Might it be morally wrong to procreate? David Benatar answers affirmatively in Better Never to Have Been , arguing that coming into existence is always a great harm. I counter this view in several ways. First, I argue against Benatar’s asserted asymmetry between harm and benefit—which would support the claim that any amount of harm in a human life would make it not worth starting—while questioning the significance of his distinction between a life worth starting and one worth continuing. I (...) further contend that his understanding of hedonism and desire-fulfillment theories distorts their implications for the quality of human life; as for objective-list theories, I rebut his critique of their human-centered basis of evaluation. Notwithstanding this multi-tiered challenge to Benatar’s reasoning, I conclude with praise for his work and the intellectual virtues it embodies. (shrink)
Some people contend that fetuses have moral status but less than that of paradigm persons. Many people hold views implying that sentient animals have moral status but less than that of persons. These positions suggest that moral status admits of degrees. Does it? To address this question, we must first clarify what it means to speak of degrees of moral status. The paper begins by clarifying the more basic concept of moral status and presenting two models of degrees ofmoral status. (...) It then sketches several significant considerations in favor of, and several against, the assertion of degrees of moral status. The paper concludes by drawing lessons from the discussion. (shrink)
: Those who are morally opposed to abortion generally make several pivotal assumptions. This paper focuses on the assumption that we have full moral status throughout our existence. Coupled with the assumption that we come into existence at conception, the assumption about moral status entails that all human fetuses have full moral status, including a right to life. Is the assumption about moral status correct? In addressing this question, I respond to several arguments advanced, in this journal and other venues, (...) by Alfonso Gómez-Lobo. Gómez-Lobo's reasoning resolves into two basic arguments: (1) an appeal to the practical necessity of early moral protection and (2) an appeal to our kind membership and potentiality. I respond to these in turn before offering further reflections. (shrink)
Regarding the sinking lifeboat scenario involving several human beings and a dog, nearly everyone agrees that it is right to sacrifice the dog. I suggest that the best explanation for this considered judgment, an explanation that appears to time-relative interests, contains a key insight about prudential value. This insight, I argue, also provides perhaps the most promising reply to the future-like-ours argument, which is widely regarded as the strongest moral argument against abortion. Providing a solution to a longstanding puzzle in (...) value theory across species while illuminating the morality of abortion, the time-relative interest account proves worthy of sustained theoretical attention. (shrink)
As the President's Council on Bioethics emphasized in a recent report, rapid growth of biotechnologies creates increasingly many possibilities for enhancing human traits. This article addresses the claim that enhancement via biotechnology is inherently problematic for reasons pertaining to our identity. After clarifying the concept of enhancement, and providing a framework for understanding human identity, I examine the relationship between enhancement and identity. Then I investigate two identity-related challenges to biotechnological enhancements: (1) the charge of inauthenticity and (2) the charge (...) of violating inviolable core characteristics. My thesis is that a lucid, plausible understanding of human identity largely neutralizes these charges, liberating our thinking from some seductive yet unsound objections to enhancement via biotechnology. (shrink)
When philosophers address personal identity, they usually explore numerical identity: what are the criteria for a person's continuing existence? When non-philosophers address personal identity, they often have in mind narrative identity: Which characteristics of a particular person are salient to her self-conception? This book develops accounts of both senses of identity, arguing that both are normatively important, and is unique in its exploration of a range of issues in bioethics through the lens of identity. Defending a biological view of our (...) numerical identity and a framework for understanding narrative identity, DeGrazia investigates various issues for which considerations of identity prove critical: the definition of death; the authority of advance directives in cases of severe dementia; the use of enhancement technologies; prenatal genetic interventions; and certain types of reproductive choices. He demonstrates the power of personal identity theory to illuminate issues in bioethics as they bring philosophical theory to life. (shrink)
: The fifth edition of Beauchamp and Childress's Principles of Biomedical Ethics is distinguished by its emphatic embrace of common morality as the ultimate source of moral norms. This essay critically evaluates the fifth edition's discussion of common morality and, to a lesser extent, its treatment of coherence (both the model of ethical justification and the associated concept). It is argued that the book is overly accommodating of existing moral beliefs. The paper concludes with three suggestions for improving this leading (...) text. (shrink)
This volume provides a general overview of the basic ethical and philosophical issues of animal rights. It asks questions such as: Do animals have moral rights? If so, what does this mean? What sorts of mental lives do animals have, and how should we understand welfare? By presenting models for understanding animals' moral status and rights, and examining their mental lives and welfare, David DeGrazia explores the implications for how we should treat animals in connection with our diet, zoos, and (...) research. Animal Rights distinguishes itself by combining intellectual rigor with accessibility, offering a distinct moral voice with a non-polemical tone. (shrink)
Few human uses of nonhuman animals (hereafter simply ) have incited as much controversy as the use of animals in biomedical research. The political exchanges over this issue tend to produce much more heat than light, as representatives of both biomedicine and the animal protection community accuse opponents of being and the like. However, a healthy number of individuals within these two communities offer the possibility of a more illuminating discussion of the ethics of animal research.
This book distinguishes itself from much of the polemical literature on these issues by offering the most judicious and well-balanced account yet available of animals' moral standing, and related questions concerning their minds and welfare. Transcending jejune debates focused on utilitarianism versus rights, the book offers a fresh methodological approach with specific and constructive conclusions about our treatment of animals. David DeGrazia provides the most thorough discussion yet of whether equal consideration should be extended to animals' interests, and examines the (...) issues of animal minds and animal well-being with an unparalleled combination of philosophical rigor and empirical documentation. His book is an important contribution to the field of animal ethics and will be read with special interest by all philosophers teaching such courses, as well as biologists, those professionally involved with animals, and general readers concerned about animal welfare. (shrink)
: Although nothing could be less fashionable today than talk of comprehensive health care reform, the major problems of American health care have not gone away. Only a radical change in the way the U.S. finances health care--specifically, a single-payer system--will permit the achievement of universal coverage while keeping costs reasonably under control. Evidence from other countries, especially Canada, suggests the promise of this approach. In defending the single-payer approach, the author identifies several political and cultural factors that make it (...) difficult for Americans to obtain a clear view of this option. Finally, the author argues that much discussion of rationing is vitiated by bracketing more systemic questions to which the issue of rationing is inextricably linked. (shrink)
The following theses are defended in this paper: (1) The concept of autonomous action is centrally relevant to understanding numerous psychiatric conditions, namely, conditions that subvert autonomy; (2) The details of an analysis of autonomous action matter; a vague or rough characterization is less illuminating; (3) A promising analysis for this purpose (and generally) is a version of the "multi-tier model". After opening with five vignettes, I begin the discussion by highlighting strengths and weaknesses of contributions by other authors who (...) examine the relationship between autonomy and autonomysubverting psychiatric conditions. I then present an analysis of the concept of autonomous action, before employing this analysis in a suggestive exploration of the conditions illustrated in the vignettes. Keywords: autonomy, multi-tier model, psychiatric conditions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The field of bioethics has deployed different models of justification for particular moral judgments. The best known models are those of deductivism, casuistry, and principlism (under one, rather limited interpretation). Each of these models, however, has significant difficulties that are explored in this essay. An alternative model, suggested by the work of Henry Richardson, is presented. It is argued that specified principlism is the most promising model of justification in bioethics. Keywords: casuistry, deductivism, ethical theories, intuition principlism, specified principlism, specification (...) CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In this article I offer a philosophical review of (1) leading theories of the moral status of animals, (2) pivotal theoretical issues on which more progress needs to be made, and (3) applications to the setting of animal research. Such an examination demonstrates, I believe, that the practical implications of leading theories converge far more than might be expected. In addition, I hope this review helps to clarify particularly troubling issues that remain so they can be treated adequately.
We attempt to bring the concepts of pain, suffering, and anxiety into sufficient focus to make them serviceable for empirical investigation. The common-sense view that many animals experience these phenomena is supported by empirical and philosophical arguments. We conclude, first, that pain, suffering, and anxiety are different conceptually and as phenomena, and should not be conflated. Second, suffering can be the result — or perhaps take the form — of a variety of states including pain, anxiety, fear, and boredom. Third, (...) pain and nociception are not equivalent and should be carefully distinguished. Fourth, nociception can explain the behavior of insects and perhaps other invertebrates (except possibly the cephalopods). Fifth, a behavioral inhibition system associated with anxiety in humans seems to be present in mammals and most or all other vertebrates. Based on neurochemical and behavioral evidence, it seems parsimonious to claim that these animals are capable of experiencing anxious states. (shrink)
In the traditional fix-it model of medical decision making, the identified problem is typically characterized by a diagnosis that indicates a deviation from normalcy. When a medical problem is multifaceted and the available interventions are only partially effective, a broader vision of the health care endeavor is needed. What matters to the patient, and what should matter to the practitioner, is the patient's future possibilities. More specifically, what is important is the character of the alternative futures that the patient could (...) have and choosing among them so as to achieve the best future possible, with the ranking of outcomes determined by the patient's preferences. This paper describes the fix-it model, presents and defends the outcomes-based model, and demonstrates that the latter is useful in developing normative conceptions of informed consent and decision making and in establishing a basis for societal involvement in the decision making process. Finally, several shortcomings of the model will be acknowledged. (shrink)