The growth of self-tracking and personal surveillance has given rise to the Quantified Self movement. Members of this movement seek to enhance their personal well-being, productivity, and self-actualization through the tracking and gamification of personal data. The technologies that make this possible can also track and gamify aspects of our interpersonal, romantic relationships. Several authors have begun to challenge the ethical and normative implications of this development. In this article, we build upon this work to provide a detailed ethical analysis (...) of the Quantified Relationship. We identify eight core objections to the QR and subject them to critical scrutiny. We argue that although critics raise legitimate concerns, there are ways in which tracking technologies can be used to support and facilitate good relationships. We thus adopt a stance of cautious openness toward this technology and advocate the development of a research agenda for the positive use of QR technologies. (shrink)
?Love hurts??as the saying goes?and a certain amount of pain and difficulty in intimate relationships is unavoidable. Sometimes it may even be beneficial, since adversity can lead to personal growth, self-discovery, and a range of other components of a life well-lived. But other times, love can be downright dangerous. It may bind a spouse to her domestic abuser, draw an unscrupulous adult toward sexual involvement with a child, put someone under the insidious spell of a cult leader, and even inspire (...) jealousy-fueled homicide. How might these perilous devotions be diminished? The ancients thought that treatments such as phlebotomy, exercise, or bloodletting could ?cure? an individual of love. But modern neuroscience and emerging developments in psychopharmacology open up a range of possible interventions that might actually work. These developments raise profound moral questions about the potential uses?and misuses?of such anti-love biotechnology. In this article, we describe a number of prospective love-diminishing interventions, and offer a preliminary ethical framework for dealing with them responsibly should they arise. (shrink)
Pharmaceuticals or other emerging technologies could be used to enhance (or diminish) feelings of lust, attraction, and attachment in adult romantic partnerships. While such interventions could conceivably be used to promote individual (and couple) well-being, their widespread development and/or adoption might lead to “medicalization” of human love and heartache—for some, a source of serious concern. In this essay, we argue that the “medicalization of love” need not necessarily be problematic, on balance, but could plausibly be expected to have either good (...) or bad consequences depending upon how it unfolds. By anticipating some of the specific ways in which these technologies could yield unwanted outcomes, bioethicists and others can help direct the course of love’s “medicalization”—should it happen to occur—more toward the “good” side than the “bad.”. (shrink)
In September 2015 a well-publicised Campaign Against Sex Robots (CASR) was launched. Modelled on the longer-standing Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the CASR opposes the development of sex robots on the grounds that the technology is being developed with a particular model of female-male relations (the prostitute-john model) in mind, and that this will prove harmful in various ways. In this chapter, we consider carefully the merits of campaigning against such a technology. We make three main arguments. First, we argue (...) that the particular claims advanced by the CASR are unpersuasive, partly due to a lack of clarity about the campaign’s aims and partly due to substantive defects in the main ethical objections put forward by campaign’s founder(s). Second, broadening our inquiry beyond the arguments proferred by the campaign itself, we argue that it would be very difficult to endorse a general campaign against sex robots unless one embraced a highly conservative attitude towards the ethics of sex, which is likely to be unpalatable to those who are active in the campaign. In making this argument we draw upon lessons from the campaign against killer robots. Finally, we conclude by suggesting that although a generalised campaign against sex robots is unwarranted, there are legitimate concerns that one can raise about the development of sex robots. (shrink)
Responding to recent concerns about the reliability of the published literature in psychology and other disciplines, we formed the X-Phi Replicability Project to estimate the reproducibility of experimental philosophy. Drawing on a representative sample of 40 x-phi studies published between 2003 and 2015, we enlisted 20 research teams across 8 countries to conduct a high-quality replication of each study in order to compare the results to the original published findings. We found that x-phi studies – as represented in our sample (...) – successfully replicated about 70% of the time. We discuss possible reasons for this relatively high replication rate in the field of experimental philosophy and offer suggestions for best research practices going forward. (shrink)
We argue that the fragility of contemporary marriages—and the corresponding high rates of divorce—can be explained (in large part) by a three-part mismatch: between our relationship values, our evolved psychobiological natures, and our modern social, physical, and technological environment. “Love drugs” could help address this mismatch by boosting our psychobiologies while keeping our values and our environment intact. While individual couples should be free to use pharmacological interventions to sustain and improve their romantic connection, we suggest that they may have (...) an obligation to do so as well, in certain cases. Specifically, we argue that couples with offspring may have a special responsibility to enhance their relationships for the sake of their children. We outline an evolutionarily informed research program for identifying promising biomedical enhancements of love and commitment. (shrink)
Recent research has relied on trolley-type sacrificial moral dilemmas to study utilitarian versus nonutili- tarian modes of moral decision-making. This research has generated important insights into people’s attitudes toward instrumental harm—that is, the sacrifice of an individual to save a greater number. But this approach also has serious limitations. Most notably, it ignores the positive, altruistic core of utilitarianism, which is characterized by impartial concern for the well-being of everyone, whether near or far. Here, we develop, refine, and validate a (...) new scale—the Oxford Utilitarianism Scale—to dissociate individual differences in the ‘negative’ (permissive attitude toward instrumental harm) and ‘positive’ (impartial concern for the greater good) dimensions of utilitarian thinking as manifested in the general population. We show that these are two independent dimensions of proto-utilitarian tendencies in the lay population, each exhibiting a distinct psychological profile. Empathic concern, identification with the whole of humanity, and concern for future generations were positively associated with impartial beneficence but negatively associated with instrumental harm; and although instrumental harm was associated with subclinical psychopathy, impartial beneficence was associated with higher religiosity. Importantly, although these two dimensions were independent in the lay population, they were closely associated in a sample of moral philosophers. Acknowledging this dissociation between the instrumental harm and impartial beneficence components of utilitarian thinking in ordinary people can clarify existing debates about the nature of moral psychology and its relation to moral philosophy as well as generate fruitful avenues for further research. (shrink)
The enhancement debate in neuroscience and biomedical ethics tends to focus on the augmentation of certain capacities or functions: memory, learning, attention, and the like. Typically, the point of contention is whether these augmentative enhancements should be considered permissible for individuals with no particular “medical” disadvantage along any of the dimensions of interest. Less frequently addressed in the literature, however, is the fact that sometimes the _diminishment_ of a capacity or function, under the right set of circumstances, could plausibly contribute (...) to an individual's overall well-being: more is not always better, and sometimes less is more. Such cases may be especially likely, we suggest, when trade-offs in our modern environment have shifted since the environment of evolutionary adaptation. In this article, we introduce the notion of “diminishment as enhancement” and go on to defend a _welfarist_ conception of enhancement. We show how this conception resolves a number of definitional ambiguities in the enhancement literature, and we suggest that it can provide a useful framework for thinking about the use of emerging neurotechnologies to promote human flourishing. (shrink)
By nature we are all addicted to love... meaning we want it, seek it and have a hard time not thinking about it. We need attachment to survive and we instinctively seek connection, especially romantic connection. [But] there is nothing dysfunctional about wanting love.Throughout the ages, love has been rendered as an excruciating passion. Ovid was the first to proclaim: “I can’t live with or without you”—a locution made famous to modern ears by the Irish band U2. Contemporary film expresses (...) a similar sentiment: as Jake Gyllenhaal’s character famously says in Brokeback Mountain, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” And everyday speech, too, is rife with such expressions as “I need you” and “I’m addicted to you.”... (shrink)
What are the effects of circumcision on sexual function and experience? And what does sex—in the sense related to gender—have to do with the ethics of circumcision? Jacobs and Arora (2015) give short shrift to the first of these questions; and they do not seem to have considered the second. In this commentary, I explore the relationship between sex (in both senses) and infant male circumcision, and draw some conclusions about the ongoing debate regarding this controversial practice.
is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brain states, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate the dangers of this popular neuro-fallacy, by looking at an example drawn from the media: a story about in women. We discuss the role of folk dualism in perpetuating such a confusion, and draw some conclusions about the role of in our understanding of romantic love.
"Neuroreductionism" is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brain states, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate the dangers of this popular neuro-fallacy, by looking at an example drawn from the media: a story about "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" in women. We discuss the role of folk dualism in perpetuating such a confusion, and draw some conclusions about the role of "brain scans" in our understanding of romantic love.
In English, as in many other languages, male-gendered pronouns are sometimes used to refer not only to men, but to individuals whose gender is unknown or unspecified, to human beings in general (as in ―mankind‖) and sometimes even to females (as when the casual ―Hey guys‖ is spoken to a group of women). These so-called he/man or masculine generics have come under fire in recent decades for being sexist, even archaic, and positively harmful to women and girls; and advocates of (...) gender-neutral (or nonsexist) language have put forward serious efforts to discourage their use. Have they been successful, and to what extent? In this paper, I review some of the main arguments in favor of abolishing sexist male generics. I then present three studies tracking the use of he/man terminology in academic, popular, and personal discourse over the past several decades. I show that the use of these terms has fallen dramatically in recent years, while nonsexist alternatives have gradually taken their place. We may be paying witness to the early stages of the ultimate extinction of masculine generics. (shrink)
INTRODUCTIONIs the non-therapeutic circumcision of infant males morally permissible? The most recent major development in this long-simmering debate was the 2012 release of a policy statement and technical report on circumcision by the American Academy of Pediatrics . In these documents, the US paediatricians’ organisation claimed that the potential health benefits of infant circumcision now outweigh the risks and costs. They went on to suggest that their analysis could be taken to justify the decision of parents to choose circumcision for (...) their incompetent children.1Circumcision and ‘health benefits’The AAP's pronouncement unleashed a firestorm of commentary, much of it censorious. In this issue, human rights attorney J Steven Svoboda and Professor of Clinical Paediatrics Robert Van Howe take the AAP to taski for committing numerous significant errors, both in their analysis of relevant evidence and in basic medical-ethical reasoning.3 In addition, an independent international panel—composed of 38 leading paediatricians, paediatric surgeons, urologists, medical ethicists and heads of hospital boards and children's health societies—has likewise condemned the findings of the AAP. Writing in the journal Pediatrics, these authors state: "Only one of the arguments put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics has some theoretical relevance in relation to infant male circumcision; namely, the possible protection against urinary tract infections in infant boys, which can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss. The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves.4"My own analysis of the AAP documents—and of ‘health benefits’ defences of circumcision generally—can be found elsewhere.5 Let me turn my attention in this editorial, then, to …. (shrink)
“Female Genital Mutilation” or FGM—the terminology is extremely contentious1—is sometimes held up as a counterexample to moral relativism.2 Those who advance this line of thought suggest that such mutilation is so harmful in terms of its physical and emotional consequences, as well as so problematic in terms of its sexist or oppressive implications, that it provides sufficient, rational grounds for the assertion of a universal moral claim—namely, that all forms of FGM are wrong, regardless of the cultural context. Prominent philosophers (...) who have argued for this position, or one reasonably close to it, include Martha... (shrink)
Over the past few years, we and our colleagues have been exploring the ethical implications of what we call “love drugs” and “anti-love drugs.” We use these terms informally to refer to “current, near-future, and more speculative distant-future technologies that would enhance or diminish, respectively, the romantic bond between couples engaged in a relationship”. In a recent “qualified defense” of our work, Andrew Andrew McGee suggests that, if we would only stop using the word “love” so expansively, our ethical proposals (...) might gain more traction. Specifically, he argues that “many of the putative instances of love” that we discuss in our papers “are not in fact... (shrink)
In 2012, the politician Todd Akin caused a firestorm by suggesting, in the context of an argument about the moral permissibility of abortion, that some forms of rape were. This seemed to imply that other forms of rape must not be legitimate. In response, several commentators pointed out that rape is a and that there are. While the intention of these commentators was clear, I argue that they may have played into the very stereotype of rape endorsed by Akin. Such (...) a response, I claim, actually obscures a range of sexual harms, including some that may not rise to the level of being a crime. I also offer some thoughts on the moral psychology behind anti-abortion arguments of the kind advanced by Akin. (shrink)
We thank Carrie Jenkins and Neil Levy for their thoughtful comments on our article about love and addiction. Although we do not have room for a comprehensive reply, we will touch on a few main issues.Jenkins points out, correctly in our view, that the word ‘addiction’ can trigger “connotations of reduced autonomy.” It may therefore be used, she argues, to “excuse” violent or otherwise harmful behaviors—disproportionately carried out by men—within the context of romantic relationships. Debates about love addiction, therefore, “are (...) best addressed with an eye to the more general issue of how we as a society apportion responsibility for things like date rape and intimate partner violence” (Jenkins... (shrink)
In 2012, a German court ruled that religious circumcision of male minors constitutes criminal bodily assault. Muslim and Jewish groups responded with outrage, with some commentators pegging the ruling to Islamophobic and anti-Semitic motivations. In doing so, these commentators failed to engage with any of the legal and ethical arguments actually given by the court in its landmark decision. In this brief commentary, I argue that a firm distinction must be drawn between criticisms of religious practices that stem from irrational (...) prejudice and bigoted attitudes and those that are grounded in sound moral reasoning. Given that ritual circumcision is a pre-Enlightenment custom that elevates the inclinations of the community over the rights of the individual, it is hardly surprising that a growing number of post-Enlightenment philosophers and legal scholars are taking an ethical stand against it. As the “circumcision debate” continues, parties on all sides of the issue must remember to reason through the relevant considerations with care and respect. (shrink)
Male circumcision—partial or total removal of the penile prepuce—has been proposed as a public health measure in Sub-Saharan Africa, based on the results of three randomized control trials showing a relative risk reduction of approximately 60 per cent for voluntary, adult male circumcision against female-to-male human immunodeficiency virus transmission in that context. More recently, long-time advocates of infant male circumcision have argued that these findings justify involuntary circumcision of babies and children in dissimilar public health environments, such as the USA, (...) Australasia and Europe. In this article, we take a close look at the necessary ethical and empirical steps that would be needed to bridge the gap between the African RCTs and responsible public health policy in developed countries. In the course of doing so, we discuss some of the main disagreements about the moral permissibility of performing a nontherapeutic surgery on a child to benefit potential future sexual partners of his. In this context, we raise concerns not only about weaknesses in the available evidence concerning such claims of benefit, but also about a child’s moral interest in future autonomy and the preservation of his bodily integrity. We conclude that circumcision of minors in developed countries on public health grounds is much harder to justify than proponents of the surgery suggest. (shrink)
Sam Harris, in his book The Moral Landscape, argues that Against this view, I argue that while secular moral philosophy can certainly help us to determine our values, science must play a subservient role. To the extent that science can what we ought to do, it is only by providing us with empirical information, which can then be slotted into a chain of deductive reasoning. The premises of such reasoning, however, can in no way be derived from the scientific method: (...) they come, instead, from philosophy – and common sense. (shrink)