The sociopolitical significance Aristotle and Confucius attribute to possessing a sense of shame serves to emphasize the importance of its development. Aristotle maintains that social class and wealth are prerequisites for its acquisition, while Confucius is optimistic that it can be developed regardless of socioeconomic considerations. The difference between their positions is largely due to competing views of praiseworthy dispositions. While Aristotle conceives of praiseworthy dispositions as “consistent” traits of character, traits that calcifiy as one reaches adulthood, Confucius offers us (...) an alternative picture, one that affords a greater plasticity to praiseworthy dispositions by treating them as situational character traits. I argue that the Confucian conception of praiseworthy dispositions, combined with several strategies for developing a sense of shame discussed in the Analects, renders Confucius’s optimism defensible. (shrink)
The principle that people's lives and fundamental interests are of equal value and that they must therefore be given equal weight has immense intellectual appeal and intuitive force. It is often enough to discredit a theory or proposal simply to show that it violates this principle. When measures are said to be discriminatory or unfair it is this principle which is in play. Recent philosophers of widely differing schools and outlooks give versions of this principle a central role in their (...) theories. (shrink)
In 1975 the Clarendon Press at Oxford published Peter Nidditch's edition of John Locke's An Essay concerning Human Understanding. In his Introduction Nidditch says that his edition “offers a text that is directly derived, without modernization, from the early published versions; it notes the provenance of all its adopted readings ; and it aims at recording all relevant differences between these versions”. As Nidditch goes on to acknowledge, the “relevant differences” were many, “requiring several thousand registrations both in the case (...) of material variants and in the case of formal variants ”. The textual history of Locke's Essay is extremely complicated. While there is no manuscript of the first edition of the book, there were four editions in Locke's lifetime, each new one containing extensive and significant revisions, as well as a posthumous edition published shortly after the author's death. There was a translation into French made with Locke's cooperation and published in 1700, and a Latin translation came out a year later. Nevertheless, Nidditch managed to record all the material variants in footnotes to the text, in a way that makes it fairly easy to track the changes that Locke made to successive editions of the book, and to locate points at which judgements had to be made as a critical text was established on the basis of the chosen copy text. Sometimes a critical edition succeeds in completely changing the way that a text is read. Peter Laslett's 1960 edition of Locke's Two Treatises of Government is a good example. Nidditch's edition of the Essay did not have that kind of very dramatic effect on Locke scholarship. Rather, it made it possible for those without direct access to all the early editions to engage in careful, historically sensitive studies of Locke's account of human understanding. The result was a slow revolution in Locke studies that continues to shed new light on even the most familiar aspects of the Lockean philosophy. (shrink)
This slim volume provides a bird’s eye view, in admirably clear Italian, of the philosophy, scientific and humane, of Errol Harris. It seems probable that Rinaldi’s attention was drawn to Harris when he found that the criticism of Husserl in his own Critica della gnoseologia fenomenologica had been largely anticipated in Harris’s articles of 1976 and 1977 in the Review of Metaphysics and Idealistic Studies. He has certainly studied the Harris corpus carefully and thoroughly—from the article on “The Philosophy of (...) Nature in Hegel’s System” down to the Idealistic Studies article. He speaks of the Interpretation of the Logic of Hegel as “presently in course of completion.” My own acquaintance with Harris’s works is less encyclopaedic, but I was sorry not to find any reference to Revelation Through Reason which is one of my own favorites. That, however, is the only missed bet that I can find. (shrink)
In Enhancing Evolution, leading bioethicist John Harris dismantles objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer babies, and cloning and makes an ethical case for biotechnology that is both forthright and rigorous. Human enhancement, Harris argues, is a good thing--good morally, good for individuals, good as social policy, and good for a genetic heritage that needs serious improvement. Enhancing Evolution defends biotechnological interventions that could allow us to live longer, healthier, and even happier lives by, for example, providing us with immunity (...) from cancer and HIV/AIDS. Further, Harris champions the possibility of influencing the very course of evolution to give us increased mental and physical powers--from reasoning, concentration, and memory to strength, stamina, and reaction speed. Indeed, he says, it's not only morally defensible to enhance ourselves; in some cases, it's morally obligatory. In a new preface, Harris offers a glimpse at the new science and technology to come, equipping readers with the knowledge to assess the ethics and policy dimensions of future forms of human enhancement. (shrink)
A BELIEF IN FREE WILL touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion. In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or (...) diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life. (shrink)
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)
As part of a Common Knowledge symposium on the “consequence of blur,” this article reassesses the anthropologist E. B. Tylor’s famous but vague concept of the animist soul as an optimal reflection of the soul’s fuzzy ontological status among animist peoples. Unlike the Platonic body/soul dichotomy, with its fixed appearance/essence distinction, indigenous conceptions of the soul among North Asian peoples, such as the Chukchi of Siberia and the Darhads of Mongolia, are reversible: persons can turn themselves inside-out as their inner (...) souls and outer bodies cross over and become one another. (shrink)
Transactive memory theory describes the processes by which benefits for memory can occur when remembering is shared in dyads or groups. In contrast, cognitive psychology experiments demonstrate that social influences on memory disrupt and inhibit individual recall. However, most research in cognitive psychology has focused on groups of strangers recalling relatively meaningless stimuli. In the current study, we examined social influences on memory in groups with a shared history, who were recalling a range of stimuli, from word lists to personal, (...) shared memories. We focused in detail on the products and processes of remembering during in-depth interviews with 12 older married couples. These interviews consisted of three recall tasks: (1) word list recall; (2) personal list recall, where stimuli were relevant to the couples’ shared past; and (3) an open-ended autobiographical interview. We conducted these tasks individually and then collaboratively two weeks later. Across each of the tasks, although some couples demonstrated collaborative inhibition, others demonstrated collaborative facilitation. We identified a number of factors that predicted collaborative success, in particular, group-level strategy use. Our results show that collaboration may help or hinder memory, and certain interactions are more likely to produce collaborative benefits. (shrink)
Knowing how to be good, or knowing how to go about trying to be good, is of immense theoretical and practical importance. And what goes for trying to be good oneself, goes also for trying to provide others with ways of being good, and for trying to make them good whether they like it or not. This is what is meant by 'moral enhancement'. John Harris explores the many proposed methodologies or technologies for moral enhancement: traditional ones like good parenting (...) and education; newer ones like chemical or biological intervention; modifying the environment to make bad outcomes of all sorts less likely; experimentation with political and social systems. The issue of whether and to what extent moral enhancement is possible is the subject of this book. (shrink)
Since the birth of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1977, we have seen truly remarkable advances in biotechnology. We can now screen the fetus for Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and a wide range of genetic disorders. We can rearrange genes in DNA chains and redirect the evolution of species. We can record an individual's genetic fingerprint. And we can potentially insert genes into human DNA that will produce physical warning signs of cancer, allowing early detection. In fact, biotechnology (...) has progressed to such a point that virtually any kind of genetic manipulation, if not already possible, is just around the corner. But these breakthroughs also raise serious ethical and moral dilemmas that we are only now beginning to confront. In Wonderwoman and Superman, noted medical ethicist John Harris offers the first thorough analysis of the moral dilemmas created by the revolution in molecular biology. Covering a wide array of recent innovations, Harris discusses, for example, the moral decisions involved and the consequences of creating egg and embryo banks. Who should be allowed to use such resources? Should recipients be screened? Should such banks be open for public or private use? And does it cheapen life to make embryos available for sale? In another chapter, Harris examines the question of conceiving children chiefly for organ donation, focusing on the recent case of a woman who wanted to have a second child to provide a bone marrow donor for her first child sick with leukemia (she intended to abort the fetus if its bone marrow did not genetically match that of her living child). In this case, the medical staff had to decide whether they should perform in-vitro fertilization, knowing that the mother did not satisfy the clinic's criteria (there was no father), and also knowing the potential for abortion. Discussing the ethics of the mother's choice and the clinic's choice, Harris asks whether it is morally correct to create a child as an organ donor, whether the future child would suffer, whether it is worth any suffering to be born, and who has the right to weigh the various factors (both moral and physiological) involved in making these decisions. Delving into a multitude of issues such as when life begins, when suffering is needless, and whether we should play God, Wonderwoman and Superman provides not only a thought-provoking inquiry into the potential and actual ethical dilemmas created by the many advances in biotechnology, but challenges us to learn to choose responsibly and to face the moral implications of the choices that confront us. (shrink)
Collating, for the first time, the key writings of Leonard Harris, this volume introduces readers to a leading figure in African-American and liberatory thought. -/- Harris' writings on honor, insurrectionist ethics, tradition, and his work on Alain Locke have established him as a leading figure in critical philosophy. His timely and urgent responses to structural racism and structural violence mark him out as a bold cultural commentator and a deft theoretician. -/- The wealth and depth of Harris' writings are brought (...) to the fore in this collection and the incisive introduction by Lee McBride serves to orient, contextualize, and frame an oeuvre that spans four decades. In his prolegomenon, Harris eschews the classical meaning of “philosophy,” supplanting it with an idiosyncratic conception of philosophy--philosophia nata ex conatu--that features an avowedly value-laden dimension. As well as serving as an introduction to Harris' philosophy, A Philosophy of Struggle provides new insights into how we ought conceptualize philosophy, race, tradition, and insurrection in the 21st century. (shrink)
When philosophers put forward claims for or against 'property', it is often unclear whether they are talking about the same thing that lawyers mean by 'property'. Likewise, when lawyers appeal to 'justice' in interpreting or criticizing legal rules we do not know if they have in mind something that philosophers would recognize as 'justice'. J. W. Harris here examines the legal and philosophical underpinnings of the concept of property and offers a new analytical framework for understanding property and justice.
The eighteenth century was a time of brilliant philosophical innovation in Britain. In Of Liberty and Necessity James A. Harris presents the first comprehensive account of the period's discussion of what remains a central problem of philosophy, the question of the freedom of the will. He offers new interpretations of contributions to the free will debate made by canonical figures such as Locke, Hume, Edwards, and Reid, and also discusses in detail the arguments of some less familiar writers. Harris puts (...) the eighteenth-century debate about the will and its freedom in the context of the period's concern with applying what Hume calls the "experimental method of reasoning" to the human mind. His book will be of substantial interest to historians of philosophy and anyone concerned with the free will problem. (shrink)
In this issue of CQ we introduce a new feature, in which noted bioethicists are invited to reflect on vital current issues. Our first invitee, John Harris, will subsequently assume editorship of this section.
Cloning - few words have as much potential to grip our imagination or grab the headlines. No longer the stuff of science fiction or Star Wars - it is happening now. Yet human cloning is currently banned throughout the world, and therapeutic cloning banned in many countries. In this highly controversial book, John Harris does a lot more than ask why we are so afraid of cloning. He presents a deft and informed defence of human cloning, carefully exposing the rhetorical (...) and highly dubious arguments against it. He begins with an introduction to what a human clone is, before tackling some of the most common and frequently bizarre criticisms of cloning: Is it really wicked? Can we regulate it? What about the welfare of cloned children? Does it turn human beings into commodities? Dismissing one by one some of the myths about human cloning, in particular that it is degrading and unsafe, he astutely argues that some of our most cherished values, such as the freedom to start a family and the freedom from state control, actually support the case for human cloning. Offering a brave and lucid insight into this ethical minefield, John Harris at last shows that far from ending the diversity of human life or creating a race of super-clones, cloning has the power to improve and heal human life. (shrink)
The term ‘Empiricism’ has had at least two different, though not unconnected, applications in modern thought, one to scientific method and the other to philosophical theory. My intention in this lecture is to try to show that, while these two applications of the term have a common source, their actual referents are widely divergent and in large measure even mutually incompatible.
Biomedical research is so important that there is a positive moral obligation to pursue it and to participate in itScience is under attack. In Europe, America, and Australasia in particular, scientists are objects of suspicion and are on the defensive.i“Frankenstein science”5–8 is a phrase never far from the lips of those who take exception to some aspect of science or indeed some supposed abuse by scientists. We should not, however, forget the powerful obligation there is to undertake, support, and participate (...) in scientific research, particularly biomedical research, and the powerful moral imperative that underpins these obligations. Now it is more imperative than ever to articulate and explain these obligations and to do so is the subject and the object of this paper.Let me present the question in its starkest form: is there a moral obligation to undertake, support and even to participate in serious scientific research? If there is, does that obligation require not only that beneficial research be undertaken but also that “we”, as individuals and “we” as societies be willing to support and even participate in research where necessary?Thus far the overwhelming answer given to this question has been “no”, and research has almost universally been treated with suspicion and even hostility by the vast majority of all those concerned with the ethics and regulation of research. The so called “precautionary approach”9 sums up this attitude, requiring dangers to be considered more likely and more serious than benefits, and assuming that no sane person would or should participate in research unless they had a pressing personal reason for so doing, or unless they were motivated by a totally impersonal altruism. International agreements and protocols—for example, the Declaration of Helsinki10 and the CIOMS Guidelines11—have been directed principally at …. (shrink)
This paper criticises John Harris's attempts to defend an account of a ‘harmed condition’ that can stand independently of intuitions about what is ‘normal’. I argue that because Homo sapiens is a sexually dimorphic species, determining whether a particular individual is in a harmed condition or not will sometimes require making reference to the normal capacities of their sex. Consequently, Harris's account is unable to play the role he intends for it in debates about the ethics of human enhancement.
In his ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and What We Value in Moral Behaviour’,1 David DeGrazia sets out to defend moral bioenhancement from a number of critics, me prominently among them. Here he sets out his stall: "Many scholars doubt what I assert: that there is nothing inherently wrong with MB. Some doubt this on the basis of a conviction that there is something inherently wrong with biomedical enhancement technologies in general. Chief among their objections are the charges that biomedical enhancement is (...) unnatural, use of biomedical enhancements evinces an insufficient appreciation for human “giftedness”, and biomedical enhancements pose a threat to personal identity. Elsewhere I have attempted to neutralize these objections. Here I will address a set of concerns that are directed at MB in particular and appeal to the nature and value of human freedom."Let me make clear at once that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with MB. I have been an advocate for human enhancement for over 30 years writing four books defending such enhancements.2–⇓4 The most recent of these published in 2007 covers much the same ground as Allen Buchanan's 2011 book cited by DeGrazia,5 but, unlike Buchanan, I do not define enhancements in terms of the intention or the motivation of those who produce them but rather in terms of their effect. I must also make clear that, like DeGrazia, I have also, for a very long time, attempted to neutralise objections 1–3 listed in the above passage.2–⇓4DeGrazia introduces his critique of my approach like this: "I will construe Harris’ argument and similar arguments as directed entirely at motivation-based MB—though I will hereafter omit the qualifier, “motivation-based.” (Certainly, these arguments do not apply to embryo selection, which … ". (shrink)