Empirical ethics and the duty to extend the “biological warranty period”

Social Philosophy and Policy 30 (1-2):480-503 (2013)
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Abstract

The world's aging populations face novel health challenges never experienced before in human history. The moral landscape thus needs to adapt to reflect this novel empirical reality. In this paper I take for granted one basic moral principle advanced by Peter Singer and explore the implications that empirical considerations from demography, evolutionary biology, and biogerontology have for the way we conceive of fulfilling this principle at the operational level. After bringing to the fore a number of considerations that Singer ignores, such as the probability that nonintervention will result in harm and the likelihood that different kinds of extrinsic and intrinsic harms can be prevented, I argue that the aspiration to extend the human biological warranty period (by retarding the rate of aging) is a pressing moral imperative for the twenty-first century. In the final sections I briefly address some standard objections raised against life extension and conclude that, while there may be some legitimate concerns worth addressing, they are not compelling enough to provide a rational basis for forfeiting the potential health and economic benefits that could be realized by extending the biological warranty period

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Colin Farrelly
Queen's University

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References found in this work

Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Empirical ethics, context-sensitivity, and contextualism.Albert Musschenga - 2005 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 30 (5):467 – 490.
Global Health and the Scientific Research Agenda.James H. Flory & Philip Kitcher - 2004 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (1):36-65.

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