Conceptualising the self in the genetic era

Health Care Anal. 2007 Mar;15(1):5-12. doi: 10.1007/s10728-006-0033-5.


This paper addresses the impact of genetic advances and understandings on our concept of the self and the individual. In particular it focuses on conceptions of the 'autonomous individual' in the post-Enlightenment tradition and in bioethics. It considers the ascendancy of the autonomous individual as the model of the self and describes the erosion of substantial concepts of the self and the reduction of the self to "the will"--with the accompanying values of freedom, choice and autonomy. This conception of the self as an isolated, autonomous individual, characterised by acts of 'will' is then critiqued drawing on both theoretical sources, particularly the work of Iris Murdoch, and practical sources, namely the difficulties raised by genetics.

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Genetics, Medical / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Identification*