Erik Malmqvist
University of Gothenburg
This study is a contribution to the bioethical debate about new and possibly emerging reproductive technologies. Its point of departure is the intuition, which many people seem to share, that using such technologies to select non-disease traits – like sex and emotional stability - in yet unborn children is morally problematic, at least more so than using the technologies to avoid giving birth to children with severe genetic diseases, or attempting to shape the non-disease traits of already existing children by environmental means, like education. The study employs philosophical analysis for the purpose of making this intuition intelligible and judging whether it is justified. Different ways in which the moral problems posed by reproductive technologies are often framed in bioethical debates are criticised as inadequate for this task. In particular, it is argued that the intuition cannot fully be made sense of in terms of harm to the children that such technologies help create. The study attempts to elaborate an alternative to that broadly consequentialist approach, by drawing on Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, Hans Jonas’s ethics, and Aristotle’s practical philosophy, as it has been received and developed in the hermeneutical tradition. It is suggested that reproductive choices, unlike decisions for already born children, are characterised by a peculiar one-sidedness: the future child appears to the parents as something wholly theirs to decide about, not as a concrete other with whom they must interact in a responsive and attuned way. This is problematic because it means that such choices cannot call upon the particularised moral understanding only gained in interpersonal encounters. In particular, it makes them easily shaped by various tendencies, to which parents are always susceptible, to relate to children in instrumentalising ways, and at risk of reinforcing such tendencies. However, this does not mean that all uses of reproductive technologies are equally troubling. When selecting against severe disease the parents can rely on a widely shared illness experience to escape the dangers that one-sidedness involves. It is concluded that the intuition under discussion, thus explicated and in some ways qualified, makes sense morally.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,178
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory.Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 1983 - University of Notre Dame Press.

View all 138 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Purebred Dogs and Canine Wellbeing.Sofia Jeppsson - 2014 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27 (3):417-430.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Choosing Disabilities and Enhancements in Children: A Choice Too Far?Timothy F. Murphy - 2009 - Reproductie Biomedicine Online 2009 (18 sup. 1):43-49.
Identity, Harm, and the Ethics of Reproductive Technology.Janet Malek - 2006 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 31 (1):83 – 95.
The Best Possible Child.M. Parker - 2007 - Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (5):279-283.
When Choosing the Traits of Children is Hurtful to Others.Timothy Murphy - 2011 - Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (2):105-108.
The Wisdom of Caution: Genetic Enhancement and Future Children.Jason Borenstein - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (4):517-530.
Choosing Future People: Reproductive Technologies and Identity.Mark Greene - 2009 - In Vardit Ravitsky, Autumn Fiester & Arthur L. Caplan (eds.), The Penn Center Guide to Bioethics. Springer Publishing Company. pp. 307-317.
On Being Genetically "Irresponsible".Judith Andre, Leonard M. Fleck & Thomas Tomlinson - 2000 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 10 (2):129-146.


Added to PP index

Total views
28 ( #393,169 of 2,455,007 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #225,801 of 2,455,007 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes