that the nineteen young people who had "... successful "who had prepared for the attack, came from the major European universities. If knowledge had led them to take their destiny and that of humanity into their own hands, their utopia was no more ethical or humanistic. From the best of the worlds of'Aldous Huxleythe bissociation of progress and humanism leads to the question: how can we avoid the realization of utopias, or can we return to a non-utopian society?
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From the First World War until 2001, the twentieth century in terms of technical progress advances almost without limit and humanism seems to retreat during this advance.
"What was missing in the 20th century was purpose."
Axel Kahn situates the birth of science in Mesopotamia 5000 years ago, the clay tablets of UR testifying to the teaching of second degree equations to two unknowns. Then he situates the birth of consciousness in Greek antiquity through the invention of the Greek logos, the first scientific metalanguage.
Socrates believed, as did Victor Hugo later, that only ignorance can lead to evil, but Protagoras thinks the end of humanity possible through science without wisdom and prudence, the first emergence of the notion of consciousness. Greek civilization ends when it begins to think that there is no progress, because it has reached perfection. Science experiences new advances every time a human community thinks that progress is possible.
From the seventeenth century onwards, science leads to power. This thought will find its end in the horrors of the twentieth century. Then Axel Kahn evokes the relationship between science and innovation by quoting Schumpeter : overcoming crises through creative destruction. For the humanist physician, the purpose of innovation is to increase prosperity and power.
The missing element in twentieth-century progress is, according to Axel Kahn, finality. In this sense, he defines himself as a voluntarist progressive, i.e. one who thinks "expertise" and orders it to an end.
Is ecological thinking ethical?
For example, intervention on plants is a matter of safety, and for there to be ethics, man's purpose must be thought out in interaction with the environment:
"The integrity of nature, the deep ecology, the unviolated nature is terrible for man."
Is the creation of a transformed man ethical?
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Axel Kahn then enunciates Good as the irreducible value of the other and Evil as the other's challenge. Transhumanism, which, in order to compensate for the inequalities of nature, creates new lineages, creates new inequalities, and is therefore immoral. Science is insufficient because morals have overtaken science in inequality ...
Thus, power over the unborn child is immoral, surrogacy contracts are immoral.
Homoparentality restores equality in the right to parenthood, but the question of the precedence of the right of the child over the right of the adult arises.
The emotional moment of Axel Kahn's communication is in the description of the man seeing the evolution of his body; he then speaks of disenchantment and calls for a moral of the best comfort or thought of the least evil.
Paul Valéry cried out in the Marine Cemetery: "Good heavens, good heavens, look at me change."
Reception of Axel Kahn's lecture by two student brothers
One is in a triple degree course in Central Engineering, Naval Engineering and History, and the other in a triple degree course in Philosophy, Musicology and Choral Conducting.
Here's their reception:
The student engineer from Central France was challenged by the story of the German scientist, Fritz Haber, inventor of chemical warfare and his family tragedy, the suicide of his wife and son, the first "Anders Denkenden" of a drift in European science that would lead to the Nazi sciences. The Centralien thinks that as an engineer, he can and will be confronted with ethical choices.
The music philosopher was disappointed in his expectation, he already knew the content of Axel Kahn's general introduction, even if he shared the professor's thinking, what he was expecting were case studies of humanisms in contemporary progress today. For it is too easy to analyse the past, history has made its evidence, what is difficult is the ethical choice in the present. For his generation, abortion and homoparenthood is already the past.
Then the debate between the two brothers concludes on Kant, how did the nation of Kant generate Fritz Haber and Nazi science? Does idealism necessarily lead to the worst in ethical terms?
What are the ethical innovations in Axel Kahn's thinking?
The AK labels are:
- the criterion of reciprocity,
- autonomy, preferable to dependence,
- the outline of the ethical asymptote, the sum of the expertises,
- the reintroduction of a purpose into the scientific debate.
In the thought of Axel Kahn, morality is neither universal nor timeless, it is evolutionary. There is progress in morality as well as in science. For example, abortion, homoparenthood, etcetera.
Neither science nor conscience without metalanguage
After the tyranny of Good according to KANT, the relativity of Evil according to KAHN, which reassures the most?
Personally, I think the UR civilization had developed a scientific metalanguage equivalent to a notion of consciousness, because there is no abstraction without metalanguage, perhaps this metalanguage developed into synthetic or parabolic thought, and the appearance of the Greek logos would be the emergence of a logical - deductive consciousness that we see being detached from the symbolic thought of the Prometheus myth quoted by Axel Kahn. In semiology of the image, we can see that the UR civilization practiced communication through images, using the mise en abyme. The mise en abyme is a meta-systemic figure.
In the semanalysis of Axel Kahn's discourse, there can be no science without progress, science is condemned to grow or decline.
The error of Greek civilization according to Axel Kahn would be the ideal vision of an immobile truth according to Parmenides, but Heraclitus has justly thought of mobilization. The Greek philosophers also thought of the risk of a science without conscience, and what if they had stopped precisely to prevent this risk? The Greek logos were capable of thinking the end of science as just, even if it is very Foucauldian to say so. The "act of parrhesia" is ethics in action.
Axel Khan observes that science without conscience leads to a closure of progress by chaos or deadlock or black hole, until the hope of a living hole returns. Perhaps metalanguage is developing precisely in this latent time?
In twentieth-century poetics, I demonstrated that metalanguage, or second language, could assume a role as a clutch of poetic first language. Ethics as metalanguage can assume the role of a driving force for a new scientific discourse, and this is the most rewarding role of ethics for those who assume it before the City.
So the sustainability of science, or progress of science, requires the consciousness or metalanguage of science, like the time of the spread between ebb and flow.
Progress also requires its metalanguage, and Axel Kahn proposes the finality as the metalanguage of progress.
If science has lacked purpose in the twentieth century, Axel Kahn is already seeing that what will be missing in the twenty-first century will be a new metalanguage of progress. A philosopher is already remedying this for technology, it is Bernard Stieglerthe philosopher of reenchantment.
Like perpetual marine motion and its symmetrical lunar counterpart, consciousness reincarnates science, while reenchantment reincarnates progress.
And the breakthrough innovation would be for ethics the great asymptote or metalanguage of comparative expert metalanguage, a Janusian system with two faces: one epistemological, the other ontological.
With Axel Kahn, ethics, which breaks with conservative morals, becomes a science of moral innovation. During this conference, his discourse was always situated in epistemology, never in ontology.
So, between awareness of disenchantment, an epistemological exercise, and the re-enchantment of the future, an ontological exercise, O Science, my heart swings!
Beatrice of Damascus - Semiotics of innovation.