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.
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)
There is a popular and widely accepted version of the precautionary principle which may be expressed thus: “If you are in a hole—stop digging!”. Tom Baldwin, as Deputy Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority , may be excused for rushing to the defence of the indefensible,1 the HFEA’s sex selection report,2 but not surely for recklessly abandoning so prudent a principle. Baldwin has many complaints about my misrepresenting the HFEA and about my supposed elitist contempt for public opinion; (...) readers of this exchange will decide for themselves.REDRAFTING THE REPORTBaldwin begins with a piece of wishful thinking:"Harris objects that in this recommendation “an absurdly high standard of caution is employed”, since a theoretical risk is associated with almost all medical procedures. This objection is misplaced: as paragraph 142 of the report indicates, the phrase “theoretical risk” is to be understood here in the light of the earlier discussion of the risks arising from the fact that flow cytometry exposes sperm to laser energy, a procedure which is known to be liable to damage DNA."Paragraph 142 does not make that clear. It does indeed refer back to a set of earlier paragraphs but these give, if anything, an upbeat assessment of the safety of flow cytometry. Paragraph 121 states: “However whilst potentially less intrusive, and with potentially lower risk to the health of patients, flow cytometry …” .2 But even if the overall burden of the report does indicate unresolved fears, the standard is still absurdly high. However, so far from endorsing the report’s judgement that flow cytometry has “potentially lower risk to the health of patients”, Baldwin now regards the risk of flow cytometry as “serious”1:"Since the application of flow cytometry to humans is a new procedure, the risk of … ". (shrink)
Michael Rawlins and Andrew Dillon start their defence of Nice in fine polemical style, unfortunately polemics is all they have to offer. They totally fail to justify the Nice proposals on dementia treatments nor do they make any more plausible than formerly their use of the notorious QALY. They say:"Harris’s recent editorial, It’s not NICE to discriminate, is long on both polemic and invective – but short on scholarship. He offers nothing to illuminate the debate about allocating healthcare in (...) circumstances of finite resources; he has no understanding of the quality adjusted life year and its use in health economic evaluation; and he makes ill-researched, unsubstantiated and offensive charges against the Institute and its advisory bodies."Accusations are easy to make, difficult to substantiate. There are a number of claims here, only one of which is true. It is true that my editorial was robust, polemical if you like, but editorials are not the same as research papers and these are important issues which deeply affect real lives. Although Rawlins and Dillon affect to take the high ground their own article contains even more vigorous and much more personal invective than my editorial, I make no complaints. But as to the rest of what they say, well, let’s just see!They claim I offer nothing to illuminate resource allocation and that I have no understanding of the QALY. Both of these claims may well be true, but nothing they say goes any way to support these claims or even towards making them plausible. I have studied and written about the QALY for almost 20 years1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 and Rawlins and Dillon show no evidence of any awareness or indeed any understanding of the issues, whether …. (shrink)
Correspondence to: John Harris The Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, Institute of Medicine Law and Bioethics, School of Law, University of Manchester, Williamson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 0JH, UK; email@example.comClaxton and Culyer1 have written an interesting and considered response, as people intimately connected to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence , to the two editorials that I wrote on recent NICE decisions. Before commenting on their response, I would like to consider a point they (...) made, which echoes a point already made by Rawlins and Dillon,2 about the tone of my editorials. Claxton and Culyer accuse me of making “personally abusive charges”. In my original editorial, I criticised an institution, NICE, in robust terms, but in doing so I was continuing a long and respected tradition in English philosophy. Consider the following extract from Jeremy Bentham:" In English law, fiction is a syphilis, which runs in every vein, and carries into every part of the system the principle of rottenness...Fiction of use to justice? Exactly as swindling is to trade...It affords presumptive and conclusive evidence of moral turpitude in those by whom it was invented and first employed.3"My remarks were not an ad hominem criticism of anyone but directed at the published, but anonymous statements of an institution—a body corporate. In robustly criticising NICE, I no more attacked any individual associated with NICE than I attacked Tony Blair or the various ministers of state who are ultimately responsible for NICE. And, contra Claxton and Culyer’s claims, I have not denigrated the views of people who beg to differ from me.i If the apologists for NICE, whether they are Tony Culyer or Tony Blair, choose to identify themselves with criticism of NICE, that is entirely a matter for them. The only ad hominem remarks in this entire exchange have been made by Rawlins and Dillon, and Claxton and Culyer. The idea that criticism of the anonymously authored publications of …. (shrink)
Editor-in-Chief John Harris discusses the four events that remind us of the concerns about what happens before birth and after death.Four recent events have reminded us that many people are concerned about what happens before birth and after death, even if what happens before birth happens to those who will never be born and even if the near death happenings occur after death and to those who cannot care about them. The recent events involve a decision of the European (...) Court of Human Rights, a decision of the UK Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority , a proposal before the UK Parliament and a book by the most famous living German philosopher.On 8th July 2004 The European Court of Human Rights in Vo v France1 confirmed the view that the scope of legal principles protecting human individuals does not normally extend to the unborn and that in the words of the court “the unborn child is not regarded as a “person” …. (shrink)