For nearly a generation, Derek Parfit's arguments in his 1984 book Reasons and Persons have shaped debates about our moral responsibilities to future people. Struggling to accommodate Parfit's insights, philosophers and bioethicists have minimized or accentuated obligations to the future in ways that defy ordinary moral intuitions. In this issue, Robert Sparrow develops the troubling implications of the views of two leading theorists whose work favoring human genetic enhancement is influenced by Parfit. Sparrow believes they return us to the horrors (...) of early twentieth-century eugenics. But the real problem may be a purely theoretical one: the unfortunate influence of Parfit.This is no place to review all of .. (shrink)
In mid-June 2009, the Obama administration dissolved the President's Council on Bioethics (PCBE), a group established by President George W. Bush in August 2001 and whose nearly eight-year life was marked from beginning to end by controversy. While some will regret the PCBE's passing, others will regard the Council as a failed experiment in doing public bioethics.
For more than 30 years, beginning with the Reagan administration's refusal to support and provide oversight for embryo research, and continuing to the present in congressionally imposed limits on funding for such research, progress in infertility medicine and the development of stem cell therapies has been seriously delayed by a series of political interventions. In almost all cases, these interventions result from a view of the moral status of human embryo premised largely on religious assumptions. Although some believe that these (...) interventions are valid expressions of religious values in the public sector, it is argued here that they, in fact, contradict Rawls's conception of public reasoning. Both the prohibition of research involving the human embryo as well as bans on federal funding for embryo-related research place the particular religious views of some citizens above the pressing health needs of almost all, and thus violate the ideal of civility implicit in the Rawlsian standard. (shrink)
: H. G. Wells warned, in 1895, not to allow economic injustices to become to so acute that they ultimately transform human biology. Wells's warning is all the more pertinent today as society contemplates the use of biotechnologies to manipulate or "enhance" the human genome.
In this chapter, I review some of the background thinking concerning matters of moral status that I had developed in previous years and that I would now bring to the work of the Human Embryo Research Panel. Two ideas were at the forefront of my thinking. First, that biology usually offers not decisive "events" but only continuous processes of development. Second, in making status determinations we do not so much "identify" a point on a developmental continuum where moral respect should (...) be accorded as "choose" that point. These choices are "balancing decisions" in which the community of moral agents weighs its interests in protecting an entity against the burdens of doing so. After illustrating these two contentions, I consider some of the reasons why thinkers on the "right" and "left" of our bioethics debates have resisted or missed this basic insight. (shrink)
This discussion develops six of the most important guiding principles of classical Jewish business ethics and illustrates their application to a complex recent case of product liability. These principles are: (1) the legitimacy of business activity and profit; (2) the divine origin and ordination of wealth (and hence the limits and obligations of human ownership); (3) the preeminent position in decision making given to the protection and preservation (sanctity) of human life; (4) the protection of consumers from commercial harm; (5) (...) the avoidance of fraud and misrepresentation in sales transactions; and (6)the moral requirement to go beyond the letter of the law. Although these Talmudic principles are clearly obligatory only for "Torah-obedient" Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, many Jews share a sensibility informed by them. Non-Jews, too, may be instructed by Jewish teachings about business ethics. (shrink)
: Debates about commodification in bioethics frequently appeal to Kant's famous second formulation of the categorical imperative, the formula requiring us to treat the rational (human) being as "an end in itself" and "never as a means only." In the course of her own treatment of commodification, Margaret Jane Radin observes that Kant's application of this formula "does not generate noncontroversial particular consequences." This is so, I argue, because Kant offers three different--and largely incompatible--interpretations of the formula. One focuses on (...) the obligation to preserve rational willing; the second stresses respect for human (physical) dignity and integrity; the third views respect for others as "ends in themselves" as primarily involving a willingness to govern one's conduct by a procedure of impartial co-legislation. Only the third of these interpretations, I conclude, offers a reasonable and coherent approach to moral judgment about the limits of commodification. (shrink)
As a “case” in business ethics, the conduct of the firearms industry is hardly dilemmatic. The responsible choices before firearmmanufacturers have long been clear, if largely neglected. The great interest here for business ethicists lies in understanding how civillaw and ethics can work together to bring a rogue industry under control. Business ethicists have a role to play in shaping the formationof legal standards in this area. In turn, emerging concepts of manufacturers’ liability can make a contribution to the teaching (...) ofbusiness ethics. (shrink)
The author begins by defending a view of comparative religious ethics as a "scientific" enterprise that seeks to develop generalizable knowledge of the variety of religious-ethical traditions and their relation to morality. Responding to Francisca Cho's use of the Daoist tradition to present a radical challenge to this possibility, the author suggests that she, too, unavoidably seeks to offer generalizable knowledge based on her reading of this tradition. After responding to Cho's major criticisms of his own interpretation of Daoism, the (...) author invites Cho and other critics to engage in the hard task of theory testing. (shrink)
This discussion develops six of the most important guiding principles of classical Jewish business ethics and illustrates their application to a complex recent case of product liability. These principles are: (1) the legitimacy of business activity and profit; (2) the divine origin and ordination of wealth (and hence the limits and obligations of human ownership); (3) the preeminent position in decision making given to the protection and preservation (sanctity) of human life; (4) the protection of consumers from commercial harm; (5) (...) the avoidance of fraud and misrepresentation in sales transactions; and (6) the moral requirement to go beyond the letter of the law. Although these Talmudic principles are clearly obligatory only for “Torah-obedient” Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, many Jews share a sensibility informed by them. Non-Jews, too, may be instructed by Jewish teachings about business ethics. (shrink)
My contributions to the early issues of the "Journal of Religious Ethics" display the conviction that moral judgments and religious beliefs arise from complex but comprehensible operations of practical reasoning. As this conviction has continued to ground my explorations of diverse religious traditions as well as my consideration of challenges in the domain of bioethics, I have undertaken to develop a total and coherent logic of moral judgment. Much has changed, of course, in the past quarter century, and we have (...) all had to rethink the moral boundaries of human life. These changes have, however, confirmed rather than altered my sense of the importance of bringing into view the decisional basis of practical judgments--a base that is sometimes obscured by religious traditions as they reify earlier practical decisions and ignore their decisional basis. (shrink)
Reviewing the first twenty years of publication of the "Journal of Religious Ethics", the author examines the journal's pattern of growth, its niche in the array of scholarly journals, and its prospects. The author argues that JRE coincided with and stimulated the emergence of religious ethics as an independent scholarly field. He notes that it has been a valuable resource for philosophical analyses of religious ethics, has virtually created the field of comparative religious ethics, and has provided considerable impetus for (...) historical research. On the negative side, JRE has not done as well as it might in bringing political theorists, psychologists, sociologists, and interpreters of the aesthetic into the dialogue with religious ethicists, nor has it succeeded as well as was hoped in overcoming its Christian and Western bias. (shrink)
The author reviews recent books by AlasdairMacIntyre and Garrett Barden that critique the impulse to foundational theory and transhistorical argumentation in moral theory; these arguments are then set in relation to books by Franklin Gamwell and Karl-Otto Apel that seek, in new ways, to defend that impulse. Although far more sympathetic to the latter perspective, the author maintains that all four of these second-order theoretical discussions lack an appropriate understanding of and engagement with the post-Enlightenment tradition of (...) moral theorizing. (shrink)
This paper contends that work in business ethics participates in two key aspects of the broad philosophical and aesthetic movement known as postmodernism. First, Iike postmodernists generally, business ethicists reject the “grand narratives” of historical and conceptual justification, especially the narratives embodied in Marxism and Mitton Friedman’s vision of unfettered capitalism. Second, both in the methods and content of their work, business ethicists share postmodernism’s “de-centering” of perspective and discovery of “otherness,” “difference” and marginality as valid modes of approach to (...) experience and moral decision. (shrink)
The author reviews a series of deep affinities between the Catholic social teaching embodied in Pope John Paul II''s recent encyclical,Centesimus Annus, and traditional Jewish teachings about economic justice. At the same time, the author maintains that from a Jewish perspective there is a disquieting feature to this recent papal letter. It presents twentieth century history in ways that mute or conceal the role some earlier papal teaching played in the rise of corporatist states, with their authoritarian regimes and (...) xenophobic nationalism.Centesimus annus thus obscures the complex contribution Catholic social teaching made to the events leading up to the Holocaust of European Jewry. (shrink)
In the literature of philosophy and religious ethics, Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling has, with few exceptions, been read as a work focused on ethical questions concerning the norms governing human conduct. However, ethical readings of this book not only miss important features of the text, they render its argument internally incoherent. These problems disappear when Fear and Trembling is understood primarily as a discussion of Christian soteriology that symbolically uses the Abraham story to develop the classical Pauline-Lutheran doctrine of (...) justification through faith alone. (shrink)
The claim that "Everyone's doing it" is frequently offered as a reason for engaging in behavior that is widespread but less-than-ideal. This is particularly true in business, where competitors' conduct often forces hard choices on managers. When is the claim "Everyone's doing it" a morally valid reason for following others' lead? This discussion proposes and develops five prima facie conditions to identify when the existence of prevalent but otherwise undesirable behavior provides a moral justification for our engaging in such behavior (...) ourselves. The balance of the discussion focuses on testing these conditions by applying them to aseries of representative cases in business ethics. (shrink)
While the literature in business ethics abounds with philosophical analyses, perspectives from religious thinkers are curiously underrepresented. What religious analysis has occured has often been moralistic in tone, more fit to the pulpit than the classroom or the boardroom. In the three essays that follow, presented originally at a panel at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in 1989, ethicists from the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish traditions analyze a case study familiar to many who teach and (...) research in business ethics - the Consolidated Foods Case. Each author shows how a particular religious tradition might react to the case. The authors show how insights from their traditions would affect corporation's moral deliberations about policy. Specific policy recommendations are offered to CEO John Bryan. (shrink)
While the literature in business ethics abounds with philosophical analyses, perspectives from religious thinkers are curiously underrepresented. What religious analysis has occured has often been moralistic in tone, more fit to the pulpit than the classroom or the boardroom. In the three essays that follow, presented originally at a panel at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in 1989, ethicists from the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish traditions analyze a case study familiar to many who teach and (...) research in business ethics — the Consolidated Foods Case. Each author shows how a particular religious tradition might react to the case. The authors show how insights from their traditions would affect corporation's moral deliberations about policy. Specific policy recommendations are offered to CEO John Bryan. (shrink)
This discussion is a critical assessment of the methods employed by some leading writers in the field of bioethics. The author agrees with those in the field who regard its primary or essential method as moral philosophy, but he nevertheless finds a prevalent tendency among bioethical writers merely to apply received moral principles to issues and to avoid penetrating theoretical analysis, even when such analysis is unavoidably required. He explains these deficiencies in terms of the exigencies of interdisciplinary work and (...) the affinity of much early bioethics with policy- or legislatively-oriented "public ethics". The discussion ends with a call for increased theoretical sophistication in this field. Keywords: bioethics, ethics, medical ethics, method CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This paper examines the ethical issues of conflict of interest raised by the burgeoning development of physician involvement in for-profit entrepreneurial activities outside their practice. After documenting the nature and extent of these activities, and their potential for conflicts of interest, the paper assesses the major arguments for and against physicians' referral of patients to facilities they own or in which they invest. The paper concludes that an outright ban on such activity seems ethically warranted.
How is ethical theory used in contemporary teaching in business ethics? To answer this question, we undertook a survey of twenty-five of the leading business ethics texts. Our purpose was to examine the ways in which normative moral theory is introduced and applied to cases and issues. We focused especially on the authors' views of the conflicts and tensions posed by basic theoretical debates. How can these theories be made useful if fundamental tensions are acknowledged? Our analysis resulted in a (...) typology, presented here, of the ways in which normative theory, and the difficulties within it, are handled in business ethics texts. We conclude that there is a serious lack of clarity about how to apply the theories to cases and a persistent unwillingness to grapple with tensions between theories of ethical reasoning. These deficiencies hamper teaching and ethical decision-making. (shrink)
Following an introductory examination of possible reasons why past researchers have overlooked Kierkegaard’s debt to Kant, two specific areas of influence are documented and analyzed: the ideality of ethics, and the notion of faith as a leap. Closing remarks suggest that there are other areas as yet undocumented.
Using the theoretical approach he introduced in his acclaimed Religious Reason (Oxford, 1978), and drawing on contemporary rationalist ethical theory as well as a variety of religious traditions and issues, Ronald M. Green here provides a simple, effective model for understanding the complexity of religious life. He shows clearly and convincingly that the basic processes of religious reasoning are the same everywhere and that they give rise, in perfectly understandable ways, to the rich diversity of religious expression worldwide. This is (...) a major resource for courses in the philosophy of religion. (shrink)
Beginning from a basis in the theoretical analysis of comparative religious ethics provided by David Little and Sumner Twiss, this essay extends that analysis by sketching certain "benchmark" theoretical options in comparative religious ethics and by identifying certain fundamental questions which ethicists ought to address to the data supplied by descriptive studies of comparative religions. To illustrate the application of the theoretical model thus defined, the essay concludes with an analysis of selected themes in the essays by Campany, Guberman, and (...) Read in this Focus. (shrink)
The issue of taxation raises essential moral questions about justice and fairness. Although the issue is an ancient one, systematic ethical reflection about taxation can be traced to the last few centuries. The author discusses five key values that have been identified as bearing on tax policy: freedom, material well-being and employment, health and welfare, equity, and distributive justice. He presents these values and their various interpretations as a conceptual framework for approaching the concrete teachings on taxation of the historical (...) religious traditions surveyed in this Focus. (shrink)
Would the Jewish tradition agree with Søren Kierkegaard's claim that the biblical episode of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac represents a fearful "teleological suspension of the ethical"? After surveying a variety of classical Jewish sources, the author concludes that Kierkegaard's interpretation has almost no resonance within the Jewish tradition. Rather than involving a suspension of the ethical, this episode is viewed by Jewish writers as involving a moment of supreme moral responsibility on the part of both God and man. This treatment (...) of the biblical episode points up a central fact about the Jewish tradition: although Judaism is unquestionably an ethical tradition based on the divine command, it is also a tradition of human autonomy and reason. If Jews have regarded God's commands as absolute, they have also found it unthinkable that these commands should ultimately defy our human sense of right and wrong. (shrink)
This essay seeks to construct an understanding of the relationship between religious ritual and morality by means of an exploration of disparate and undeveloped suggestions in the writings of Immanuel Kant. The position worked out sees ritual as the effort to use complex symbolic and group activity for the purpose of expressing and vivifying the fundamental moral conceptions that underlie religious belief. In a closing discussion, early Christian baptism is used to illustrate and partly to substantiate this Kantian moral account (...) of religious ritual. (shrink)
Bypassing the question of when "human" life begins, the author seeks to determine the moral status of the fetus directly by means of a rational theory of rights. He argues that all agents with an operative rational and moral capacity are entitled to full equal rights, while the rights of those lacking these capacities are conferred by rational, moral agents. After reviewing the general considerations that would lead rational agents to confer rights, the author concludes that these agents would probably (...) not choose to restrict their liberty of abortion by conferring substantial rights on the fetus. (shrink)