Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 35-41
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 35
Visions beyond Control: The Role of Art in Exploring
Dual-Use Bioethics Education for Scientists
Gerald Walther
Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
Received October 29th, 2013; revised November 29th, 2013; accepted December 6th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Gerald Walther. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Gerald Walther. All Copyright © 2013
are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
In the wake of the anthrax attacks in the US in 2001, the Biological Weapons Convention has increasingly
focused its efforts on reducing the risk of bioterrorism. One of the questions that received particular atten-
tion was how to prevent the misuse of benign biological research for malign purposes. The argument is
that modern biological research is rife with research that is dual-use in nature, i.e. that it can be used ei-
ther for benign or malign purposes. Over the last decade, the debate has increasingly focussed on the role
and responsibility of the scientific community in addressing this issue. Education in dual-use ethics has
been considered as one of the major factors that can help with the dual-use problem. However, even gen-
eral science ethics education is limited at the moment and presents a challenge to any lecturer. In discuss-
ing the views of Martin Heidegger and Richard Rorty’s interpretation of Heidegger, this article argues for
the use of art and bioart as educational vehicles to help scientists explore their roles and responsibilities
with regard to their own research and its dual-use nature.
Keywords: Bioart; Biosecurity; Dual-Use Bioethics; Education; Heidegger; Rorty
A Short Histo r y of Du al - Use
In 2001, directly after the events of 9/11, the US was hit by
another terrorist attack: the use of the US postal service to de-
liver anthrax letters. These letters resulted in the deaths of five
and sickening of 17 people (FBI, 2013) and the economic costs
were estimated at around 320 million US$ (Schmitt & Zacchia,
2012). The discussion of how to deal and potentially prevent
this type of terrorism has reached as far as a review of the work
and education of scientists. The way that science education is
linked with the anthrax attacks comes in the form of the Bio-
logical and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), which is sign-
ed in 1972. After the anthrax letters, the “Committee on Re-
search Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Ap-
plication of Biotechnology”, also called the Fink Committee,
worked between April 2002 and January 2003 to produce the
Fink Report. (NRC, 2004). The committee itself comprised of a
mix of academics from the natural sciences, security studies,
and law. Its aims were threefold:
1) Review the current rules, regulations, and institutional ar-
rangements and processes in the United States that provide
oversight of research on pathogens and potentially dangerous
biotechnology research, within government laboratories, uni-
versities and other research instituti ons, and in dustry.
2) Assess the adequacy of current US rules, regulations, and
institutional arrangements and processes to prevent the destruc-
tive application of biotechnology research.
3) Recommend changes in these practices that could improve
US capacity to prevent the destructive application of biotech-
nology research while still enabling legitimate research to be
conducted.” (NRC, 2004: p. 2).
The Fink report led to a discussion within the BWC of how
to deal with the problem that benign research could be misused
for malign purposes, e.g. bioterrorism. The label used to ex-
press this concern was “dual-use”, which had previously been
used to designate technology that had both military and civilian
uses (Selgelid, 2009). In its new version though, the terms had
appropriated a normative element.
Responding to the Challenge of Dual-Use
After publication of the Fink report in 2004, the States Par-
ties to the BWC started to discuss this problem and search for a
solution. This search is still going on and a major candidate has
been dual-use bioethics education of scientists. For example, at
the Seventh Review Conference in 2011 (Review Conferences
take place every five years) States Parties agreed on an Interna-
tional Process 2012-2015 that included a “[r]eview of develop-
ments in the field of science and technology related to the
Convention.” (BWC, 2011). This review includes the following
two agenda items:
“1) voluntary codes of conduct and other measures to en-
courage responsible conduct by scientists, academia and indus-
2) education and awareness-raising about risks and benefits
of life science and biotechnology.”
This stress of the responsibility of the scientific community
is equally mirrored in “The Netherlands Code of Conduct for
Scientific Practice”, which says that a “scientific practitioner is
co-responsible… for the scientific and societal value of the
research programmes in which he participates” (Association of
Universities in t he Netherlands, 2012). This code of conduct has
received a lot of attention recently because it is one of the few
existing codes of conduct for scientists that discuss dual-use but
also because a Dutch scientist, Fouchier, conducts one of the
most controversial experiments in recent years (Enserink, 2011).
It was controversial primarily because security experts consid-
ered the experiment, which was to make H5N1 transmissible
between mammals as well as to make it airborne, to be highly
dangerous to public security. Fouchier tried to publish the ex-
periment in Nature with a complete materials and methods
section. Security experts considered this section to provide a
recipe for disaster for bioterrorist. What followed was a heated
debate between politicians, security experts, and scientists (En-
serink, 2011). The experiments by Fouchier were conducted
even in the presence of the Dutch code of conduct, which was
first established in 2004. The discussion about the Fouchier
experiments highlighted a lack of awareness on both sides of
the aisle: scientists hardly had any awareness, lack alone train-
ing, in dual-use bioethics while the security community had
hardly paid attention to the problematic nature of putting the
responsibility of the societal impact of research and technology
onto the scientific community. The lack of awareness of the
scientific community to dual-use has been highlighted in pre-
vious studies (Minehata, 2010; Rappert, 2010; Walther, 2013;
Minehata & Walther, 2014). Similarly, it has been previously
noted that the nature of the responsibility of the scientific
community for the societal impact of their research and tech-
nology is rather complicated and not as straightforward as the
security community would like to think (Ehni, 2008; Kuhlau et
al., 2008; Miller & Selgelid, 2008). This tug of war between the
two communities—one warning about the danger and risks of
research and the other defending their rights to do science be-
cause it promises great advances in the future—is indeed un-
helpful. This paper will explore society’s relationship with
science and technology using Heidegger’s work on “The Ques-
tion Concerning Technology” to show how an ethics education
of scientists that includes a dual-use component might be im-
proved as well as to show how the dialogue between the secu-
rity and science community could be enriched.
Heidegger’s Questioning of Technology
In his “Question Concerning Technology”, German philoso-
pher Martin Heidegger tries to understand man’s relationship
with technology. As is generally the case when reading Hei-
degger, one has to be prepared to venture forth together with
him onto a journey. Heidegger explicitly makes this point in the
beginning of ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, in which
he remarks that “[I]n what follows we shall be questioning
concerning technology.” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 3) Which to him
means to “build a way” and thus we need to “pay heed to the
way” rather than to ponder on “isolated sentences and topics.”
(Heidegger, 1977, p. 3) The first steps on this journey concern
the difference between technology and the essence of technol-
ogy. While technology may be readily apparent in our everyday
lives, its essence is actually hidden and cannot be found in any
particular technology. Heidegger argues that “everyone knows
the two statements that answer our question” (Heidegger, 1977:
p. 4), i.e. the question of what technology is: “Technology is a
means to an end” and “Technology is a human activity” (Hei-
degger, 1977: p. 4). While Heidegger think s these statements are
indeed correct, he does not believe them to get us any closer to
the true essence of technology, which once we understand what
it is allow us to enter into a free relationship with technology. If
technology is an instrument, Heidegger argues that we need to
understand its cause in order to get at its essence. By way of an
analysis of the four causes (causa materialis, causa formalis,
causa finalis, causa efficiens) that philosophy has “for centu-
ries… taught” Heidegger arrives at the question of responsibil-
ity. Each of the four causes, while different, still belongs to-
gether in their responsibility to “bring something into appear-
ance” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 9). To be responsible means to set
something on its path towards presence, towards its arrival. All
four causes combine to “let what is not yet present arrive into
presencing” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 10). This step into presencing
from that which is not presencing is poiēsis. Poiēsis brings
forth. For Heidegger, poiēsis manifests itself in physis, where
that which is coming forth is already imbedded in itself, for
example a blossom starting to bloom, as well as in the activity
of the artisan and the artists. Of course, that which comes forth
into presence has already got to be in the thing itself. “Bringing
forth comes to pass only insofar as something concealed comes
into unconcealment” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 11). Revealing in
Greek is aletheia, which has been translated by the Romans as
veritas and we call “truth”, which Heidegger assumes to mean
the “correctness of an idea.” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 12)
In typical Heideggerian fashion, at this point he stops to
wonder about how a discussion of the essence of technology
has led to alethe ia . What is the relation between technology and
aletheia? For Heidegger: everything. “Technology is a way of
revealing.” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 12) It reveals truth. Technol-
ogy comes from technikon, which is that which belongs to
technē. For the Greeks, technē included the activities of the
craftsmen as much as those of the mind and the fine arts. Going
back to Aristotle, Heidegger explains that technē, as a mode of
aletheuin, “reveals whatever does not bring itself fourth and
does not yet lie here before us, whatever can look and turn out
now one way and now another” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 13). The
importance of technē is not the production but in the revealing.
However, one contention that Heidegger takes seriously is that
this understanding of technē may only apply to the craftsmen in
Ancient Greece, yet may not apply to modern technology. The
craftsmen indeed employed technology in his craft to bring
forth that which is hidden. A carpenter uses carpentry tools to
make chair and in doing so reveal that which is the truth of the
chair. This logic can hardly be applied to modern power plants
for example. For Heidegger, this question is exactly the ques-
tion concerning technology.
Modern technology, unlike in Greek times, depends on sci-
ence for it to work. Modern physics enables progress and al-
lows us to build new machines (for Heidegger, writing in the
40s, physics was still the main science that enabled progress;
currently, it might be more than just physics that enables this
sort of progress and enable technological progress). In what
way can modern technology then be understood as a revealing?
Heidegger argues that the modern revealing of technology is a
challenging. It challenges nature, and demands something from
it. For example, a modern power plant demands and stores the
energy of nature in a way that a windmill was never capable of.
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Modern technology unlocks the hidden energies of nature (e.g.
coal) and exposes them. Eventually, Heidegger comes to the
intermediate conclusion that the essence of technology lies in
Enframing. (Heidegger, 1977: p. 23) Enframing, Ge-Stell in the
original German, is “that challenging claim which gathers man
thither to order the self-revealing as standing-reserve” (Hei-
degger, 1977: p. 19). The challenge claim is the challenge of
nature as discussed earlier. Standing reserve, Bestand, is part of
the ordering that comes to be in technology, e.g. how a hydroe-
lectric plant orders nature to always be ready to provide power.
The standing reserve is the “fundamentally undifferentiated
supply of the available” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 24). In ordering
things in this way, they also lose their status as objects because
now they are merely seen as the provider of this intangible
standing-reserve. The river Rhine, the example Heidegger uses,
is both “dammed up into the power works” yet also a n art work
as in the poem “The Rhine” by Hölderlin (Heidegger, 1977: p.
16). Technology thus reveals the being as that which is ordered
to be always available. Objects lose their character as objects
and become mere standing-reserve to be utilized. This process
is Enframing. However, even if we now know what the essence
of technology is, the question concerning technology is yet
untouched. We may know the essence of technology, yet noth-
ing about this essence, do not know “the essence of what is
being asked about” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 23).
But what is Enframing actually about? Enframing is nothing
technological. It is not a machine. “It is the way in which the
real reveals itself as standing-reserve” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 23).
It neither happens exclusively through or in humans nor does it
happen beyond human activity. Certainly, Enframing chal-
lenges man by putting him into the position to order as stand-
ing-reserve. To Heidegger, linking it back to poiēsis, aletheia
and destining, two possibilities for man emerge: First, if man
continuously pushes only that forward, which is an ordering, he
will derive all his standards on this basis. This prevents the
emergence of the second possibility, which is that man gets
closer to the essence of that which is unconcealed, which would
help him “experience as his essence his needed belonging to
revealing” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 26). As the former holds sway,
man is endangered because he will no longer be able to regards
objects as objects but only as standing-reserve, which he orders.
To Heidegger, man thus loses the ability and, more importantly,
will to understand his own essence. Man is deluded by the En-
framing of technology. By regulating and securing every thing
as standing reserve, Enframing also does not allow for the thing
to display its fundamental characteristics in its revealing. As we
have seen in the Greek technē, it was truth that came to pass
within poiēsis. It is this truth that becomes impossible to un-
conceal in Enframing. Yet, Heidegger does not leave us without
hope. Putting faith in the poet, as usual for Heidegger it is
Hölderlin, he cites:
But where danger is, grows The saving power also (Hei-
degger, 1977: p. 28).
So within the danger that is man’s drive to order through En-
framing with technology and thus the blocking of man’s rela-
tion to the essence of truth, also, his own essence, something
grows alongside that will be man’s saving power. Heidegger
argues that this saving power manifests itself in a granting. In
the coming to presence of the essence of technology, man rec-
ognizes his own essentiality of being part of revealing. Man is
necessary to any revealing of truth. While technology poses the
danger to force upon us an ever more increasing ordering,
against this danger we can hope for the growth of a saving
power as well. But how does this saving power come about?
Heidegger thinks it lies in the works of the artists to help us see.
Going back to Ancient Greece again, Heidegger reminds us that
it was not only technology as we understand it today that com-
prised technē. Technē was “the bringing-forth of the true into
the beautiful.” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 34) “[T]he poiēsis of the
fine arts also was called technē” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 34). So
Heidegger concludes:
“Because the essence of technology is nothing technological,
essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation
with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to
the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally
different from it.
Such a realm is art. But certainly only if reflection on art, for
its part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth after
which we are questioning.” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 35)
But where does this analysis of Heidegger leave us in regard
to the question of dual-use? It is a bit premature to ask the
question, yet I wil l get to it eventually. First, as we will short ly
see, it is necessary to reread Heidegger in a pragmatic fashion
using Rorty.
The Pragmatism in Heidegger
When reading Heidegger, and particularly his emphasis on
essence and truth, one may get the impression that he appeals to
some earlier ideas of Platonic forms. Specifically, Heidegger is
concerned with our focus on technologies rather than the es-
sence of technology. He believes that this concentration results
in the aforementioned danger of being unable to unconceal, to
find truth and find the essence of man, and rather taking the
revealing as a challenging and ordering, i.e. Enframing, as the
essence of technology. Yet what sort of thing is this essence?
Unlike Plato, Heidegger believes this essence to be permanent.
He asks “[d] oes the essence of technology endure in the sense
of the permanent enduring of an Idea that hovers over every-
thing technological, thus making it seem that by technology we
mean some mythological abstraction?” (Heidegger, 1977: p. 31)
It is not the permanent enduring of essence that endures but
rather technology lets Enframing permanently endure. Since
Enframing is the challenging forth as standing reserve and lets
man order, Enframing grants man with a permanent enduring.
Enframing lets man endure. It is within the permanent enduring
of man that it only becomes possible for man to glimpse behind
the mere ordering quality of technology and see truth. “En-
framing comes to pass for its part in the granting that lets man
endure—as yet unexperienced, but perhaps more experiences in
the future—that he may be the one who is needed and used for
the safekeeping of the coming to presence of truth” (Heidegger,
1977: p. 33). Going back to dual-use, we may wonder what
happens if in that challenging forth as standing reserve, man
loses the means to control that standing reserve. It is dual-use
after all and not just a mono-use as control use. Technology
thus may today also be said to inherently threaten that perma-
nent enduring of man that Heidegger finds within technology.
While this thought might be interesting in its own right, it will
get us any further in a pragmatic way towards understanding or
helping the question of dual-use. What helps is rather Heideg-
ger’s claim that the artist can find that higher essence behind
technology, that thing that essences. “Once there was a time
when the bringing-forth of the true into the beautiful was called
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technē. And the poiēsis of the fine arts also was called technē.”
(Heidegger, 1977: p. 34)
Did Heidegger not just introduce a Platonic idea once again
when he says that the fine arts can bring forth the true into the
be a ut i fu l ? Is this ‘true’ n ot some l ofty thing that fl oats above all?
This is now where one may read Pragmatism into Heidegger.
While Okrent’s ‘Heidegger’s Pragmatism’ (Okrent, 1988) might
be the more acknowledged interpretation of Heidegger as a
pragmatist, it is the neopragmatism of Richard Rorty that will
help to clarify and supplement Heidegger. The reason why it
matters if Heidegger is a pragmatist is the following concern: If
there is such a thing as an essence of technology that is primor-
dial then all discussion of technologies will be subsumed by
this original understanding of technology. It does not allow for
a free understanding and reflection of technology, which is a
prerequisite for any ethics education for scientists. The onto-
logical would simply determine the methodological. So how
does a neopragamtist like Rorty read Heidegger?
The key text for working on this question is Rorty’s article
‘Heidegger, Contingency, and Pragmatism’ published in his
‘Essays on Heidegger and Others’. (Rorty, 1991) While Rorty
believes that Heidegger may indeed be read as a pragmatist, the
latter is certainly not a happy one. To Heidegger, western phi-
losophy with its origin in Plato necessarily leads to a nonmeta-
physical, technocratic pragmatism. His critique of this sort of
pragmatism, which is intend on its will to master, we have al-
ready seen in his the ‘Questions Concerning Technology’ as his
fear of Enframing being the essence of technology. To anyone
familiar with Plato it might seem surprising to read the claim
that pragmatism is the logical conclusion of Plato. For Heideg-
ger the road goes as follows: Plato asked how we and the world
need to look like in order for us to have certainty, evidence, and
clarity. (Rorty, 1991: p. 29) Eventually we have come to the
conclusion that the only things we can have certainty of are our
beliefs and desires. The will to master becomes our meaning of
life. Once we have imposed our beliefs onto the world, we can
be sure of its cosmology. Nietzsche may be seen as an epitome
of this acceptance of what thinking is good for: mastering.
Rorty adds that it is ironic that Plato, who wanted to go beyond
the marketplace, e.g. the cave analogy, eventually leads phi-
losophy towards the marketplace. (Rorty, 1991: p. 31) While
Plato started with questions of “How can you know?” and
“What is your evidence?” he actually paved the road for scepti-
cism. By granting the sceptic power, he eventually pushed phi-
losophy away from looking at truth in a representational view
as correspondence with reality to less ambitious claims. Via
Kant and eventually Nietzsche, we arrive at Dewey who asks us
to replace ‘truth’ and ‘rationality’ with ‘satisfaction’ and
‘growth’. Rorty believes that Heidegger, despite his disregard,
realizes his place within this tradition and subscribes to its
suppositions. If pragmatism is the final outcome, then one may
as well be a “self-conscious, rather than a repressed and self-
deceived, power freak.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 32) The choice is be-
tween Platonism, the self-deceived, and pragmatism, the power
freak: Heidegger chooses the latter. This choice for pragmatism
Rorty, alongside Okrent whom Rorty draws on in his analysis,
finds in Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’.
Being, unlike Plato’s eternal, for Heidegger only exists as
part of Dasein, the Being-in-the-world or more literally, the
Being-there (somewhere or in some place in the world). Thus,
there is no power relation between the two (Being and Dasein)
but it is a “fragile and tentative codependence.” (Rorty, 1991: p.
33) In Heidegger’s own words: “Being (not entities) is some-
thing which ‘there is’ only in so far as truth is. And truth is only
in so far and as long as Dasein is. Being and truth ‘are’
equiprimordially.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 33) To Rorty, this Heideg-
ger view is the same as the standard pragmatist arguments
against any conceptual scheme. The conceptual scheme that, for
example, positivism finds in a unified science which would
then grant us certainty and truth. In the absence of such a
scheme, all that we have is contingency. The contingency of
our human projects as situated in time. Yet, as philosophy has
tried to capture some sort of eternal essence, or rather, has
asked us to try to do so, we consider the fleeting and transitory
as negligible. For Heidegger in particular, he wants to defend
words against thought. Philosophy does not pay tribute to
words but its efforts are targeted towards thoughts and concepts,
which are supposed to capture truth. Words have become mere
vehicles. As Rorty writes: “Philosophers know that what mat-
ters is literal truth, not a choice of phonemes, and certainly not
metaphors. The literal lasts and empowers. The metaphorical…
is impotent.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 34) Heidegger believes he needs
to defend the poet against the philosopher. To him, words do
matter. We of the West have been using the metaphor that led
us down the path to the philosopher and her quest for certainty
to be found in thought. Yet there was no more need to use that
metaphor instead of another one. There is no “external chore-
ographer” (Rorty, 1991: p. 36) who determines the moves of
our projects. Just us. There is only our contingency and with it
we have to accept Heidegger’s claim that “Only as long as
Dasein is… is there Being.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 36) But what is
Being if it is not like Plato’s Ideals? Does it fulfil any function?
Rorty believes that Heidegger actually never gives a proper
account of what Being is. Sure enough, he uses it frequently (it
is one of the three words in the title of his major work: Being
and Time), yet he never fully explains it. Rorty thinks that Be-
ing is something beyond our ability to handle, something that
resists “the technical interpretation of thinking.” (Rorty, 1991: p.
36) Heidegger uses it to point towards the “difference between
inquiry and poetry, between struggling for power and accepting
contingency” (Rorty, 1991: p. 36). Rorty argues that “What is
Being?” cannot be answered correctly just like the question
“What is a cherry blossom?” To extend the analogy further, for
Heidegger the West, or rather the West’s understanding of the
world is just one cherry blossom among many other blossoms
(Rorty, 1991: p. 37). One “cluster of “understanding of Being”
alongside other clusters” (Rorty, 1991: p. 37). Going back into
the realm of language, any Being is one form of a final vocabu-
lary, which we need to use. We are subjected to final vocabu-
laries because there is no metalanguage with which to under-
stand all other vocabularies. Being is therefore never “the same
thing under all descriptions, but something different under
each” (Rorty, 1991: p. 38). But if Being is not the same under
all descriptions, then why make the claim that it is the poet who
will understand the essence behind technology, the essence and
truth of man? Why favour the vocabulary of the poet over the
one of the scientist?
Heidegger and the Solidarity of Rorty
As we have seen thus far, Heidegger reluctantly agrees that
Plato’s questioning needs to be overcome. At the same time
though, he is nostalgic for the Greeks ability to see poetry and
the arts as disclosing truth. Heidegger thinks that they enjoyed a
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sort of special relationship with Being, i.e. that they were be tter
a being ontological and understanding Being in their time.
Rorty takes issue with this nostalgia of Heidegger. This nostal-
gia explains Heidegger’s positive predisposition towards poetry
as helping us towards understanding our Being and his rejection
of technocracy, which is so pre-eminent in his ‘Question Con-
cerning Technology’. He sees salvation as contained within
poetry not because poetry gives the true account of Being but
because it opens up the possibility of Being as multifaceted.
Technology is just one metaphor but Heidegger fears that it
dominates and denies the existence of alternative metaphors. As
Rorty puts it: “No petal on a cherry blossom is more or less a
petal than any other.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 39) But is our age really
as forlorn and devoid of alternative possibilities of metaphors
as Heidegger believes it to be?
The two charges that Heidegger makes against our current
age are its contingency and its belatedness. The West’s, it is
primarily our West that Heidegger and Rorty discuss, contin-
gency manifests itself in its basic presupposition that our final
vocabulary is so obvious and inescapable. We have become
self-deceived. But what does it mean if this vocabulary is be-
lated? Rorty argues that this judgement is normative and the
only normative sense that he can find in Heidegger is that “an
understanding of Being is more primordial than another if it
makes it easier to grasp its own contingency” (Rorty, 1991: p.
43). By this analysis, the Greeks were less belated because
“their understanding of Being in terms of notions like arche
and physis was less self-certain, more hesitant, more fragile,
than our own supreme confidence in our ability to manipulate
beings in order to satisfy our own desires.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 43)
The result of this is that we have become less able to hear
words differently, less able “to imagine alternatives to them-
selves.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 43) For Heidegger, a step towards less
belatedness would be to willingly suspend verficiationism. We
should stop asking questions like “What is Being?” or “What is
a cherry blossom?” (Rorty, 1991: p. 44) Stop the urge to ask
question about the truth or finding the right answer. As long as
we retain these questions we subject ourselves to a single final
vocabulary that we do not dare or dream of questioning. For
Heidegger, it is the questioning of the Thinkers and Poets that
allows for a freeing up of Dasein and the creation of open
spaces that surround present day social practices. This latter
thinking is supposed to let Being be, which creates freedom.
Yet Rorty asks: Do you not utilize language when you let be-
ings be? Is this disclosing not achieved only in language? And
since this is the case, how can any “language-user be less free,
less open, less able to let Being and being be, than any other?”
(Rorty, 1991: p. 45) “[H]ow can any understanding of Being be
preferable to any other, in the mysterious sense of being “more
primordial”?” (Rorty, 1991: p. 45)
As we have already seen, Heidegger thinks it is the progres-
sion of technical mastery that makes us less primordial. How-
ever, do we really need to fear that technology silences all other
questioning? Rorty thinks that Heidegger is afraid because it is
the ease with which we can hear the words of the technological
vocabulary—words of mastering and Enframing. The poet and
the artists have become merely aesthetics and are not given the
benefit that they can open up Being, open up new vocabularies
and create new beings. But are we really faced with an either or?
Rorty does not think we have to choose and will be caught in a
final vocabulary but that we in our modern Western society
allow us to understand and hear the original silence which we
then fill with our vocabularies. We can be aware of the silence
and our filling of it. We can do so as Dewey has suggested. In
Rorty’s words: “He wanted to combine the vision of a social
democratic utopia with the knowledge that only a lot of hard
work and blind luck, unaided by any large nonhuman power
called Reason or History, could bring about that utopia into
existence. He combines reminders that only attention to the
daily detail, to the obstinacy of particular circumstance, can
create a utopia with reminders that all things are possible, that
there are no a priori or destined limits to our imagination or our
achievement. His “humanism” was not the power mania which
Heidegger thought to be the only remaining possibility open to
the West. On the contrary, it put power in the service of love—
technocratic manipulation in the service of a Whitmanesque
sense that our democratic community is held together by noth-
ing less fragile than social hope” (Rorty, 1991: p. 48).
Art, Ethics, and Technology
Reflecting on the dual-use debate in a Heideggerian fashion,
one cannot help but realize that the debate within the political
community is very much entrenched in their use of their final
vocabulary. A vocabulary that puts faith in a technocratic ap-
proach with its goals of solving the dual-use problem. Dual-use
has been characterised as a science problem, and it is to be
solved by the science community. But it is also is a political
issue and concern. The exclusive focus on using a technocratic
vocabulary, which presupposes the ability to solve the problem,
that there is a solution to it, is reminiscent of Heidegger’s fear
that we are increasingly unable to get out of our own final vo-
cabulary, to be primordial, and hear the silence that any vo-
cabulary attempts to fill. “To be primordial is thus to have the
ability to know that when you seize upon an understanding of
Being, when you build a house for Being by speaking a lan-
guage, you are automatically giving up a lot of other possible
understandings of Being, and leaving a lot of differently de-
signed houses unbuilt.” (Rorty, 1991: p. 46) There are no other
vocabularies engaged in the dual-use issue but the techno-po-
litical one. We have not questioned this language as it appears
obvious that we simply need to master this problem of dual-use,
to find a technocratic answer to it. It appears absurd to even ask
to consider other vocabularies as beneficial to the discussion.
Yet, specifically dual-use, which is inherent in any technology
and research, might be very well-suited to be talked about in
different vocabularies. But how exactly would it look like if the
arts, following Heidegger’s belief that it is the arts that may
constitute the saving power that Hölderlin believes inherent in
any danger, were to utter a word. It is art as non-aesthetic that
might provide a glimpse into this future—this future filled with
a Deweyan social hope. A few examples might be helpful.
One of the fields where it has been tried to include the arts
into actual curricula is in medicine. Medical Humanities fo-
cuses on using the arts to confront medical students with their
presumptions about the profession. These presumptions usually
include the view that medicine is a facts oriented science with
little room for interpretation. While teachers of medical hu-
manities claim that the humanities are well-suited to improve
professionalism and improve doctor’s performance, students
tend to dismiss this topic as useless. The responses that Shapiro
et al. cite, e.g. overcrowded curricula, lack of interest of stu-
dents, does not expand medical knowledge, are exactly the
same as those cited by Walther in his discussion of bioethics
Open Access 39
and dual-use bioethics education in neuroscience (Shapiro et al.,
2009; Walther, 2013). And again similar to science ethics edu-
cation, the proponents argue that the skills acquired in medical
humanities will make better doctors. As Shapiro et al. write:
“systematic integration of humanities perspectives and ways of
thinking into clinical training will usefully expand the range of
metaphors and narratives available to reflect on medical prac-
tice and offer possibilities for deepening and strengthening
professional education” (Shapiro et al., 2009). Yet this notion
that the arts will be useful as a means to an end, i.e. to make
better doctors, is contested as Macneill points out (Macneill,
2011). If the arts are just means to an end, they lose their ability
to be critical (Rees, 2010). The arts become a tamed animal that
has already succumbed to the mastery of science-based knowl-
edge, reminiscent of Heidegger’s concern about the enframing
of technology. In order to show that art can do more than just
be a tool, Macneill uses the examples of the performance artists
Stelarc and Orlan to question one of the fundamental tenets of
modern medicine: the body as a machine where the machine
breaks down and the doctor’s duty is to restore it to its prior
state and function (Macneill, 2011). Both Stelarc and Orlan
have subjected their body to technological or surgical augmen-
tation. By doing so, they confront our concept that “individual
corporeality is intrinsic to identity” (Macneill, 2011). Stelarc’s
projects comprised the attachment of a prosthetic arm to his
biological one, which could then either be remotely controlled
via the internet (project title: THIRD ARM) or the machine
itself prompted the movement of his body (project title:
MOVATAR). His body thus became the agent of an external
entity. Orlan has had her physical appearance surgically altered
in operations that were broadcast live and where the surgical
room was transformed into a baroque theatre stage. Medical
assistants were dressed in designer costumes, poetry readings
and music was performed, and the room was draped with large
bowls filled with grapes. For Jane Goodall, these performances
are scandals. Scandals understood as providing “a trap or stum-
bling block, metaphorically interpreted as a moral snare causing
perplexity and ethical confusion” (Goodall, 2000). Similarly,
Zylinska and Hall point out that the performances are good
because they are both controversial and raise a debate and also
fail to offer a grand and totalizing narrative with which to un-
derstand them (Zylinska & Hall, 2002). Stelarc and Orlan’s
work both offer variations of the theme of the body and the
posthuman body. As Macneill points out though, it is not just
the particular controversy about the body that makes them in-
teresting as cases for art that is critical. One can look at their
work and discuss the pain that is included in these bodily modi-
fications. Thus it is not the concept of the post-human, the ob-
solete body, but the “meaty and suffering body” that can
equally raise a debate (Macneill, 2011). While Stelarc and Or-
lan are primarily interested in the body, other modern artist are
equally challenging in other areas. For example, Macneill cites
the work o f Eduardo Kac, who dev eloped the tran sgenic Glow-
Bunny Alba, which is a green fluorescent bunny made with
DNA from jellyfish (Macneill, 2011). Or the work of Julia
Reodica, who cultivated her own vaginal cells to produce a
series of hymen in order to create a debate about modern sexu-
ality, the female body and the emphasis placed on women’s
virginity (Macneill, 2011). Macneill and Ferran positively dis-
cuss the interplay of bioethics and bioart in their article on art
installations at the World Congress of Bioethics in Rijeka,
Croatia, in 2008 and the 2010 World Congress on Bioethics in
Singapore (Macneill & Ferran, 2011). These ensuing relation-
ships can be seen as part of a trend towards a bioculture as en-
visioned by Davis and Morris already in 2007 (Davis & Morris,
2007). Their hope is to have the humanities and the sciences
share in a more thorough exchange on their respective forms of
interpretation and allow for an easier bridging between these
two hitherto disparate cultures, as C. P. Snow claimed in his
analysis of ‘The Two Cultures’ (Snow, 1959). Of course, these
examples are not exhaustive of the works in modern art and
bioart. But they show how art can be used to question our pre-
conceived notions about science and technology, which might
help to engage students in science education about their chosen
subject and offer them perspectives that are alien to how the
subject is portrayed and taught in its classical curriculum.
It is presumably not a bold statement to say that teaching
ethics to science students presents a challenge to most lecturers
(Johnson, 2010). Up to now, ethics teaching has mostly covered
aspects of how to conduct research responsibly. The dual-use
issue presents an additional new challenge in requiring science
students to think about the societal impact of their research, i.e.
it requires them to challenge the notion that all research is
eventually good and benign. While it is debatable if science is
indeed primarily responsible for the results of their work, as
proposed by the security community, initiatives and pushes by
the States Parties to the BWC will put pressure on science edu-
cators and curricula to include some form of dual-use bioethics
education. By drawing on Heidegger and Rorty, this article has
tried to show different perspectives on how we can understand
technology and how art can help to break out of a purely tech-
nocratic analysis of science and technology. Art, and particu-
larly bioart, may help to challenge the perception of science by
science students and thus enable them to be more critical about
their role and the role of their field in question of security for
This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Re-
search Council (AH/J005533/1); and the Wellcome Trust (ME
Association of Universities in the Netherlands (2012). The Netherlands
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