: The differences between critics and proponents of enhancement technologies are easily overblown. Both sides of this debate share the moral ideal of being "authentic" to oneself. They differ in how they prefer to understand authenticity, but even this difference is not as stark as it sometimes seems.
The ongoing ‘enhancement’ debate pits critics of new self-shaping technologies against enthusiasts. One important thread of that debate concerns medicalization, the process whereby ‘non-medical’ problems become framed as ‘medical’ problems.In this paper I consider the charge of medicalization, which critics often level at new forms of technological self-shaping, and explain how that charge can illuminate – and obfuscate. Then, more briefly, I examine the charge of pharmacological Calvinism, which enthusiasts, in their support of technological self-shaping, often level at critics. And (...) I suggest how that charge, too, can illuminate and obfuscate.Exploring the broad charge of medicalization and the narrower counter charge of pharmacological Calvinism leads me to conclude that, as satisfying as it can be to level one of those charges at our intellectual opponents, and as tempting as it is to lie down and rest with our favorite insight, we need to gather the energy to have a conversation about the difference between good and bad forms of medicalization. Specifically, I suggest that if we consider the ‘medicalization of love,’ we can see why critics of and enthusiasts about technological self-shaping should want (and in some cases have already begun) to distinguish between good and bad forms of such medicalization. (shrink)
In America in the 1960s, ethics was out of fashion. Scientists tended to think it was as wooly and "ideological" as religion, and many philosophers agreed. But advances in the biosciences and biotechnologies made the need for ethical reflection hard to ignore. Ethics needed what today we would call rebranding.The new field devoted to questions arising with advances in the biosciences and biotechnologies would be called "bioethics." As theologian Warren Reich put it when reflecting back on the birth of bioethics (...) in the late 1960s, The field of bioethics started with the word bioethics because the word is so suggestive and so powerful; it suggests a new focus, a new bringing together of disciplines in a new way with... (shrink)
At least since 2003, when the US President’s Council on Bioethics published Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness , there has been heated debate about the ethics of using pharmacology to reduce the intensity of emotions associated with painful memories. That debate has sometimes been conducted in language that obfuscates as much as it illuminates. I argue that the two sides of the debate actually agree that, in general, it is good to reduce the emotional intensity of memories (...) associated with traumatic events, when (as in the case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) the intensity of those memories is dis proportionate to the precipitating traumatic event. Both sides also agree that, in general—not as an ironclad rule—it is bad to reduce the emotional intensity of memories associated with difficult but normal human problems of living, when the intensity of the emotions is proportionate to those problems. Between those two areas of agreement, there is a zone of ambiguity, in which reasonable people, who proceed from different but equally ethical frameworks, may indeed reach different conclusions about the same set of facts. But I will argue that even in the zone of ambiguity, there is more agreement than the language favored by the different frameworks sometimes suggests. Ultimately, I suggest that if we see the extent to which the substantive differences between the two frameworks are smaller than their articulators’ language sometimes suggests, we can engage in a more productive conversation about whether a particular intervention will facilitate or diminish human flourishing. (shrink)
I work at a research institute where the staff spends its time thinking about ethical issues that arise with progress in medicine, the life sciences, and technology. After such thinking, we make public policy recommendations. We pride ourselves in the diversity of our staff: there is a doctor, a lawyer, a linguistic anthropologist, a political scientist, a theologian, some philosophers, and so on. Both men and women do research and we are religiously diverse: Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and atheists.
It is hardly news to readers of this collection that in bioethics there has been a long-standing debate between people who can seem to be arguing "for" disability and people who can seem to be arguing "against" it. Those who have argued for have often been disability scholars and those who have argued against have often been philosophers of a utilitarian bent. At least since the mid 2000s, some disability scholars and some philosophers of a utilitarian bent have sought to (...) move beyond that debate, but achieving that aim is harder than it sounds. In this essay, I want to take two... (shrink)
Four years ago The Hastings Center initiated a That project gave the Center staff a chance to explore one swath of the theoretical literature concerning how members of democratic regimes ought to think about and respond to the differences among themselves. Much of that literature, produced by philosophers like Charles Taylor, Martha Nussbaum, and John Kekes, is wonderfully articulate about difference in general. But it is nearly silent about how particular categories of difference actually make a difference in the lives (...) of particular individuals negotiating particular institutions. (shrink)