This paper identifies human enhancement as one of the most significant areas of bioethical interest in the last twenty years. It discusses in more detail one area, namely moral enhancement, which is generating significant contemporary interest. The author argues that so far from being susceptible to new forms of high tech manipulation, either genetic, chemical, surgical or neurological, the only reliable methods of moral enhancement, either now or for the foreseeable future, are either those that have been in human and (...) animal use for millennia, namely socialization, education and parental supervision or those high tech methods that are general in their application. By that is meant those forms of cognitive enhancement that operate across a wide range of cognitive abilities and do not target specifically ‘ethical’ capacities. The paper analyses the work of some of the leading contemporary advocates of moral enhancement and finds that in so far as they identify moral qualities or moral emotions for enhancement they have little prospect of success. (shrink)
John Harris has previously proposed that there is a moral duty to participate in scientific research. This concept has recently been challenged by Iain Brassington, who asserts that the principles cited by Harris in support of the duty to research fail to establish its existence. In this paper we address these criticisms and provide new arguments for the existence of a moral obligation to research participation. This obligation, we argue, arises from two separate but related principles. The principle of fairness (...) obliges us to support the social institutions which sustain us, of which research is one; while the principle of beneficence, or the duty of rescue, imposes upon us a duty to prevent harm to others, including by supporting potentially beneficial, even life-saving research. We argue that both these lines of argument support the duty to research, and explore further aspects of this duty, such as to whom it is owed and how it might be discharged. (shrink)
Suppose that you are soon to be a parent and you learn that there are some simple measures that you can take to make sure that your child will be healthy. In particular, suppose that by following the doctor’s advice, you can prevent your child from having a disability, you can make your child immune from a number of dangerous diseases and you can even enhance its future intelligence. All that is required for this to happen is that you (or (...) your partner) comply with lifestyle and dietary requirements. Do you and your partner have any moral reasons (or moral obligations) to follow the doctor’s advice? Would it make a difference if, instead of following some simple dietary requirements, you consented to genetic engineering to make sure that your child was free from disabilities, healthy and with above average intelligence? In this paper we develop a framework for dealing with these questions and we suggest some directions the answers might take. (shrink)
In this paper the permissibility of stem cell research on early human embryos is defended. It is argued that, in order to have moral status, an individual must have an interest in its own wellbeing. Sentience is a prerequisite for having an interest in avoiding pain, and personhood is a prerequisite for having an interest in the continuation of one's own existence. Early human embryos are not sentient and therefore they are not recipients of direct moral consideration. Early human embryos (...) do not satisfy the requirements for personhood, but there are arguments to the effect that they should be treated as persons nonetheless. These are the arguments from potentiality, symbolic value and the principle of human dignity. These arguments are challenged in this paper and it is claimed that they offer us no good reason to believe that early human embryos should be treated as persons. (shrink)
On both sides of the debate on the use of embryos in stem cell research, and in reproductive technologies more generally, rhetoric and symbolic images have been evoked to influence public opinion. Human embryos themselves are described as either “very small human beings” or “small clusters of cells.” The intentions behind the use of these phrases are clear. One description suggests that embryos are already members of our community and share with us a right to life or at least respectful (...) treatment, whereas the other focuses on the differences between embryos and adult human beings with normal capacities, that is, their lack of sentience and of personal identity. The research on stem cells has been nicknamed “Frankenstein science” or presented as “research that could stop Parkinson disease.” Again, one description reminds us of scary science-fiction scenarios where the scientist is guilty of “playing God,” whereas the other description highlights the worth and potential benefits of the research outcomes. (shrink)
When children are too young to make their ownautonomous decisions, decisions have to be madefor them. In certain contexts we allow parentsand others to make these decisions, and do notinterfere unless the decision clearly violatesthe best interest of the child. In othercontexts we put a priori limits on whatkind of decisions parents can make, and/or whatkinds of considerations they have to take intoaccount. Consent to medical research currentlyfalls into the second group mentioned here. Wewant to consider and ultimately reject one (...) ofthe arguments put forward for putting medicalresearch into the second category. We willargue that some objections to children'sparticipation in research are either based onan implausibly restrictive conception of whatis in fact in the child's best interests orthat there is an implicit and false premisehidden in this argument; i.e., the premise thatour children have so deeply fallen into moralturpitude that we must assume that they wouldnot want to fulfill their moral obligations,or, that they will grow up to be morallydeficient and will then wish not to have actedwell while a child. (shrink)
This paper argues that a precautionary approach to scientific progress of the sort advocated by Walter Glannon with respect to life-extending therapies involves both incoherence and irresolvable paradox. This paper demonstrates the incoherence of the precautionary approach in many circumstances and argues that with respect to life-extending therapies we have at present no persuasive reasons for a moratorium on such research.
The Oxford Readings in Philosophy series brings together important recent writing in major areas of philosophical enquiry, selected from a variety of sources which may not be conveniently available to the university student or general reader. In this volume, John Harris presents the examples of the very best philosophical writing in bioethics from an internationally renowned list of contributors; authors featured include Peter Singer, Helga Kuhse, Tom Beauchamp, Ruth Macklin, and Ronald Dworkin. The book begins with a substantial overview by (...) John Harris, looking at the evolution and nature of bioethics, contemporary debates, and introduces each of the pieces included, setting them in their academic context. -/- Organized thematically, the volume covers the beginnings of life, end of life, value of life, quality of life, future generations, and professional ethics. It is a wide-ranging volume that covers the broad spectrum of the major topics in bioethics, and its clear and accessible approach makes it essential reading for all students of bioethics. (shrink)
People have a powerful interest in geneticprivacy and its associated claim to ignorance,and some equally powerful desires to beshielded from disturbing information are oftenvoiced. We argue, however, that there is nosuch thing as a right to remain in ignorance,where a right is understood as an entitlementthat trumps competing claims. This doesnot of course mean that information must alwaysbe forced upon unwilling recipients, only thatthere is no prima facie entitlement to beprotected from true or honest information aboutoneself. Any claims to (...) be shielded frominformation about the self must compete onequal terms with claims based in the rights andinterests of others. In balancing the weightand importance of rival considerations aboutgiving or withholding information, if rightsclaims have any place, rights are more likelyto be defensible on the side of honestcommunication of information rather than indefence of ignorance. The right to free speechand the right to decline to acceptresponsibility to take decisions for othersimposed by those others seem to us moreplausible candidates for fully fledged rightsin this field than any purported right toignorance. Finally, and most importantly, ifthe right to autonomy is invoked, a properunderstanding of the distinction between claimsto liberty and claims to autonomy show that theprinciple of autonomy, as it is understood incontemporary social ethics and English law,supports the giving rather than the withholdingof information in most circumstances. (shrink)
In this article I am concerned with whether it could be morally significant to distinguish between doing something 'in order to bring about an effect' as opposed to 'doing something because we will bring about an effect'. For example, the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) tells us that we should not act in order to bring about evil, but even if this is true is it perhaps permissible to act only because an evil will thus occur? I discuss these questions (...) in connection with a version of the so-called Trolley Problem known as the Loop Case. I also consider how these questions may bear on whether a rational agent must aim at an event which he believes is causally necessary to achieve an end he pursues. (shrink)
The interests or welfare of the child are rightly central to anydiscussion of the ethics of reproduction. The problematic nature of thislegitimate concern is seldom, if ever, noticed or if it is, it ismisunderstood. A prominent example of this sort of misunderstandingoccurs in the Department of Health's recent and important `SurrogacyReview' chaired by Margaret Brazier (The Brazier Report) and thesame misunderstanding makes nonsense of at least one provision of theHuman Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990. (The HFE Act).This paper explores and (...) hopefully resolves this misunderstandingand sets out the ways in which the idea of theinterests of the child can legitimately function inbioethics. (shrink)
: The concept of the person has come to be intimately connected with questions about the value of life. It is applied to those sorts of beings who have some special value or moral importance and where we need to prioritize the needs or claims of different sorts of individuals. "Person" is a concept designating individuals like us in some important respects, but possibly including individuals who are very unlike us in other respects. What are these respects and why are (...) they important? This paper sets out to answer these questions and to develop a coherent and useful concept of the person. (shrink)
Moulines in his "A Logical Reconstruction of Simple Equilibrium Thermodynamics" shows that Sneedian constraints play an essential role even in the purely theoretical development of the mathematical formalism of at least one actual scientific theory. However, Moulines' treatment is apparently inconsistent because of the way he represents constraints. A very simple non-Sneedian way of representing constraints is given which removes the difficulty.
Question: What is a (or the) scientific theory V based on a set B of syntactical L-formulas, interpreted according to the intended interpretations of the language L? What probably corresponds to the traditional candidate for V is found to be inadequate for use in deductively explaining experimental facts of a certain form. A second candidate for V, called a strong scientific theory (SST), does not suffer such an inadequacy because it is existentially strong, i.e., it has considerable existential import. It (...) even satisfies the particle physicist's dictum: WHAT IS NOT FORBIDDEN WILL HAPPEN. (shrink)