Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic. These systems, they argue, can all (...) provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb "put Humpty Dumpty together again" by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional "I.M.," or Ifcha Mistabra -- Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture" -- refining their arguments against I.M.'s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points. (shrink)
'...a challenging and useful book, both because it provokes a careful scrutiny of one's own basic ideas regarding evolutionary theory, and because it cuts across so many biological disciplines.' -The Quarterly Review of Biology 'In my view, this work exemplifies Theoretical Biology at its best...here is rampant speculation that is consistently based on cautious reasoning from the available data. Even more refreshing is the absence of sloganeering, grandstanding, and 'isms'.' -Biology and Philosophy 'Epigenetics is fundamental to understanding both development and (...) gene expression, and not surprisingly, evolutionary biologists have long been fascinated with its proper place in evolutionary theory...Enter Jablonka and Lamb, who provide a thoughtful review of the recent molecular literature and suggest a number of potential consequences.' -EvolutionSince first publication of this controversial book, much of the initial opposition to the ideas it contained has been replaced by a general, although often grudging, acceptance of them. Advances in knowledge, especially at the molecular level, have enhanced general awareness and interest in epigenetics and the evolution of systems that store and transmit information and put any of the authors' speculations on a more solid basis. This paperback edition contains a new Preface that sets out the major changes in the scientific world and in the authors' own thinking that have occurred since the book was published. A new Appendix provides a selected bibliography of the many books and articles about epigenetic inheritance and its role in evolution that have appeared since first publication. (shrink)
According to the Bayesian paradigm in the psychology of reasoning, the norms by which everyday human cognition is best evaluated are probabilistic rather than logical in character. Recently, the Bayesian paradigm has been applied to the domain of argumentation, where the fundamental norms are traditionally assumed to be logical. Here, we present a major generalisation of extant Bayesian approaches to argumentation that utilizes a new class of Bayesian learning methods that are better suited to modelling dynamic and conditional inferences than (...) standard Bayesian conditionalization, is able to characterise the special value of logically valid argument schemes in uncertain reasoning contexts, greatly extends the range of inferences and argumentative phenomena that can be adequately described in a Bayesian framework, and undermines some influential theoretical motivations for dual function models of human cognition. We conclude that the probabilistic norms given by the Bayesian approach to rationality are not necessarily at odds with the norms given by classical logic. Rather, the Bayesian theory of argumentation can be seen as justifying and enriching the argumentative norms of classical logic. (shrink)
Does life have meaning? What is flourishing? How do we attain the good life? Philosophers, and many others of us, have explored these questions for centuries. As Eva Feder Kittay points out, however, there is a flaw in the essential premise of these questions: they seem oblivious to the very nature of the ways in which humans live, omitting a world of co-dependency, and of the fact that we live in and through our bodies, whether they are fully abled or (...) disabled. Our dependent, vulnerable, messy, changeable, and embodied experience colors everything about our lives both on the surface and when it comes to deeper concepts, but we tend to leave aside the body for the mind when it comes to philosophical matters. Disability offers a powerful challenge to long-held philosophical views about the nature of the good life, what provides meaning in our lives, and the centrality of reason, as well as questions of justice, dignity, and personhood. These concepts need not be distant and idealized; the answers are right before us, in the way humans interact with one another, care for one another, and need one another--whether they possess full mental capacities or have cognitive limitations. We need to revise our concepts of things like dignity and personhood in light of this important correction, Kittay argues. This is the first of two books in which Kittay will grapple with just how we need to revisit core philosophical ideas in light of disabled people's experience and way of being in the world. Kittay, an award-winning philosopher who is also the mother to a multiply-disabled daughter, interweaves the personal voice with the philosophical as a critical method of philosophical investigation. Here, she addresses why cognitive disability can reorient us to what truly matters, and questions the centrality of normalcy as part of a good life. With profound sensitivity and insight, Kittay examines other difficult topics: How can we look at the ethical questions regarding prenatal testing in light of a new appreciation of the personhood of disabled people? What do new possibilities in genetic testing imply for understanding disability, the family, and bioethics? How can we reconsider the importance of care, and how does it work best? In the process of pursuing these questions, Kittay articulates an ethic of care, which is the ethical theory most useful for claiming full rights for disabled people and providing the opportunities for everyone to live joyful and fulfilling lives. She applies the lessons of care to the controversial alteration of severely cognitively disabled children known as the Ashley Treatment, whereby a child's growth is halted with extensive estrogen treatment and related bodily interventions are justified. This book both imparts lessons that advocate on behalf of those with significant disabilities, and constructs a moral theory grounded on our ability to give, receive, and share care and love. Above all, it aims to adjust social attitudes and misconceptions about life with disability. (shrink)
Although the discussion about feasibility in political theory is still in its infancy, some important progress has been made in the last years to advance our understanding. In this paper, we intend to make a contribution to this growing literature by investigating the proper place of feasibility considerations in political theory. A motivating force behind this study is a suspicion that many presumptions made about feasibility in several current debates—such as that between practice-independence and practice-dependence, ideal and non-ideal theory, and (...) political moralism and political realism—are too rigid and underestimate the numerous different ways in which feasibility concerns may enter into our theorizing. To chisel out this feasibility space, our aim is to suggest two metatheoretical constraints on normative political principles as intuitively plausible, the so-called ‘fitness constraint’ and the ‘functional constraint’, through which we elucidate five central aspects for determining proper feasibility constraints of an account in political theory. (shrink)
An intensified discussion on the role of normative ideals has re-emerged in several debates in political philosophy. What is often referred to as “ideal theory,” represented by liberal egalitarians such as John Rawls, is under attack from those that stress that political philosophy at large should take much more seriously the nonideal circumstances consisting of relations of domination and power under which normative ideals, principles, and ideas are supposed to be applied. While the debate so far has mainly been preoccupied (...) with defending or rejecting ideal theory through a defense or rejection of a specific ideal theory, this paper instead focuses on a number of general philosophical concerns on which the critique relies. More specifically, it brings up for scrutiny, and ultimately rejects, three charges against ideal theory: the charge that ideal theory is not action-guiding, that ideal theory is impossible, and that ideal theory is distorting. By investigatingthese charges in tandem, the paper shows that the criticism against ideal theory is premised on assumptions about the relationships between thought and action and between concepts and the world for which there is little or no support. (shrink)
The principle of indifference states that in the absence of any relevant evidence, a rational agent will distribute their credence equally among all the possible outcomes under consideration. Despite its intuitive plausibility, PI famously falls prey to paradox, and so is widely rejected as a principle of ideal rationality. In this article, I present a novel rehabilitation of PI in terms of the epistemology of comparative confidence judgments. In particular, I consider two natural comparative reformulations of PI and argue that (...) while one of them prescribes the adoption of patently irrational epistemic states, the other provides a consistent formulation of PI that overcomes the most salient limitations of existing formulations. (shrink)
Socially responsible business and ethical behaviour of companies have been of interest to academia and practice for decades. But the focus has almost exclusively been on large corporations while small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) have not received as much attention. Thus, this paper focuses on socially responsible business practices of SME entrepreneurs or owner–managers in Germany. Based on the assumption that decision-makers in SMEs are the central point where all business activities start, members of a German entrepreneurs association were approached (...) in the course of a qualitative and quantitative survey. They were asked to assess in what way their social responsibility is expressed in specific management practices towards selected stakeholder groups. These practices in turn were assumed to result in perceived positive reactions of the respective stakeholders and subsequently to positively influence the firm's financial performance, i.e. cost reductions and increase in profits. In the paper, a research model is presented that elaborates the relationship between an SME executive's social responsibility and the value creation of a firm, i.e. whether (personal) values create (economic) value. It was found that socially responsible management practices towards employees, customers and to a lesser extent society have a positive impact on the firm and its performance. As such, values can create additional value. (shrink)
A key feature of facial behavior is its dynamic quality. However, most previous research has been limited to the use of static images of prototypical expressive patterns. This article explores the role of facial dynamics in the perception of emotions, reviewing relevant empirical evidence demonstrating that dynamic information improves coherence in the identification of affect (particularly for degraded and subtle stimuli), leads to higher emotion judgments (i.e., intensity and arousal), and helps to differentiate between genuine and fake expressions. The findings (...) underline that using static expressions not only poses problems of ecological validity, but also limits our understanding of what facial activity does. Implications for future research on facial activity, particularly for social neuroscience and affective computing, are discussed. (shrink)
In 1809--the year of Charles Darwin's birth--Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published Philosophie zoologique, the first comprehensive and systematic theory of biological evolution. The Lamarckian approach emphasizes the generation of developmental variations; Darwinism stresses selection. Lamarck's ideas were eventually eclipsed by Darwinian concepts, especially after the emergence of the Modern Synthesis in the twentieth century. The different approaches--which can be seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive--have important implications for the kinds of questions biologists ask and for the type of research they conduct. (...) Lamarckism has been evolving--or, in Lamarckian terminology, transforming--since Philosophie zoologique's description of biological processes mediated by "subtle fluids." Essays in this book focus on new developments in biology that make Lamarck's ideas relevant not only to modern empirical and theoretical research but also to problems in the philosophy of biology. Contributors discuss the historical transformations of Lamarckism from the 1820s to the 1940s, and the different understandings of Lamarck and Lamarckism; the Modern Synthesis and its emphasis on Mendelian genetics; theoretical and experimental research on such "Lamarckian" topics as plasticity, soft (epigenetic) inheritance, and individuality; and the importance of a developmental approach to evolution in the philosophy of biology. The book shows the advantages of a "Lamarckian" perspective on evolution. Indeed, the development-oriented approach it presents is becoming central to current evolutionary studies--as can be seen in the burgeoning field of Evo-Devo. Transformations of Lamarckism makes a unique contribution to this research. (shrink)
Proponents of the reasoning view analyze normative reasons as premises of good reasoning and explain the normativity of reasons by appeal to their role as premises of good reasoning. The aim of this paper is to cast doubt on the reasoning view by providing counterexamples to the proposed analysis of reasons, counterexamples in which premises of good reasoning towards φ‐ing are not reasons to φ.
In a previous article, we unpacked the so-called “ethics first premise”—the idea that ethics is “prior” to politics when theorizing political legitimacy— that is denied by political realists. We defended a “justificatory” reading of this premise, according to which political justification is irreducibly moral in the sense that moral values are among the values that ground political legitimacy. We called this the “necessity thesis.” In this paper we respond to two challenges that Robert Jubb and Enzo Rossi raise against our (...) proposal. Their first claim is that our argument for the necessity thesis is question begging, since we assume rather than show that freedom and equality are moral values. The second claim is that Bernard Williams’s Basic Legitimacy Demand demonstrates the possibility of giving political legitimacy a non-moral foundation, since it allows for a distinction to be made between politics and sheer domination. We refute both claims. (shrink)
A growing number of medical professionals claim a right of conscience, a right to refuse to perform any professional duty they deem immoral—and to do so with impunity. We argue that professionals do not have the unqualified right of conscience. At most they have a highly qualified right. We focus on the claims of pharmacists, since they are the professionals most commonly claiming this right.
The semantic concept of information is one of the most important, and one of the most problematical concepts in biology. I suggest a broad definition of biological information: a source becomes an informational input when an interpreting receiver can react to the form of the source (and variations in this form) in a functional manner. The definition accommodates information stemming from environmental cues as well as from evolved signals, and calls for a comparison between information‐transmission in different types of inheritance (...) systems—the genetic, the epigenetic, the behavioral, and the cultural‐symbolic. This comparative perspective highlights the different ways in which information is acquired and transmitted, and the role that such information plays in heredity and evolution. Focusing on the special properties of the transfer of information, which are very different from those associated with the transfer of materials or energy, also helps to uncover interesting evolutionary effects and suggests better explanations for some aspects of the evolution of communication. (shrink)
On 11 September 2019, the verdict was read in the first prosecution of a doctor for euthanasia since the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act of 2002 was installed in the Netherlands. The case concerned euthanasia on the basis of an advance euthanasia directive for a patient with severe dementia. In this paper we describe the review process for euthanasia cases in the Netherlands. Then we describe the case in detail, the judgement of the Regional Review Committees (...) for Termination of Life on Request and Euthanasia and the judgement of the medical disciplinary court. Both the review committees and the disciplinary court came to the conclusion there were concerns with this case, which mainly hinged on the wording of the AED. They also addressed the lack of communication with the patient, the absence of oral confirmation of the wish to die and the fact that the euthanasia was performed without the patient being aware of this. However, the doctor was acquitted by the criminal court as the court found she had in fact met all due care criteria laid down in the act. We then describe what this judgement means for euthanasia in the Netherlands. It clarifies the power and reach of AEDs, it allows taking conversations with physicians and the testimony of the family into account when interpreting the AED. However, as a practical consequence the prosecution of this physician has led to fear among doctors about prosecution after euthanasia. (shrink)
Conscientious objection has spurred impassioned debate in many Western countries. Some Norwegian general practitioners (GPs) refuse to refer for abortion. Little is know about how the GPs carry out their refusals in practice, how they perceive their refusal to fit with their role as professionals, and how refusals impact patients. Empirical data can inform subsequent normative analysis.
The question of what role social and political practices should play in the justification of normative principles has received renewed attention in post-millennium political philosophy. Several current debates express dissatisfaction with the methodology adopted in mainstream political theory, taking the form of a criticism of so-called ‘ideal theory’ from ‘non-ideal’ theory, of ‘practice-independent’ theory from ‘practice-dependent’ theory, and of ‘political moralism’ from ‘political realism’. While the problem of action-guidance lies at the heart of these concerns, the critics also share a (...) number of methodological assumptions. Above all, their methodology is practice-dependent in the sense that an existing practice is assumed to put substantial limitations on the appropriate normative principles for regulating it. In other words, we cannot formulate and justify an appropriate principle without first understanding the practice this principle is supposed to govern. The aim of this paper is to map out and analyze the common denominators of these debates with regard to methodological commitments. We will investigate how this practice-dependent method may be understood and motivated. In particular, we point to challenges that must be met in order for the position to remain both distinct and attractive. (shrink)
This essay is an interpretation of Nietzsche’s enigmatic idea of the Eternal Return of the Same in the context of his life rather than of his philosophy. Nietzsche never explained his ‘abysmal thought’ and referred to it directly only in a few passages of his published writings, but numerous interpretations have been made in secondary literature. None of these, however, has examined the significance of this thought for Nietzsche, the man. The idea belongs to a moment of ecstasy which Nietzsche (...) experienced during the summer of 1881 in Sils-Maria, in the Swiss Alps. Like Dante, in ‘the middle of life’, he walked down the wooded Alpine slope and entered his own Inferno. On the anniversary of long-buried loss and pain, his psyche was temporarily flooded by archetypal imagery. This event is interpreted in the light of Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion, the uncanny, and the oedipal confrontation with the unconscious. From the turbulent and frightful experience, a symbol of transfiguration emerged in the shape of Eternal Return. Its likeness to Mandala, a Jungian archetype of wholeness and the self, is striking. In the years that followed, Nietzsche produced his greatest works that assured him an unassailable place in Western philosophy. And yet, there was something disturbing about this dream-thought, and Nietzsche shuddered at any mention of the thought. Linking it with the head of Medusa in his unpublished notes, he hinted at its petrifying quality. The beguiling beauty of Medusa makes her an ambiguous symbol of exhilaration, as well as terror. Under her captivating gaze, a hero’s journey towards selfhood becomes a journey into the night of madness. (shrink)
In this article I examine the proposition that severe cognitive disability is an impediment to moral personhood. Moral personhood, as I understand it here, is articulated in the work of Jeff McMahan as that which confers a special moral status on a person. I rehearse the metaphysical arguments about the nature of personhood that ground McMahan’s claims regarding the moral status of the “congenitally severely mentally retarded” (CSMR for short). These claims, I argue, rest on the view that only intrinsic (...) psychological capacities are relevant to moral personhood: that is, that relational properties are generally not relevant. In addition, McMahan depends on an argument that species membership is irrelevant for moral consideration and a contention that privileging species membership is equivalent to a virulent nationalism (these will be discussed below). In consequence, the CSMR are excluded from moral personhood and their deaths are less significant as their killing is less wrong than that of persons. To throw doubt on McMahan’s conclusions about the moral status and wrongness of killing the CSMR I question the exclusive use of intrinsic properties in the metaphysics of personhood, the dismissal of the moral importance of species membership, and the example of virulent nationalism as an apt analogy. I also have a lot to say about McMahan’s empirical assumptions about the CSMR. (shrink)
Ethical problems regularly arise during daily care in nursing homes. These include violation of patients' right to autonomy and to be treated with respect. The aim of this study was to investigate how caregivers emphasize daily dialogue and mutual reflection to reach moral alternatives in daily care. The data were collected by participant observation and interviews with seven caregivers in a Norwegian nursing home. A number of ethical problems linked to 10 patients were disclosed. Moral problems were revealed as the (...) caregivers acted in ways that they knew were against patients' interest. We used a theoretical interpretation according to Habermas' discourse ethics on the importance of dialogue when deciding moral courses of action for patients. This theory has four basic requirements: communicative competence, equality, self-determination, and openness about motives. (shrink)
The rediscovery in the mid-1970s of Ludwik Fleck's initially neglected monograph, Entstehung und Entwicklung einer Wissenschaftlichen Tatsache, published in 1935 and translated in 1979 as Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, has resulted in extensive, still ongoing, secondary writings, mainly within the humanities. Fleck has been interpreted as furthering a relativistic conception of science. Nowadays, he is often viewed as an important contributor to contemporary sociology of science and a forerunner to Thomas Kuhn. Fleck's account of the Wassermann reaction, (...) which forms the basis of his epistemology, has been praised as developed by a scientist well acquainted with the field in question. Because of the scarcity of available material on Fleck, however, the question of his sources has remained an unsolved issue. In the present article, an alternative reading is suggested. By focusing on the scientific content of the monograph, mainly neglected in the modern interpretations of Fleck, and on the so far overlooked sources of his writings traced back to their German origin, a better understanding of Fleck's account of the Wassermann reaction can be given. The consequences of this alternative reading for the conception of Fleck's monograph and for the impetus of his mission are discussed. (shrink)
In 2009, Tennie et al. proposed the theory of the Zone of Latent Solutions, defined as the range of behaviors an individual of a species can invent independently, i.e., which it can acquire without any form of social learning. By definition, species limited to their ZLS are unable to innovate and/or transmit behavioral traits outside their ZLS, i.e., they lack traits which go beyond the level of the individual—traits resulting from a gradual cultural evolution over successive transmission events [“cumulative culture”, (...) Boyd and Richerson ]. However, this does not exclude an influence of social learning on the population frequency of these behaviors: social learning can facilitate the acquisition of latent solutions and thus speed up and consolidate their spread within a population. Cultures—defined as behaviors at least influenced by social learning—are therefore still possible. Here, we elaborate on the ZLS account and relate it to the theories of Vygotsky who studied the role of social learning in human culture. We argue that the ZLS is a missing phylogenetic “baseline” of Vygotsky’s Zone of Actual Development. Vygotsky’s neglect of a need for a human “baseline ZAD” may have been due to his interpretation of Köhler’s work on great ape behaviors: Köhler used his observations on individual chimpanzees to draw conclusions about the chimpanzee species as a whole, stating that chimpanzees can only copy what they could have invented themselves, thus coming close to the ZLS concept. Vygotsky—studying the range of behaviors individuals could achieve independently—seemingly did not see that Köhler was suggesting a species “baseline”, upon which Vygotsky’s idea of an individual’s ZAD could develop. As a result, Vygotsky also did not see the need for a ZLS for his own study subjects: humans. Yet, there is no reason to assume that humans lack a ZLS, and in fact we present evidence for a human ZLS for tool-use behaviors. (shrink)
Moral competence is important for soldiers who have to deal with complex moral dilemmas in practice. However, openly dealing with moral dilemmas and showing moral competence is not always easy within the culture of a military organization. In this article, based on analysis of experiences during a train the trainer course on military ethics, we will describe the tensions between military and personal values on the one hand and the challenges related to showing moral competence on the other hand. We (...) will explain these tensions and challenges by elaborating on various aspects of the military organization, such as being a soldier, group bonding, uniformity, hierarchy, lack of privacy and masculinity. Furthermore, we will demonstrate how moral competence can be addressed and fostered during the training by introducing specific interventions. (shrink)
In his target article, Koonin discusses the insights into the evolution of bacterial genomes provided by the CRISPR-Cas system. This evolved defense system is based on intrinsic processes of genome engineering which, as he argues, enable Lamarckian inheritance. In this commentary I discuss some historical and conceptual issues that pertain to Koonin’s analysis of this aspect of the CRISPR-Cas system, extending and qualifying his discussion.
In the modern age, the political secret has acquired a bad reputation. With modern democracy’s ideal of transparency, political secrecy is identified with political crime or corruption. The article argues that this repression of secrecy in modern democracies falls short of a substantial understanding of the structure and workings of political secrecy. By outlining a genealogy of political secrecy, it elucidates the logic as well as the blind spots of a current culture of secrecy. It focuses on two fundamental logics (...) of secrecy, deduced from the Latin terms ‘ arcanum’ and ‘ secretum’. Whereas the logic of arcanum regards secrecy as a legitimate dimension of government, a modern logic of secretum is marked by an inextricable dialectics between the withdrawal and communication of knowledge, between secrecy and publicity. Here, the secret is not so much a piece of withheld knowledge as a ‘secrecy effect’ that binds the realm of secrecy to the public sphere by a dialectics of permanent suspicion and scandal. Instead of falling into the trap of this ‘secrecy effect’ it is worth taking a closer look at the tradition of thought on the arcana imperii, from Tacitus to early modern doctrines of raison d’état to Carl Schmitt. What this tradition deals with is the functionality of secrecy and its complicated relation to the law. The arcana tradition elaborates the crucial point of secrecy: its potential, but also its profound ambivalence. Secrecy opens up a discretionary space of action exempt from the rule of law, and, according to Carl Schmitt, ignores the law so as to allow it to become effective. Secrecy serves to protect and stabilize the state, but at the same time it opens a space of exception from the rule of law that breeds violence, corruption and oppression. Instead of seeing secrecy as the opposite of a political culture of transparency, it is more productive to regard secrecy as transparency's complement – a counterpart, however, that is marked by the profound paradox of being both a consolidation of and a threat to democracy. (shrink)
Empathy as “Feelingly Grasping” Perhaps the central question concerning empathy is if and if so how it combines aspects of thinking and feeling. Indeed, the intellectual tradition of the past centuries has been marked by a dualism. Roughly speaking, there have been two pathways when it comes to understanding each other: 1) thinking or mind reading and 2) feeling or empathy. Nonetheless, one of the ongoing debates in psychology and philosophy concerns the question whether these two abilities, namely, understanding what (...) the other is thinking and “understanding” what the other is feeling, are separate or not. Most of the authors in this volume consider the cognitive and affective dimensions at work within empathy. Each author does this within and beyond their own field. Coming from the humanities, we propose the following definition for empathy: Empathy is a social feeling that consists in feelingly grasping or retracing the present, future, or past emotional state of the other; thus empathy is also called a vicarious emotion. We would like to highlight two aspects of this definition in particular: 1.) the peculiar position of “grasping” which involves a cognitive dimension and 2.) the social dimensions of relating to the emotions of another human being. (shrink)
According to the most important theories of justice, personal dignity is closely related to independence, and the care that people with disabilities receive is seen as a way for them to achieve the greatest possible autonomy. However, human beings are naturally subject to periods of dependency, and people without disabilities are only “temporarily abled.” Instead of seeing assistance as a limitation, we consider it to be a resource at the basis of a vision of society that is able to account (...) for inevitable dependency relationships between “unequals” ensuring a fulfilling life both for the carer and the cared for.**. (shrink)
I explore the ethics of altering the body of a child with severe cognitive disabilities in such a way that keeps the child “forever small.” The parents of Ashley, a girl of six with severe cognitive and developmental disabilities, in collaboration with her physicians and the Hospital Ethics Committee, chose to administer growth hormones that would inhibit her growth. They also decided to remove her uterus and breast buds, assuring that she would not go through the discomfort of menstruation and (...) would not grow breasts. In this way she would stay “forever small” and be able to be carried and handled by family members. They claimed that doing this would ensure that she would be able to be part of the family and of family activities and to have familial care. But the procedure has raised thorny ethical questions. I wish to explore these questions philosophically by bringing to bear my own experiences as a mother of a grown daughter with severe cognitive impairments. (shrink)