This review essay examines H. TristramEngelhardt, Jr.'s The Foundations of Bioethics, a contemporary nonfeminist text in mainstream biomedical ethics. It focuses upon a central concept, Engelhardt's idea of the moral community and argues that the most serious problem in the book is its failure to take account of the political and social structures of moral communities, structures which deeply affect issues in biomedical ethics.
H. Tristram Engelhardt has made profound contributions to both philosophical and religious bioethics, and his philosophical and religious works may be read in mutually illuminating ways. As a philosopher, Engelhardt has mustered a powerful critique of secular efforts to develop a shared substantive morality. As a religious scholar, Engelhardt has affirmed a Christian bioethics that does not emanate from human rationality but from the experience of God found in Orthodox Christianity. In this collection of essays, both defenders (...) and critics of Engelhardt's religious bioethics have their say, and the spirited nature of their discussion attests, in its own right, to Engelhardt's enduring influence. (shrink)
In two studies, we used the Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) to investigate the relationship between individual differences in moral philosophy, involvement in the animal rights movement, and attitudes toward the treatment of animals. In the first, 600 animal rights activists attending a national demonstration and 266 nonactivist college students were given the EPQ. Analysis of the returns from 157 activists and 198 students indicated that the activists were more likely than the students to hold an "absolutist" moral orientation (high idealism, (...) low relativism). In the second study, 169 students were given the EPQ with a scale designed to measure attitudes toward the treatment of animals. Multiple regression showed that gender and the EPQ dimension of idealism were related to attitudes toward animal use. (shrink)
This essay examines an overlooked element of the precautionary principle: a prudent assessment of the long-range or remote catastrophes possibly associated with technological development must include the catastrophes that may take place because of the absence of such technologies. In short, this brief essay attempts to turn the precautionary principle on its head by arguing that, (1) if the long-term survival of any life form is precarious, and if the survival of the current human population is particularly precarious, especially given (...) contemporary urban population densities, and (2) if technological innovation and progress are necessary in order rapidly to adapt humans to meet environmental threats that would otherwise be catastrophic on a large scale (e.g., pandemics of highly lethal diseases), then (3) the development of biomedical technologies in many forms, but in particular including human germ-line genetic engineering, may be required by the precautionary principle, given the prospect of the obliteration of humans in the absence of such enhanced biotechnology. The precautionary principle thus properly understood requires an ethos that should generally support technological innovation, at least in particular areas of biotechnology. (shrink)
: Its promises to the contrary notwithstanding, bioethics is plural. There is a diversity of content-full moral understandings of the good and the right. Moreover, there is no secular means in principle to set this diversity aside without begging the question. This moral diversity exists both as a sociological condition and as a moral epistemological constraint. Without succumbing to a metaphysical scepticism or moral relativism, the bioethics of the future, if it is to be honest, should learn how to live (...) with robust moral diversity. (shrink)
To understand better why evidence of student cheating is often ignored, a national sample of psychology instructors was sampled for their opinions. The 127 respondents overwhelmingly agreed that dealing with instances of academic dishonesty was among the most onerous aspects of their profession. Respondents cited insufficient evidence that cheating has occurred as the most frequent reason for overlooking student behavior or writing that might be dishonest. A factor analysis revealed 4 other clusters of reasons as to why cheating may be (...) ignored. Emotional reasons included stress and lack of courage. Difficult reasons included the extensive time and effort required to deal with cheating students. Fear reasons included concern about retaliation or a legal challenge. Denial reasons included beliefs that cheating students would fail anyway and that the worst offenders do not get caught. The reasons why instances of academic dishonesty should be proactively confronted are presented. (shrink)
The ways in which ethical issues arise in making clinical judgments are briefly discussed. By showing the topography of the role of value judgments in medical diagnostics it is suggested why clinical medicine remains inextricably a value-infected science.
The life sciences are increasingly being called on to produce “socially robust” knowledge that honors the social contract between science and society. This has resulted in the emergence of a number of “broad social issues” that reflect the ethical tensions in these social contracts. These issues are framed in a variety of ways around the world, evidenced by differences in regulations addressing them. It is important to question whether these variations are simply regulatory variations or in fact reflect a contextual (...) approach to ethics that brings into question the existence of a system of “global scientific ethics”. Nonetheless, within ethics education for scientists these broad social issues are often presented using this scheme of global ethics due to legacies of science ethics pedagogy. This paper suggests this may present barriers to fostering international discourse between communities of scientists, and may cause difficulties in harmonizing (and transporting) national regulations for the governance of these issues. Reinterpreting these variations according to how the content of ethical principles is attributed by communities is proposed as crucial for developing a robust international discourse. To illustrate this, the paper offers some empirical fieldwork data that considers how the concept of dual-use (as a broad social issue) was discussed within African and UK laboratories. Demonstrating that African scientists reshaped the concept of dual-use according to their own research environmental pressures and ascribed alternative content to the principles that underpin it, suggests that the limitations of a “global scientific ethics” system for these issues cannot be ignored. (shrink)
This paper explores the special problems encountered by the biographer of a living scientific subject. In particular, it explores the complex of problems that emerges from the intense interpersonal dynamic involving issues of distance, privacy and trust. It also explores methodological problems having to do with oral history interviews and other supporting documentation. It draws on the personal experience of the author and the biographical subject of G. Ledyard Stebbins Jr., the botanist, geneticist and evolutionist. It also offers prescriptives and (...) recommendations for future research. (shrink)
Once God is no longer recognized as the ground and the enforcer of morality, the character and force of morality undergoes a significant change, a point made by G.E.M. Anscombe in her observation that without God the significance of morality is changed, as the word criminal would be changed if there were no criminal law and criminal courts. There is no longer in principle a God's-eye perspective from which one can envisage setting moral pluralism aside. In addition, it becomes impossible (...) to show that morality should always trump concerns of prudence, concerns for one's own non-moral interests and the interests of those to whom one is close. Immanuel Kant's attempt to maintain the unity of morality and the force of moral obligation by invoking the idea of God and the postulates of pure practical reason (i.e., God and immortality) are explored and assessed. Hegel's reconstruction of the status of moral obligation is also examined, given his attempt to eschew Kant's thing-in-itself, as well as Kant's at least possible transcendent God. Severed from any metaphysical anchor, morality gains a contingent content from socio-historical context and its enforcement from the state. Hegel's disengagement from a transcendent God marks a watershed in the place of God in philosophical reflections regarding the status of moral obligations on the European continent. Anscombe is vindicated. Absent the presence of God, there is an important change in the force of moral obligation. (shrink)
The epistemological and sociological consequences of post-modernity include the inability to show moral strangers, in terms they can see as binding, the moral wrongness of activities such as abortion. Such activities can be perceived as morally disordered within a content-full moral narrative, but not outside of the context it brings. Though one can salvage something of the Enlightenment project of justifying a morality that can bind moral strangers, one is left with moral and metaphysical views that can be recognized as (...) impoverished and incomplete by those who live their lives within the embrace of a content-full moral narrative. The cardinal dualism of post-modemity is not that which separates mind from body, but the gulf between the morality binding moral strangers and that binding moral friends. Keywords: dualism, human embryo, personhood, post-modernity CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Instead of benefitting from open meetings and public discussions, the Clintons drafted their health care plan in private and asked that it be accepted in haste. They advance an ideology that claims we can receive the best care for all without any increase in cost or rationing, and then they use "ethicists" to justify this ideology through a supposedly common morality. However, there is no such common morality. In the context of American pluralism, one must look to the actual consent (...) of the governed and recognize the limits on state authority. The result will be a two tiered system of health care, with a basic tier focusing on cost-effective care for the poor that eliminates suffering rather than equalizing inputs, and a space for collateral private insurance. Keywords: Clinton health plan, egalitarianism of envy, egalitarianism of altrusim, limited democracy, moral pluralism CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Long-term care is controversial because it involves foundational disputes. Some are moral-economic, bearing on whether the individual, the family, or the state is primarily responsible for long-term care, as well as on how one can establish a morally and financially sustainable long-term-care policy, given the moral hazard of people over-using entitlements once established, the political hazard of media democracies promising unfundable entitlements, the demographic hazard of relatively fewer workers to support those in need of long-term care, the moral hazard to (...) responsibility of shifting accountability to third parties, and the bureaucratic hazard of moving from individual and family choice to bureaucratic oversight. These disputes are compounded by controversies regarding the nature of the family (Is it to be regarded primarily as a socio-biological category, a fundamental ontological category of social reality, or a construct resulting from the consent of the participants?), as well as its legal and moral autonomy and authority over its members. As the disputes show, there is no common understanding of respect and human dignity that will easily lead out of these disputes. The reflections on long-term care in this issue underscore the plurality of moralities defining bioethics. (shrink)
The challenge in maintaining patient autonomy regarding medical decision-making and confidentiality lies not only in control over information transferred to and regarding patients, but in the ambiguity of autonomy itself. post-modernity is characterized by the recognition of not just numerous accounts of autonomy, but by the inability in a principled fashion to select one as canonical. Autonomy is understood as a good, a right-making condition, and an element of human flourishing. In each case, it can have a different content, depending (...) in part on whether it is given a nomological or a volitional construal. Different accounts of autonomy can lead to strikingly different understandings of appropriate behavior, including the argument that one ought on behalf of autonomy to liberate individuals from the sense of autonomy they themselves affirm. In the face of competing accounts of moral probity, autonomy in a secular morality and bioethics must by default be understood in terms of the permission of patients, which makes space for numerous moral accounts and different communal construals of free choice, which in turn will legitimate different practices of informing patients and maintaining confidentiality. (shrink)