According to the biological definition of death, a human body that has not lost the capacity to holistically organize itself is the body of a living human individual. Reasonable doubt against the conclusion that it has lost the capacity exists when the body appears to express it and no evidence to the contrary is sufficient to rule out reasonable doubt against the conclusion that the apparent expression is a true expression. This essay argues that the evidence and arguments against the (...) conclusion that the signs of complex bodily integration exhibited in ventilated brain dead bodies are true expressions of somatic integration are unpersuasive; that is, they are not adequate to exclude reasonable doubt against the conclusion that BD bodies are dead. Since we should not treat as corpses what for all we know might be living human beings, it follows that we have an obligation to treat BD individuals as if they were living human beings. (shrink)
This essay concerns what people should do in conflict situations when a doubt of fact bears on settling whether an alternative under consideration is legitimate or not. Its principal audience are those who believe that abortion can be legitimate when not having an abortion gives rise to serious harms that can be avoided by having one, but who are concerned that fetuses might feel pain when being aborted, and who believe that causing unnecessary pain should be avoided when doing so (...) would not pose an undue burden. The essay remains neutral on the substantive questions of the moral status of the unborn and the morality of abortion. The question of fetal pain has taken center stage in the last few years in the .. (shrink)
Critics sometimes claim that Catholic moral principles unreasonably oblige patients to adopt life-preserving medical treatments “at all costs,” even when the treatments are excessively burdensome or futile and when their adoption may badly disadvantage patients’ family members or caregivers. The author argues that this is a mischaracterization. Because of obligations arising from our relationships, not only is it sometimes licit to refuse lifesustaining medical care, but we sometimes have a duty to refuse it. This is the case when the treatments (...) are morally extraordinary and when adopting them would unfairly disadvantage someone for whom we have responsibility. The author argues that this conclusion is not inconsistent with the duty we have to properly care for our own lives or with moral principles prohibiting self-killing. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12.4 : 621–630. (shrink)
This essay has two purposes. The first is to argue that our moral duties towards human embryos should be assessed in light of the Golden Rule by asking the normative question, “how would I want to be treated if I were an embryo?” Some reject the proposition “I was an embryo” on the basis that embryos should not be recognized as persons. This essay replies to five common arguments denying the personhood of human embryos: (1) that early human embryos lack (...) ontological individuation; (2) that they are members of the species Homo sapiens but not yet human persons; (3) that the argument for personhood commits the “heap argument” fallacy; (4) that since human procreation in nature is inefficient, human embryos cannot be persons; and (5) the “burning building” scenario proves that all arguments for personhood are irrational or inconsistent. The second purpose is to set forth and criticize in light of the normative judgement defended in part one the present legal situation of cryo-preserved embryos in the U.S. The essay ends by proposing legislative reforms to protect ex utero human embryos. (shrink)
Fifty years of debate have strengthened Germain Grisez’s 1965 interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas’s famous article on the natural law in Summa theologiae I-II.94.2. Revisiting Grisez’s argument in light of these developments reveals that his “gerundive interpretation” of the first principle of practical reason is not only Thomistic, but essentially Aquinas’s interpretation.
Why is the Catholic Church against the death penalty? This second edition of Brugger’s classic work _Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition_ traces the doctrinal path the Church has taken over the centuries to its present position as the world’s largest and most outspoken opponent of capital punishment. The pontificate of John Paul II marked a watershed in Catholic thinking. The pope taught that the death penalty is and can only be rightly assessed as a form of self-defense. But (...) what does this mean? What are its implications for the Church’s traditional retribution-based model of lethal punishment? How does it square with what the Church has historically taught? Brugger argues that the implications of this historic turn have yet to be fully understood. In his new preface, Brugger examines the contribution of the great Polish pope’s closest collaborator and successor in the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, to Catholic thinking on the death penalty. He argues that Pope Benedict maintained the doctrinal status quo of his predecessor’s teaching on capital punishment as self-defense, with detectable points of reluctance to draw attention to nontraditional implications of that teaching. (shrink)
The reticence of scholars of ethics to enter into fundamental moral reasoning is well known. William Casebeer’s ambitious new book, Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition, which is the publication of his 2001 University of California, San Diego, Ph.D. dissertation, stands in stark contrast. Casebeer, who teaches philosophy at the U.S. Air Force Academy, has undertaken the project of developing a comprehensive moral theory derived from what he terms “methodological naturalism.” Methodological naturalism, he explains, is a system of (...) moral reasoning derived exclusively from the empirically verifiable claims of science. His ethic starts with the materialist premise that all reality is reducible to matter and energy; since matter and energy are sufficiently explainable in terms of facts derived from the scientific method; morality too, as real—he is undeniably a moral realist—must be sufficiently explained in terms of such facts. With particular attention given to the cognitive sciences and evolutionary biology, Casebeer’s naturalism boldly asserts that ethics is reducible to science, moral norms to empirical facts, and practical judgments to theoretical propositions. This of course implicates the author in what critics refer to as the “naturalistic fallacy,” that is, the illicit inference from facts to norms. Aware of this, Casebeer attempts to show that such an inference is not only not illicit but itself the substance of fundamental moral reasoning. Unfortunately his refutation of the naturalistic fallacy is selective. He reduces the entire complex discussion to a distinction between analytic and synthetic statements, then successfully throws into doubt the existence of such a distinction and judges himself done with the whole question. Using David Hume and G. E. Moore as his principal foils, his refutation entirely ignores the most enduring and plausible argument against deriving “ought” from “is,” proposed by the great medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas and his contemporary expositor, the Oxford philosopher John Finnis. (shrink)
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the prefecture of Joseph Ratzinger, published its instruction Donum vitae in 1987 to provide moral guidance on bioethical issues. Since 1987, many new ethical issues have arisen, especially in the areas of regenerative medicine and assisted reproduction. To address these the CDF, under the prefecture of William Levada, published the bioethical instruction Dignitas personae inDecember 2008. The present symposium includes reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of the new document by six (...) moral theologians noted for theirwork in bioethics: Christian Brugger, John Finnis, Luke Gormally, Christopher Kaczor, William E. May, and Peter F. Ryan, S.J. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9.3 : 461–483. (shrink)
Dignitas personae teaches that before research into certain alternative techniques for deriving human pluripotent stem cells can be licit, it is necessary to have moral certitude that no human embryo is brought into existence by those techniques. This article evaluates three such techniques—human parthenogenesis, ANT-OAR, and direct cellular reprogramming—and asks whether at present such moral certitude is achievable. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 10.1 : 123–142.