Since the 1970s, estrogen have sometimes been used in adolescent girls to reduce very tall adult expected height. Worries about long-term effects have led to a proposal to link treatment data with cancer registers. How should one deal with informed consent for such a study? We designed a qualitative study with semi-structured telephone interviews. From 1200 women who were to be followed-up in cancer registers, we randomly selected 22 women. Major themes were a wish to be involved and a positive (...) attitude to the proposed register research. The women did not express worry after reading the study protocol, but did convey considerable frustration that this research had not been initiated earlier. Active consent was not seen as crucial. We found strong interest in a high participation rate and a concern over missing data. The selection of information and consent or the decision to go ahead without consent in register follow-up is a delicate balancing act. Study participants wish to be contacted, but acknowledge the primary goal of answering important questions. Our study provides support for safeguarding privacy in epidemiological linkage studies and in follow-up of medical treatment without losing the scientific value by requesting for informed consent. (shrink)
Ingmar Persson offers an original view of the processes of human action: deliberating on the basis of reasons for and against actions, making a decision about what to do, and implementing the decision in action in a way that makes the action intentional.
All else being equal, creating a miserable person makes the world worse, and creating an ecstatic person makes it better. Such claims are easily justified if it can be better, or worse, for a person to exist than not to exist. But that seems to require that things can be better, or worse, for a person even in a world in which she does not exist. Ingmar Persson defends this seemingly paradoxical claim in his latest book, Inclusive Ethics. He (...) argues that persons that never exist are merely possible beings for whom non-existence is worse than existence with a good life. We argue that Persson's argument, as stated in his book, has false premises and is invalid. We reconstruct the argument to make it valid, but the premises remain highly problematic. Finally, we argue, one can make sense of our procreative obligations without letting merely possible beings into the moral club. (shrink)
Inclusive Ethics brings together two ideas which are part of our everyday morality, namely that we have a moral reason to benefit or do good to other beings, and that justice requires these benefits to be distributed equally. Ingmar Persson explores the difficulties of accepting a morality which combines both of these principles.
We show that the common claim that internal validity should be understood as prior to external validity has, at least, three epistemologically problematic aspects: experimental artefacts, the implications of causal relations, and how the mechanism is measured. Each aspect demonstrates how important external validity is for the internal validity of the experimental result.
From Morality to the End of Reason is an ambitious book. Ingmar Persson tackles key issues from across the spectrum of ethical theory and beyond: the nature of rights, self-ownership, killing and letting die, the doctrine of double effect, collective action, freedom and moral responsibility, the nature and ground of practical and epistemic reasons. His conclusions on these wide-ranging issues are woven into an overarching view of morality and rationality.
One problematic aspect of the rationality of medical practice concerns the relation between expert knowledge and non-expert knowledge. In medical practice it is important to match medical knowledge with the self-knowledge of the individual patient. This paper tries to study the problem of such matching by describing a model for technological paradigms and comparing it with an ideal of technological rationality. The professionalised experts tend to base their decisions and actions mostly on medical knowledge while the rationality of medicine also (...) involves just as important elements of the personal evaluation and knowledge of the patients. Since both types of knowledge are necessary for rational decisions, the gap between the expert and the non-expert has to be bridged in some way. A solution to the problem is suggested in terms of pluralism, with the patient as ultimate decision-maker. (shrink)
The simple concept of a SIC poses a very deep problem in algebraic number theory, as soon as the dimension of Hilbert space exceeds three. A detailed description of the simplest possible example is given.
The problem of constructing maximal equiangular tight frames or SICs was raised by Zauner in 1998. Four years ago it was realized that the problem is closely connected to a major open problem in number theory. We discuss why such a connection was perhaps to be expected, and give a simplified sketch of some developments that have taken place in the past 4 years. The aim, so far unfulfilled, is to prove existence of SICs in an infinite sequence of dimensions.
Much disease and disability is the result of lifestyle behaviours. For example, the contribution of imprudence in the form of smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and drug and alcohol abuse to ill-health is now well established. More importantly, some of the greatest challenges facing humanity as a whole – climate change, terrorism, global poverty, depletion of resources, abuse of children, overpopulation – are the result of human behaviour. In this chapter, we will explore the possibility of using advances in the (...) cognitive sciences to develop strategies to intentionally manipulate human motivation and behaviour. While our arguments apply also to improving prudential motivation and behaviour in relation to health, we will focus on the more controversial instance: the deliberate targeted use of biomedicine to improve moral motivation and behaviour. We do this because the challenge of improving human morality is arguably the most important issue facing humankind (Persson and Savulescu, forthcoming). We will ask whether using the knowledge from the biological and cognitive sciences to influence motivation and behaviour erodes autonomy and, if so, whether this makes it wrong. (shrink)
This paper clarifies and defends against criticism our argument in _Unfit for the Future_ that there is no moral right to privacy. A right to privacy is conceived as a right that others do not acquire information about us that we reserve for ourselves and selected others. Information acquisition itself is distinguished from the means used to acquire it and the uses to which the information is put. To acquire information is not an action; it is to be caused to (...) be in an internal state. By contrast, means of acquisition and uses of information are actions that can be voluntarily controlled. We can therefore have rights against others that they stay away from certain means and uses but not from information acquisition in itself. An omniscient, omnipotent and omnibeneficient being is not thought to violate a right to privacy because its means and uses of information are morally acceptable. (shrink)
Using the tools of modern political economics and combining economic theory with a bird's-eye view of the data, this book reinterprets Smith's pillars of prosperity to explain the existence of development clusters--places that tend to ...
Semmelweis’s work predates the discovery of the power of randomization in medicine by almost a century. Although Semmelweis would not have consciously used a randomized controlled trial (RCT), some features of his material—the allocation of patients to the first and second clinics—did involve what was in fact a randomization, though this was not realised at the time. This article begins by explaining why Semmelweis’s methodology, nevertheless, did not amount to the use of a RCT. It then shows why it is (...) descriptively and normatively interesting to compare what he did with the modern approach using RCTs. The argumentation centres on causal inferences and the contrast between Semmelweis’s causal concept and that deployed by many advocates of RCTs. It is argued that Semmelweis’s approach has implications for matters of explanation and medical practice. (shrink)
Unfit for the Future argues that the future of our species depends on radical enhancement of the moral aspects of our nature. Population growth and technological advances are threatening to undermine the conditions of worthwhile life on earth forever. We need to modify the biological bases of human motivation to deal with this challenge.
Many philosophers think that if you're morally responsible for a state of affairs, you must be a cause of it. Ingmar Persson argues that this strand of common sense morality is asymmetrical, in that it features the act-omission doctrine, according to which there are stronger reasons against performing some harmful actions than in favour of performing any beneficial actions. He analyses the act-omission doctrine as consisting in a theory of negative rights, according to which there are rights not to (...) have one's life, body, and property interfered with, and a conception of responsibility as being based on causality. This conception of responsibility is also found to be involved in the doctrine of double effect. The outcome of Persson's critical examination of these ideas is that reasons of rights are replaced by reasons of beneficence, and we are made responsible for what is under the influence of our practical reasons. The argument gives rise to a symmetrical, consequentialist morality which is more demanding but less authoritative than common sense morality, because reasons of beneficence are weaker than reasons of rights. It is also argued that there are no non-naturalist external practical reasons, and all practical reasons are desire-dependent: so practical reasons cannot be universally binding. The question is whether such a morality possesses enough authority to command our compliance. This seems necessary in order for us to cope with the greatest moral problems of our time, such as aid to developing countries and anthropogenic climate change. (shrink)
Fred Feldman has argued that consequentialists can answer the well-known by replacing the utilitarian axiology with one that makes the value of receiving pleasures and pains depend on how deserved it is. It is shown that this proposal is open to three interpretations: the Fit-idea, which operates with the degree of fit between what recipients get and what they deserve; the Merit-idea, which operates with the magnitude of the recipients' desert or merit; and the Fit-Merit idea which is a combination (...) of and. It is argued that none of these ideas will do, among other things because they fail to take into account the fact that justice involves inter-personal comparisons. (shrink)