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Profile: S. Matthew Liao (New York University)
  1. S. Matthew Liao, What We Owe to Each Other by T. M. Scanlon.
    Scanlon’s book aims to offer us a moral theory of right and wrong and of our obligations to one another. The theory is called contractualism and its central claim is that an act is right or wrong if and only if it could or could not be justified to others on grounds that they could not reasonably reject (p. 4). Scanlon recognizes that so stated, his contractualism might seem empty in the sense that one might think that the aim of (...)
     
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  2. Rowan Cruft, S. Matthew Liao & Massimo Renzo (eds.) (forthcoming). The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford University Press.
  3. S. Matthew Liao (forthcoming). Human Rights as Fundamental Conditions for a Good Life. In Rowan Cruft, S. Matthew Liao & Massimo Renzo (eds.), The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford University Press.
    What grounds human rights? How do we determine that something is a genuine human right? In this paper, I offer a new answer: human beings have human rights to what I call the fundamental conditions for pursuing a good life. These are certain goods, capacities and options that human beings qua human beings need whatever else they (qua individuals) might need in order to pursue a characteristically good human life. I call this the Fundamental Conditions Approach. Among other things, I (...)
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  4. S. Matthew Liao (forthcoming). The Closeness Problem and the Doctrine of Double Effect: A Way Forward. Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-15.
    A major challenge to the Doctrine of Double Effect is the concern that an agent’s intention can be identified in such a fine-grained way as to eliminate an intention to harm from a putative example of an intended harm, and yet, the resulting case appears to be a case of impermissibility. This is the so-called “closeness problem.” Many people believe that one can address the closeness problem by adopting Warren Quinn’s version of the DDE, call it DDE*, which distinguishes between (...)
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  5. Immaculada de Melo Martin, Valentina Urbanek, David Frank, William Kabasenche, Nicholas Agar, S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg, Rebecca Roache, Allen Thompson, Stephen Jackson, Donald S. Maier, Nicole Hassoun, Benjamin Hale, Sune Holm & Scott Simmons (2013). Designer Biology: The Ethics of Intensively Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems. Lexington Books.
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  6. S. Matthew Liao (2012). Intentions and Moral Permissibility: The Case of Acting Permissibly with Bad Intentions. Law and Philosophy 31 (6):703-724.
    Many people believe in the intention principle, according to which an agent’s intention in performing an act can sometimes make an act that would otherwise have been permissible impermissible, other things being equal. Judith Jarvis Thomson, Frances Kamm and Thomas Scanlon have offered cases that seem to show that it can be permissible for an agent to act even when the agent has bad intentions. If valid, these cases would seem to cast doubt on the intention principle. In this paper, (...)
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  7. S. Matthew Liao (2012). The Genetic Account of Moral Status: A Defense. Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2):265-277.
    Christopher Grau argues that the genetic basis for moral agency account of rightholding is problematic because it fails to grant all human beings the moral status of rightholding; it grants the status of rightholding to entities that do not intuitively deserve such status; and it assumes that the genetic basis for moral agency has intrinsic/final value, but the genetic basis for moral agency only has instrumental value. Grau also argues that those who are inclined to hold that all human beings (...)
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  8. S. Matthew Liao (2012). Why Children Need to Be Loved. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (3):347-358.
    I have argued elsewhere that children have a moral right to be loved. Mhairi Cowden challenges my arguments. Among other things, Cowden believes that children do not need to be loved. In this paper, I explain why Cowden?s arguments fail and offer additional evidence for why children need to be loved.
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  9. S. Matthew Liao & Adam Etinson (2012). Political and Naturalistic Conceptions of Human Rights: A False Polemic? Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (3):327-352.
    What are human rights? According to one longstanding account, the Naturalistic Conception of human rights, human rights are those that we have simply in virtue of being human. In recent years, however, a new and purportedly alternative conception of human rights has become increasingly popular. This is the so-called Political Conception of human rights, the proponents of which include John Rawls, Charles Beitz, and Joseph Raz. In this paper we argue for three claims. First, we demonstrate that Naturalistic Conceptions of (...)
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  10. S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg & Rebecca Roache (2012). Human Engineering and Climate Change. Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (2):206 - 221.
    Anthropogenic climate change is arguably one of the biggest problems that confront us today. There is ample evidence that climate change is likely to affect adversely many aspects of life for all people around the world, and that existing solutions such as geoengineering might be too risky and ordinary behavioural and market solutions might not be sufficient to mitigate climate change. In this paper, we consider a new kind of solution to climate change, what we call human engineering, which involves (...)
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  11. S. Matthew Liao, Alex Wiegmann, Joshua Alexander & Gerard Vong (2012). Putting the Trolley in Order: Experimental Philosophy and the Loop Case. Philosophical Psychology 25 (5):661-671.
    In recent years, a number of philosophers have conducted empirical studies that survey people's intuitions about various subject matters in philosophy. Some have found that intuitions vary accordingly to seemingly irrelevant facts: facts about who is considering the hypothetical case, the presence or absence of certain kinds of content, or the context in which the hypothetical case is being considered. Our research applies this experimental philosophical methodology to Judith Jarvis Thomson's famous Loop Case, which she used to call into question (...)
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  12. S. Matthew Liao (2011). Parental Love Pills: Some Ethical Considerations. Bioethics 25 (9):489-494.
    It may soon be possible to develop pills that allow parents to induce in themselves more loving behaviour, attitudes and emotions towards their children. In this paper, I consider whether pharmacologically induced parental love can satisfy reasonable conditions of authenticity; why anyone would be interested in taking such parental love pills at all, and whether inducing parental love pharmacologically promotes narcissism or results in self-instrumentalization. I also examine how the availability of such pills may affect the duty to love a (...)
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  13. S. Matthew Liao (2010). Agency and Human Rights. Journal of Applied Philosophy 27 (1):15-25.
    What grounds human rights? How do we determine that something is a human right? James Griffin has persuasively argued that the notion of agency should determine the content of human rights. However, Griffin's agency account faces the question of why agency should be the sole ground for human rights. For example, can Griffin's notion of agency by itself adequately explain such human rights as that against torture? Or, has Griffin offered a plausible explanation as to why one should not broaden (...)
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  14. S. Matthew Liao (2010). The Buck-Passing Account of Value: Lessons From Crisp. Philosophical Studies 151 (3):421 - 432.
    T. M. Scanlon's buck-passing account of value (BPA) has been subjected to a barrage of criticisms. Recently, to be helpful to BPA, Roger Crisp has suggested that a number of these criticisms can be met if one makes some revisions to BPA. In this paper, I argue that if advocates of the buck-passing account accepted these revisions, they would effectively be giving up the buck-passing account as it is typically understood, that is, as an account concerned with the conceptual priority (...)
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  15. S. Matthew Liao (2010). The Basis of Human Moral Status. Journal of Moral Philosophy 7 (2):159-179.
    When philosophers consider what moral status human beings have, they tend to find themselves either supporting the idea that not all human beings are rightholders or adopting what Peter Singer calls a 'speciesist' position, where speciesism is defined as morally favoring a particular species—in this case, human beings—over others without sufficient justification. In this paper, I develop what I call the 'genetic basis for moral agency' account of rightholding, and I propose that this account can allow all human beings to (...)
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  16. S. Matthew Liao (2010). Twinning, Inorganic Replacement, and the Organism View. Ratio 23 (1):59-72.
    In explicating his version of the Organism View, Eric Olson argues that you begin to exist only after twinning is no longer possible and that you cannot survive a process of inorganic replacement. Assuming the correctness of the Organism View, but pace Olson, I argue in this paper that the Organism View does not require that you believe either proposition. The claim I shall make about twinning helps to advance a debate that currently divides defenders of the Organism View, while (...)
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  17. S. Matthew Liao (2009). Is There a Duty to Share Genetic Information? Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (5):306-309.
    A number of prominent bioethicists such as Mike Parker, Anneke Lucassen, and Bartha Maria Knoppers have called for the adoption of a system in which by default, genetic information is shared among family members. In this paper, I suggest that a main reason given in support of this call to share genetic information among family members is the idea that genetic information is essentially familial in nature. Upon examining this ‘familial nature of genetics’ argument, I show that most genetic information (...)
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  18. S. Matthew Liao (2009). The Loop Case and Kamm's Doctrine of Triple Effect. Philosophical Studies 146 (2):223 - 231.
    Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Loop Case is particularly significant in normative ethics because it questions the validity of the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect, according to which there is a significant difference between harm that is intended and harm that is merely foreseen and not intended. Recently, Frances Kamm has argued that what she calls the Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE), which draws a distinction between acting because-of and acting in-order-to, can account for our judgment about the Loop Case. In (...)
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  19. S. Matthew Liao, Mark Sheehan & Steve Clarke (2009). Disclosing Clinical Trial Results: Publicity, Significance and Independence. American Journal of Bioethics 9 (8):3-5.
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  20. S. Matthew Liao, Mark Sheehan & Steve Clarke (2009). The Duty to Disclose Adverse Clinical Trial Results. American Journal of Bioethics 9 (8):24-32.
    Participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. We argue that this situation is unacceptable and that there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. This duty is grounded in the human right not to be placed at risk of harm without informed consent. We consider objections to disclosure grounded in considerations (...)
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  21. S. Matthew Liao (2008). A Defense of Intuitions. Philosophical Studies 140 (2):247 - 262.
    Radical experimentalists argue that we should give up using intuitions as evidence in philosophy. In this paper, I first argue that the studies presented by the radical experimentalists in fact suggest that some intuitions are reliable. I next consider and reject a different way of handling the radical experimentalists' challenge, what I call the Argument from Robust Intuitions. I then propose a way of understanding why some intuitions can be unreliable and how intuitions can conflict, and I argue that on (...)
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  22. S. Matthew Liao (2008). Selecting Children: The Ethics of Reproductive Genetic Engineering. Philosophy Compass 3 (5):973-991.
    Advances in reproductive genetic engineering have the potential to transform human lives. Not only do they promise to allow us to select children free of diseases, they can also enable us to select children with desirable traits. In this paper, I consider two clusters of arguments for the moral permissibility of reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Perfectionist View and the Libertarian View; and two clusters of arguments against reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Human Nature View and (...)
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  23. S. Matthew Liao (2008). Who Is Afraid of Numbers? Utilitas 20 (04):447-.
    In recent years, many nonconsequentialists such as Frances Kamm and Thomas Scanlon have been puzzling over what has come to be known as the Number Problem, which is how to show that the greater number in a rescue situation should be saved without aggregating the claims of the many , a typical kind of consequentialist move that seems to violate the separateness of persons. In this paper, I argue that these nonconsequentialists may be making the task more difficult than necessary, (...)
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  24. S. Matthew Liao & Anders Sandberg (2008). The Normativity of Memory Modification. Neuroethics 1 (2):85-99.
    The prospect of using memory modifying technologies raises interesting and important normative concerns. We first point out that those developing desirable memory modifying technologies should keep in mind certain technical and user-limitation issues. We next discuss certain normative issues that the use of these technologies can raise such as truthfulness, appropriate moral reaction, self-knowledge, agency, and moral obligations. Finally, we propose that as long as individuals using these technologies do not harm others and themselves in certain ways, and as long (...)
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  25. S. Matthew Liao, Julian Savulescu & David Wasserman (2008). The Ethics of Enhancement. Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):159-161.
  26. David Wasserman & S. Matthew Liao (2008). Issues in the Pharmacological Induction of Emotions. Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):178-192.
    abstract In this paper, we examine issues raised by the possibility of regulating emotions through pharmacological means. We argue that emotions induced through these means can be authentic phenomenologically, and that the manner of inducing them need not make them any less our own than emotions arising 'naturally'. We recognize that in taking drugs to induce emotions, one may lose opportunities for self-knowledge; act narcissistically; or treat oneself as a mere means. But we propose that there are circumstances in which (...)
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  27. S. Matthew Liao (2007). Time-Relative Interests and Abortion. Journal of Moral Philosophy 4 (2):242-256.
    The concept of a time-relative interest is introduced by Jeff McMahan to solve certain puzzles about the badness of death. Some people (e.g. McMahan and David DeGrazia) believe that this concept can also be used to show that abortion is permissible. In this paper, I first argue that if the Time-Relative Interest Account permits abortion, then it would also permit infanticide.
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  28. S. Matthew Liao, P. J. Goldschmidt & J. Sugarman (2007). Ethical and Policy Issues Relating to Progenitor-Cell-Based Strategies for Prevention of Atherosclerosis. Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (11):643-646.
    Experiments have suggested that umbilical cord blood stem cells can be used to prevent diseases such as atherosclerosis. This paper discusses ethical issues surrounding such usage such as the uncertainty that individuals at risk of a disease will actually get the disease; issues related to research with children; safety issues; from where these stem cells would be obtained; and whether these usages should be considered as therapies or as physical enhancements.
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  29. S. Matthew Liao, Julian Savulescu & Mark Sheehan (2007). The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision Making. Hastings Center Report 37 (2):16-20.
    The story of Ashley, a nine-year-old from Seattle, has caused a good deal of controversy since it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 3, 2007.1 Ashley was born with a condition called static encephalopathy, a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. According to her doctors, Ashley has reached, and will remain at, the developmental level of a three-month-old.
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  30. S. Matthew Liao, Julian Savulescu & Mark Sheehan (2007). The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-Making. Hastings Center Report 37 (2):16-20.
    The story of Ashley, a nine-year-old from Seattle, has caused a good deal of controversy since it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 3, 2007.1 Ashley was born with a condition called static encephalopathy, a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. According to her doctors, Ashley has reached, and will remain at, the developmental level of a three-month-old.
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  31. S. Matthew Liao & David T. Wasserman (2007). Neuroethical Concerns About Moderating Traumatic Memories. American Journal of Bioethics 7 (9):38 – 40.
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  32. S. Matthew Liao (2006). The Embryo Rescue Case. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (2):141-147.
    In the debate regarding the moral status of human embryos, the Embryo Rescue Case has been used to suggest that embryos are not rightholders. This case is premised on the idea that in a situation where one has a choice between saving some number of embryos or a child, it seems wrong to save the embryos and not the child. If so, it seems that embryos cannot be rightholders. In this paper, I argue that the Embryo Rescue Case does not (...)
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  33. S. Matthew Liao (2006). The Idea of a Duty to Love. Journal of Value Inquiry 40 (1):1-22.
    Can there be a duty to love someone? The kind of love we will consider is the kind of highly intense interaction that two human beings seek that involves not only strongly valuing another person for the person’s sake and wanting to promote the person’s well-being for the person’s sake, but also desiring to be physically and psychologically close to each other and desiring that the other person reciprocates our love. This kind of interaction features in romantic love, parental love, (...)
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  34. S. Matthew Liao (2006). The Organism View Defended. The Monist 89 (3):334-350.
    What are you and I essentially? When do you and I come into and go out of existence? A common response is that we are essentially organisms, that is, we come into existence as organisms and go out of existence when we cease to be organisms. Jeff McMahan has put forward two arguments against the Organism View: the case of dicephalus and a special case of hemispheric commissurotomy. In this paper, I defend the Organism View against these two cases. Because (...)
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  35. S. Matthew Liao (2006). The Right of Children to Be Loved. Journal of Political Philosophy 14 (4):420–440.
    A number of international organizations have claimed that children have a right to be loved, but there is a worry that this claim may just be an empty rhetoric. In this paper, I seek to show that there could be such a right by providing a justification for this right in terms of human rights, by demonstrating that love can be an appropriate object of a duty, and by proposing that biological parents should normally be made the primary bearers of (...)
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  36. S. Matthew Liao (2005). The Ethics of Using Genetic Engineering for Sex Selection. Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (2):116-118.
    It is quite probable that one will soon be able to use genetic engineering to select the gender of one’s child by directly manipulating the sex of an embryo. Some might think that this method would be a more ethical method of sex selection than present technologies such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), since, unlike PGD, it does not need to create and destroy “wrong-gendered” embryos. This paper argues that those who object to present technologies on the ground that the (...)
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  37. S. Matthew Liao (2005). Are 'Ex Ante' Enhancements Always Permissible? American Journal of Bioethics 5 (3):23 – 25.
    Frances Kamm distinguishes between changes or enhancements that are made before a child exists (ex ante changes) and those that are made once a child exists (ex post changes), and she argues that ex ante changes do not show disrespect or, as Michael Sandel would put it, lack of love, for a person, since the person does not yet exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to distinguish between ex ante enhancements that are morally neutral and those (...)
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  38. S. Matthew Liao (2005). Rescuing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Blastocyst Transfer Method. American Journal of Bioethics 5 (6):8 – 16.
    Despite the therapeutic potential of human embryonic stem (HES) cells, many people believe that HES cell research should be banned. The reason is that the present method of extracting HES cells involves the destruction of the embryo, which for many is the beginning of a person. This paper examines a number of compromise solutions such as parthenogenesis, the use of defective embryos, genetically creating a "pseudo embryo" that can never form a placenta, and determining embryo death, and argues that none (...)
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  39. S. Matthew Liao (2005). Response to Commentators on “Rescuing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Blastocyst Transfer Method”. American Journal of Bioethics 5 (6):W10-W13.
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