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Susan B. Levin

Roe/Straut Professor in the Humanities; Professor of Philosophy; and Chair, Department of Philosophy

Susan Levin

Contact

413-585-3647
Dewey Hall 203

Biography

The main areas of Susan B. Levin’s research are bioethics and ancient Greek philosophy. Her recent articles include “A World of Difference: The Fundamental Opposition between Transhumanist ‘Welfarism’ and Disability Advocacy,” in the journal Bioethics, and “Contributions of Hippocratic Medicine and Plato to Today’s Debate over Health, Social Determinants and the Authority of Biomedicine,” which appeared in Medical Humanities. Levin’s latest book is Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism (Oxford, 2021). The American Philosophical Association featured the book in its Recently Published Book Spotlight. Levin also discusses the book in a post for OUPblog, an article for the Institute of Art and Ideas, and a blog post in the series “The Page 99 Test.” An interview with her appears in the Summer 2021 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. According to a review of Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism in The Hastings Center Report, “Levin offers a comprehensive takedown of the transhumanist project.…Her deeply argued, scientifically informed book shows both that we have good reason to reject transhumanist value assumptions…and that a more robust picture of scientific evidence undermines the feasibility of the transhumanists’ wished-for interventions. Not only are the imagined enhancements unlikely to work in the ways that they imagine, Levin convincingly argues, but even if they did, we would be at risk of losing the very values and capabilities that make humanity worth saving.”

The areas of Levin’s teaching include bioethics, ancient and medieval Western philosophy, Continental philosophy, and philosophy and literature.

Selected Publications

Books

Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Plato’s Rivalry with Medicine: A Struggle and Its Dissolution (Oxford University Press, 2014).

The Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry Revisited: Plato and the Greek Literary Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Articles and Essays

The Less Visible Side of Transhumanism Is Dangerously Un-radical.” Forthcoming in Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology.

“A World of Difference: The Fundamental Opposition between Transhumanist ‘Welfarism’ and Disability Advocacy.” Bioethics 37/8 (2023): 779-89.

“Contributions of Hippocratic Medicine and Plato to Today’s Debate over Health, Social Determinants, and the Authority of Biomedicine.” Medical Humanities 49/2 (2023): 297-307.

“Language.” Article on Plato’s theories of language, revised for The Bloomsbury Handbook of Plato, second edition, edited by Gerald A. Press and Mateo Duque, 266-69. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

“Anger and Our Humanity: Transhumanists Stoke the Flames of an Ancient Conflict.” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 36 (2021): 131-58.

“Creating a Higher Breed: Transhumanism and the Prophecy of Anglo-American Eugenics.” In Reproductive Ethics II: New Ideas and Innovations, edited by Lisa Campo-Engelstein and Paul Burcher, 37-58. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018.

“Enhancing Future Children: How It Might Happen, Whether It Should.” In Reproductive Ethics: New Challenges and Conversations, edited by Lisa Campo-Engelstein and Paul Burcher, 27-44. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017.

“Antiquity’s Missive to Transhumanism.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 42/3 (2017): 278-303.

“The Future of Knowing and Values: Information Technologies and Plato’s Critique of Rhetoric.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 50/2 (2017): 153-77.

“Why Organ Conscription Should Be off the Table: Extrapolation from Heidegger’s Being and Time.” Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions 58/2 (2019): 153-74.

“Moral Deficits, Moral Motivation and the Feasibility of Moral Bioenhancement.” Co-authored with Fabrice Jotterand. Topoi: An International Review of Philosophy 38/1 (2019): 63-71. Published in a special issue on moral enhancement, edited by Andrea Lavazza and Massimo Reichlin.

"Upgrading Discussions of Cognitive Enhancement." Neuroethics 9/1 (2016): 53-67.

"Transhumanism and Enhancement." Pp. 1-12 in eLS (previously called the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences), Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024136. Published October 15, 2014.

"Plato and Contemporary Bioethics?" Post for OUPblog. Published October 12, 2014.

"The Doctor-Patient Tie in Plato’s Laws: A Backdrop for Reflection." Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37/4 (2012): 351-72.

"States of Distinction: New Essays on Plato’s Laws." Review Article on Plato’s "Laws": A Critical Guide, edited by Christopher Bobonich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought 29/1 (2012): 165-80.

"Language." Pp. 188-91 in The Continuum Companion to Plato, edited by Gerald A. Press. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012.

"A Rivalry Dissolved: The Restoration of Medicine’s Technê Status in the Laws." Part II of "Politics and Medicine: Plato’s Final Word." Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought 27/2 (2010): 193-221.

"Philosopher-Rulers and the Laws: Thing of the Past or (Un)Expected Return?" Part I of "Politics and Medicine: Plato’s Final Word." Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought 27/1 (2010): 1-24.

"Eryximachus’ Tale: The Symposium’s Role in Plato’s Critique of Medicine." Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science 42/4 (2009): 275-308.

"Platonic Metaphysics and Semantics: The Cratylus’ Ties to the Sophist and Politicus." In Logos and Language: Essays in Honour of Julius Moravcsik, edited by Dagfinn Føllesdal and John Woods, 73-98. London: College Publications, 2008.

"Is Medicine a Technê? Health and End-of-Life Care in Plato’s Republic." In Reflections on Bioethics and Ancient Philosophy, edited by Antonio Chu and Ronald Polansky, 125-53 (Philosophical Inquiry suppl.; Athens, 2007).

Office Hours

Spring 2024
By appointment

Education

Ph.D., Stanford University
B.A., Pomona College

Selected Works in Smith ScholarWorks