About this topic
Summary According to the third edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1965) the adjective "eugenic" means "pertaining or adopted to the production of fine offspring". This is the "thin", abstract meaning of "eugenic", which carries no moral or historical connotation. In this sense, the ante-natal selection of the genetic characteristics of living beings (genetic selection) and its improvement (gene-therapy or genetic enhancement) all qualify as forms of eugenics. The word is used in this morally neutral way by contemporary proponents of "liberal eugenics". However, the word "Eugenics" may also refer to the core ideas of Francis Galton (who invented the word) and his immediate followers; or to the specific policies adopted mainly in Europe and in the United States, roughly from the beginning of the twentieth century to the end of WW2. Because such policies, including forced sterilization in US and Nazi Germany, are nowadays widely regarded as immoral, the term "eugenics" is often intended as having an intrinsic negative connotation. For that reason, some authors reject "eugenic talk" and the identification of human genetic enhancement and eugenics. This category includes works on both early eugenics and comparisons between early eugenics, traditional eugenic themes, and liberal eugenics.     
Key works

Harris 1993 argues that even if gene-therapy for removing disability or for enhancing normal human traits is a form of eugenics,  it is morally sound. He identifies the morally unsound aspect of eugenics with the idea that "those who are genetically weak should be discouraged from reproducing". He objects that eugenics properly understood maintains that "everyone should be discouraged from reproducing children who will be significantly harmed by their genetic constitution". Thus, eugenics through gene-therapy is morally sound because, unlike past eugenics, it might "enable individuals with genetic defects to be sure of having healthy rather than harmed children".  Wikler 1999 provides a short history of eugenic movements and argues that we must learn from it, for instance by avoiding genetic determinism, class and race biases and the conviction that genetic improvement overrides the freedom of the individual whether and with whom to procreate. Wikler tries to identify the "original sin" in Eugenics, which leads him to analyze and discard many usual objections against it. Agar 2008 is important as perhaps the first book that uses the expression "eugenics" with a positive connotation coherently throughout. Agar endorses eugenics achieved by parents in a society which respects reproductive liberties since, unlike traditional eugenics, it is compatible with a pluralism of different conceptions about human flourishing.Savulescu 2001 argues that couples or single reproducers have a prima facie moral duty to select the embryo with the best life prospects,  selecting against harmful genetic susceptibilities and in favor of beneficial ones. Wilkinson 2010 rejects the identification of "eugenics" and moral claims made in the context of the bioethical debate concerning pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and screening. He claims that it is wrong to the emotional power of "eugenic talk" to bypass rational critical faculties.

Introductions Harris 1993 Chadwick 2001 Wikler 1999 Wilkinson 2008 Buchanan 2007
Related categories

568 found
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  1. added 2019-01-11
    Philosophy in the Trenches: Reflections on The Eugenic Mind Project.Alan C. Love - 2018 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 10.
    Robert Wilson’s The Eugenic Mind Project is a major achievement of engaged scholarship and socially relevant philosophy and history of science. It exemplifies the virtues of interdisciplinarity. As principal investigator of the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada project, while employed in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Alberta, Wilson encountered a proverbial big ball of mud with questions and issues that involved local individuals living through a painful set of memories and implicated his institutional home in (...)
  2. added 2019-01-08
    Eugenics.Nicolae Sfetcu - manuscript
    The main concern of the first eugenists, such as Karl Pearson and Walter Weldon of University College London , were the perceived intelligence factors considered to be correlated with the social class. In his speech "Darwinism, Medical Progress and Eugenics", Karl Pearson equates eugenics with a field of medicine. Some areas of medicine that are not commonly recognized as eugenic affect the human genes background. These include sterilization and surgical techniques that allow the functioning of reproductive organs. Even medicines that (...)
  3. added 2018-12-14
    Review of Colin Farrelly, Genetic Ethics. [REVIEW]Jonathan Anomaly - 2018 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:X-Y.
  4. added 2018-11-14
    Cognitive Enhancement and the Threat of Inequality.Walter Veit - 2018 - Journal of Cognitive Enhancement 2:1-7.
    As scientific progress approaches the point where significant human enhancements could become reality, debates arise whether such technologies should be made available. This paper evaluates the widespread concern that human enhancements will inevitably accentuate existing inequality and analyzes whether prohibition is the optimal public policy to avoid this outcome. Beyond these empirical questions, this paper considers whether the inequality objection is a sound argument against the set of enhancements most threatening to equality, i.e., cognitive enhancements. In doing so, I shall (...)
  5. added 2018-07-24
    Group-Level Cognizing, Collaborative Remembering, and Individuals.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - In Penny Van Bergen Michelle Meade (ed.), Collaborative Remembering: Theories, Research, and Applications. New York, NY, USA: pp. 248-260.
    This chapter steps back from the important psychological work on collaborative remembering at the heart of the present volume to take up some broader questions about the place of memory in Western cultural thought, both historically and in contemporary society, offering the kind of integrative and reflective perspective for which philosophy is often known. In particular, the text aims to shed some light on the relationship between collaborative memory and the other two topics in this title—group-level cognizing and individuals—beginning with (...)
  6. added 2018-07-24
    Eugenics in Philosophy.Robert A. Wilson - 2017 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Annotated bibliography on eugenics and philosophy.
  7. added 2018-07-24
    Etika lidského vylepšování a liberální eugenika.Tomas Hribek - 2014 - Filosoficky Casopis 62 (6):847-861.
    [The Ethics of Human Enhancement and Liberal Eugenics] The paper deals with the ethics of biotechnological enhancement of human qualities such as intelligence, health and lifespan. In contemporary bioethics three views have emerged concerning the moral permissibility of such a biotechnological enhancement of humans. While bioconservatives reject it as morally impermissible and dangerous, bioradicals welcome it as permissible and desirable. Between these two extremes we find bioliberals who admit some types of enhancement, under certain conditions. These debates are still overshadowed (...)
  8. added 2018-04-06
    Great Minds Think Different: Preserving Cognitive Diversity in an Age of Gene Editing.Jonny Anomaly, Julian Savulescu & Christopher Gyngell - forthcoming - Bioethics:0-0.
  9. added 2018-03-23
    Selecting Against Disability: The Liberal Eugenic Challenge and the Argument From Cognitive Diversity.Christopher Gyngell & Thomas Douglas - 2018 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 35 (2):319-340.
    Selection against embryos that are predisposed to develop disabilities is one of the less controversial uses of embryo selection technologies. Many bio-conservatives argue that while the use of ESTs to select for non-disease-related traits, such as height and eye-colour, should be banned, their use to avoid disease and disability should be permitted. Nevertheless, there remains significant opposition, particularly from the disability rights movement, to the use of ESTs to select against disability. In this article we examine whether and why the (...)
  10. added 2018-03-06
    Identità e determinismo genetico. Bioetica e filosofia delle scienze genetiche.Gregory Tranchesi - 2013 - Edizioni Nuova Prhomos.
  11. added 2018-02-18
    Eugenics and Individual Phenotypic Variation: To What Extent Is Biology a Predictive Science?Evan Balaban - 1998 - Science in Context 11 (3-4):331 - 356.
    Eugenics, in whatever form it may be articulated, is based on the idea that phenotypic characteristics of particular individuals can be predicted in advance. This paper argues that biology's capacity to predict many of the characteristics exhibited by an individual, especially behavioral or cognitive attributes, will always be very limited. This stems from intrinsic limitations to the methodology for relating genotypes to phenotypes, and from the nature of developmental processes which intervene between genotypes and phenotypes. While genetic studies may generate (...)
  12. added 2018-02-03
    Evoluția și etica eugeniei.Nicolae Sfetcu - manuscript
    În acest articol încerc să argumentez opinia că, așa cum este definită eugenia, este foarte dificil de făcut o diferențiere clară între știință (medicină, ingineria genetică) și eugenie. Și de stabilit o linie peste care ingineria genetică nu ar trebui să treacă, conform unor norme morale, juridice și religioase. Atâta timp cât acceptăm ajutorul geneticii în găsirea unor modalități de combatere a cancerului, diabetului sau HIV, acceptăm în mod implicit și eugenia pozitivă, conform definiției actuale. Și atâta timp cât acceptăm (...)
  13. added 2018-01-12
    Procreative Beneficence and Genetic Enhancement.Walter Veit - 2018 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 32 (1):75-92.
    Imagine a world where everyone is healthy, intelligent, long living and happy. Intuitively this seems wonderful albeit unrealistic. However, recent scienti c breakthroughs in genetic engineering, namely CRISPR/Cas bring the question into public discourse, how the genetic enhancement of humans should be evaluated morally. In 2001, when preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF), enabled parents to select between multiple embryos, Julian Savulescu introduced the principle of procreative bene cence (PPB), stating that parents have the obligations to choose (...)
  14. added 2017-07-08
    Cultural Explanations and Clinical Ethics: Active Euthanasia in Neonatology.A. Ahmad - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (3):192-192.
    The authors have undertaken a study to explore the views in non-Western cultures about ending the lives of newborns with genetic defects. This study consists of including active euthanasia alongside withdrawal and withholding of treatment as potential methods used.Apart from radicalising the support for active euthanasia in certain instances of neonatal diagnoses, is another interesting point that views of children and death are shaped by religion and culture and are especially highly charged with culturally specific symbolism/s. Furthermore, this is augmented (...)
  15. added 2017-07-08
    Designing Babies: Morally Permissible Ways to Modify the Human Genome1.Nicholas Agar - 1995 - Bioethics 9 (1):1-15.
    My focus in this paper is the question of the moral acceptability of attempts to modify the human genome. Much of the debate in this area has revolved around the distinction between supposedly therapeutic modification on the one hand, and eugenic modification on the other. In the first part of the paper I reject some recent arguments against genetic engineering. In the second part I seek to distinguish between permissible and impermissible forms of intervention in such a way that does (...)
  16. added 2017-05-06
    Bertrand Russell on Eugenics.John V. Day - 2015 - Mankind Quarterly 55 (3):254-267.
    This brief essay takes a look at Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), the English philosopher and social reformer, and his ideas about eugenics and dysgenics. It is evident from his works that like many other leading thinkers and social reformers of his time, Russell recognized the importance of genetics for human welfare and was deeply concerned about the dysgenic trends that he observed in his time. He included eugenics as an integral part of his moral philosophy and never abandoned the belief in (...)
  17. added 2017-02-18
    The Ethics of Genetic Intervention in Human Embryos: Assessing Jürgen Habermas's Approach.Fischer Enno - 2016 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):79-95.
    In the near future we may be able to manipulate human embryos through genetic intervention. Jürgen Habermas has argued against the development of technologies which could make such intervention possible. His argument has received widespread criticism among bioethicists. These critics argue that Habermas's argument relies on implausible assumptions about human nature. Moreover, they challenge Habermas's claim that genetic intervention adds something new to intergenerational relationships pointing out that parents have already strong control over their children through education. In this paper (...)
  18. added 2017-02-14
    International Federation of Eugenic Organizations: A Survey of the Zürich Conference.C. B. S. Hodson - 1934 - The Eugenics Review 26 (3):217.
  19. added 2017-02-12
    Visiting Canada.G. K. Chesterton - 1996 - The Chesterton Review 22 (4):441-443.
  20. added 2017-02-11
    On the Inseparability of Gender Eugenics, Ethics, and Public Policy: An Israeli Perspective.Miriam Bentwich - 2013 - American Journal of Bioethics 13 (10):43 - 45.
  21. added 2017-02-11
    A Not-so-New Eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement.Robert Sparrow - 2010 - Asian Bioethics Review 2 (4):288-307.
    John Harris and Julian Savulescu, leading figures in the "new" eugenics, argue that parents are morally obligated to use genetic and other technologies to enhance their children. But the argument they give leads to conclusions even more radical than they acknowledge. Ultimately, the world it would lead to is not all that different from that championed by eugenicists one hundred years ago.
  22. added 2017-02-09
    Human Heredity and Environment.Bernhard J. Stern - 1950 - Science and Society 14 (2):122 - 133.
  23. added 2017-02-08
    Developments in Human Reproduction and Their Eugenic and Ethical Implications.J. A. Loraine - 1985 - Journal of Medical Ethics 11 (3):162-163.
  24. added 2017-01-29
    Genetic Politics: From Eugenics to Genome.Ann Kerr & Tom Shakespeare - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (4):409-418.
  25. added 2017-01-29
    Understanding Heredity.Richard B. Goldschmidt - 1953 - Science and Society 17 (3):279-281.
  26. added 2017-01-29
    Problems in Eugenics: Papers Communicated to the First International Eugenics Congress.T. Whittaker - 1912 - Ethics 23:363.
  27. added 2017-01-27
    Social Eugenics of XIX and XX Centuries in Historical and Philosophical Context.Tomasz Sahaj - 2006 - Archiwum Historii Filozofii I Myśli Społecznej 50.
    The article, is aimed at presenting the main conceptions of eugenics movement and its social consequences. ‘Improvements of societies’ were often executed at the expense of individuals or the whole social groups which were considered inferior species Thousands of people were sterilized or eliminated . That is why the word 'eugenics' arouses negative feelings nowadays. Unexpectedly however, eugenics is again in favour in a completely new social context.
  28. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenics.Robert Sparrow - forthcoming - Hastings Center Report.
  29. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenics.Mary Carrington Coutts & Pat Milmoe McCarrick - 1995 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 5 (2):163-178.
  30. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenic Anxieties, Social Realities, and Political Choices.Diane Paul - 1992 - Social Research 59:663.
  31. added 2017-01-26
    Family Planning and Eugenic Movements in the Mid-Twentieth Century.C. P. Blacker - 1956 - The Eugenics Review 47 (4):225.
  32. added 2017-01-26
    German Eugenic Legislation in Peace and War.F. J. Wittelshoefer - 1942 - The Eugenics Review 34 (3):91.
  33. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenic Measures in the Third Reich.Felix Tietze - 1939 - The Eugenics Review 31 (2):105.
  34. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenic Legislation in Denmark.H. O. Wildenskov - 1935 - The Eugenics Review 26 (4):281.
  35. added 2017-01-26
    A Eugenic Colony Abroad: A Proposal for South America.C. Wicksteed Armstrong - 1933 - The Eugenics Review 25 (2):91.
  36. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenics: Can It Solve the Problem of Decay of Civilizations?R. A. Fisher - 1926 - The Eugenics Review 18 (2):128.
  37. added 2017-01-26
    The Work of the Eugenics Record Office.Charles B. Davenport - 1923 - The Eugenics Review 15 (1):313.
  38. added 2017-01-26
    Eugenic Bearing of Measurements of Intelligence.Robert M. Yerkes - 1923 - The Eugenics Review 14 (4):225.
  39. added 2017-01-26
    A Guiding Principle for Eugenic Reform.C. V. Drysdale - 1922 - The Eugenics Review 14 (2):103.
  40. added 2017-01-26
    Sir Galton Lecture Before the Eugenics Society.Sir Francis Darwin - 1914 - Eugenics Review 6 (1).
  41. added 2017-01-26
    Method of Introducing the Eugenic Ideal Into Schools.J. Arthur Thomson - 1913 - The Eugenics Review 5 (1):47.
  42. added 2017-01-26
    American Methods of Introducing Eugenic Ideas Into Elementary Schools.Macoy Irwen - 1912 - The Eugenics Review 4 (2):141.
  43. added 2017-01-26
    The Necessity for a National Eugenic Survey.James Fowler Tocher - 1910 - The Eugenics Review 2 (2):124.
  44. added 2017-01-25
    Review of Jewish Eugenics, by John Glad. [REVIEW]E. N. Dorff & I. Berger - 2012 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 9 (4):doi - 10.
  45. added 2017-01-25
    Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the 21st Century.Rodney Taylor - 2010 - Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics 14 (2):39.
  46. added 2017-01-25
    Assisted Procreation and its Relationship to Genetics and Eugenics.Mariella Ricci - 2009 - Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics 15 (1):9-29.
  47. added 2017-01-25
    Eugenics Concept: From Plato to Present.C. H. Güvercin & B. Arda - 2008 - Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics 14 (2):20.
  48. added 2017-01-25
    Liberal Eugenics.Nicholas Agar - 1998 - Public Affairs Quarterly 12 (2):137-155.
  49. added 2017-01-24
    Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater: A Critique of Sparrow's Inclusive Definition of the Term 'in Vitro Eugenics'.M. Fujita, Y. Yashiro & M. Suzuki - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (11):735-736.
    Sparrow highlights three potential applications of in vitro eugenics, that is, (a) research into the heredity of genetic disorders, (b) production of cell lines with specific genotypes, and (c) breeding better babies, and points to the need for researchers to discuss in advance the potential ethical problems that may emerge if the realization of this technology occurs in the near future. In this commentary, we pose a question for the sake of discussion. Is it, in fact, appropriate to label all (...)
  50. added 2017-01-24
    Human in Vitro Eugenics: Close, yet Far Away.F. G. da Fonseca, D. M. Ribeiro, N. P. Carvalho & B. Stancioli - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (11):738-739.
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