This text presents an assessment of the literary work of Karel Čapek from a perspective that has not yet been discussed. It focuses on analysing Čapek’s works from the viewpoint of their possible inspiration by bioethical issues. Čapek’s philosophy and the powerful ethical charge of his texts tend to be associated with his interest in pragmatism, a subject to which he, however, took an individual and critical approach. One of the most important categories of his way of thinking is life. In his prose works and plays we therefore see motifs that may be associated with the thematic definition of bioethics. These are questions concerning the value and quality of human life, issues concerning the dehumanizing impact of science and technology, as well as reflections upon the moral dimension of man’s relationship to nature and also to the relationship between people and animals. Čapek’s work may therefore provide inspiration from the perspective of the history of the gradual formation of the bioethical point of view.
The paper examines the ethical dimensions of Michel Houellebecq’s works of fiction. On the basis of keen diagnostics of contemporary Western culture, this world-renowned French writer predicts the destructive social consequences of ultra-liberalism and enters into an argument with transhumanist theories. His writings, depicting the misery of contemporary man and imagining a new human species enhanced by technologies, show that neither the so-called neo-humans nor the “last man” of liberal democracies can reach happiness. The latter can only be achieved if humanist values, shared by previous generations and promoted by the great 19th-century authors (Balzac, Flaubert), are reinvented.