The scientific, ethical, and policy issues raised by research involving the engraftment of human neural stem cells into the brains of nonhuman primates are explored by an interdisciplinary working group in this Policy Forum. The authors consider the possibility that this research might alter the cognitive capacities of recipient great apes and monkeys, with potential significance for their moral status.
Let’s say that an act requires Person-Affecting Justification if and only if some alternative would have been better for someone. So, Lucifer breaking Xavier’s back requires Person-Affecting Justification because the alternative would have been better for Xavier. But the story continues: While Lucifer evades justice, Xavier moves on and founds a school for gifted children. Xavier’s deepest values become identified with the school and its community. When authorities catch Lucifer, he claims no Person-Affecting Justification is needed: because the attack set (...) Xavier on his life’s path, it’s no longer true that the alternative would have been better by the standard of what Xavier now values most. An unappealingly paternalistic way to hold Lucifer to account is to discount Xavier’s preferences as merely adaptive. Instead, I propose understanding the persons of Person-Affecting Justification to be not persons but person stages. This allows us to hold Lucifer to account without having to discount Xavier’s actual preferences, and has interesting implications for compensatory justice, including making sense of reparations for historical wrongs. (shrink)
If stem cell-based therapies are developed, we will likely confront a difficult problem of justice: for biological reasons alone, the new therapies might benefit only a limited range of patients. In fact, they might benefit primarily white Americans, thereby exacerbating long-standing differences in health and health care.
In this paper we challenge the moral consensus against selection for disability. Our discussion will concern only those disabilities that are compatible with a life worth living from the point of view of the disabled individual. We will argue that an influential, impersonal argument against selection for disability falls to a counterexample. We will then show how the reach of the counterexample can be broadened to make trouble for anyone who objects to selection for disability. If we are right about (...) the problems for objections to selection for disability, why are objections are so widespread? We suggest that intuitions are being skewed against selection for disability by certain quirks in the usual ways of presenting the issue. Nevertheless, we must confess to finding our own result surprising. (shrink)
Suppose that Depletion will reduce the well-being of future people. Many of us would like to say that Depletion is wrong because of the harm to future people. However, it can easily be made to seem that Depletion is actually harmless – this is the non-identity problem. I discuss a particularly ingenious attempt by Melinda Roberts to attribute a harm to Depletion. I will argue that the magnitude of Roberts's harm is off target by many orders of magnitude: it is (...) just too tiny to explain the intuitive wrong of Depletion. (shrink)
We report on the deliberations of an interdisciplinary group of experts in science, law, and philosophy who convened to discuss novel ethical and policy challenges in stem cell research. In this report we discuss the ethical and policy implications of safety concerns in the transition from basic laboratory research to clinical applications of cell-based therapies derived from stem cells. Although many features of this transition from lab to clinic are common to other therapies, three aspects of stem cell biology pose (...) unique challenges. First, tension regarding the use of human embryos may complicate the scientific development of safe and effective cell lines. Second, because human stem cells were not developed in the laboratory until 1998, few safety questions relating to human applications have been addressed in animal research. Third, preclinical and clinical testing of biologic agents, particularly those as inherently complex as mammalian cells, present formidable challenges, such as the need to develop suitable standardized assays and the difficulty of selecting appropriate patient populations for early phase trials. We recommend that scientists, policy makers, and the public discuss these issues responsibly, and further, that a national advisory committee to oversee human trials of cell therapies be established. **NB we did not reccommend a NAC, we think it might be appropriate**. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper argues that continua of both genetic and environmental manipulation give rise to cases in which it is indeterminate whether the non-identity problem arises. In clear non-identity cases, impersonal principles can underwrite intuitions of wrongdoing. In clear cases of ordinary personal harm, ordinary ethical thinking about personal compensation augments or supersedes impersonal considerations. Indeterminate cases raise a special problem because it is indeterminate whether personal ethical considerations apply. Might indeterminacy of identity preclude a determinate and ethically justified resolution (...) of personal compensation claims? A way is suggested in which to continue ethically substantive discussion despite indeterminacy. (shrink)
Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself transformed into a gigantic bug. The creature’s inchoate flailing leads Gregor’s sister to conclude that Gregor is no more, having been replaced by a brute beast lacking any vestige of human understanding. Sadly, real cases of brain injury and disease can lead to psychological metamorphoses so profound that we cannot easily think that the survivor is the person we knew. I argue that there can be cases in which statements like, “It’s just not Gregor (...) anymore,” are not merely figures of speech. With this in mind, I consider three possible results of saving a biological life: (1) ordinary cases where saving the life will save the person, with strong duties to save the life; (2) cases where the intervention needed to save the life will replace the person, with strong duties not to save the life; (3) cases in which it is indeterminate whether the person will be saved or replaced. How should we think about indeterminate cases? Impersonal ethical considerations miss the point, while standard person-affecting considerations are inapplicable. I suggest turning attention away from survival towards a richer focus on what I call “personal concern.” I show how considerations of personal concern, unlike those of self-interest, need not be tied to survival and how this allows personal concern to provide a basis for ethically substantive discussion of cases where saving a life might result in losing the patient. (shrink)
How do people manage to refer to chocolate, despite knowing so little about it? Traditional semantic externalism gives a two-part answer, a negative claim that meanings are not determined inside speakers' heads, and a positive claim that meanings are fixed by external factors. This gets the semantics of ‘chocolate’ half right: the negative claim is correct, but the positive claim is not. There is nothing special about ‘chocolate’, and scientifically respectable natural-kind terms also fail to live up to the positive (...) expectations of traditional externalism. However, kind-term indeterminacy is compatible with important advances associated with externalism's de re understanding of kind terms. (shrink)
Stem cell therapies should be available to people of all ethnicities. However, most cells used in the clinic will probably come from lines of cells stored in stem cell banks, which may end up benefiting the majority group most. The solution is to seek additional funding, earmarked for lines that will benefit minorities and offered as a public expression of apology for past discrimination.
I argue that defenders of general duties of species preservation are faced with an impossible task. I distinguish derivative from non-derivative value and argue that the derivative value of species can yield only limited and contingent duties of preservation. There can be no general duty of species preservation unless all species have non-derivative value. Ongoing controversy over the ’species’ notion has not deterred some from claiming settled authority for whatever notion appears most conducive to their favored account of species value. (...) This is a mistake. The actual task is to state biologically plausible criteria for a ’species’ notion and to make the case that these criteria demarcate something of moral value. I argue that the task is made impossible by the same basic biological facts that led Darwin to the view that species are “merely artificial combinations made for convenience.‘. (shrink)
Ethics and Modality calls for a reevaluation of standard views of modality. I argue that, instead of understanding de re modal talk as tracking the modal properties of things in themselves, we must recognize the importance of prior conceptual priorities and interests in shaping our de re modal judgments. A consequence of this reevaluation is that de re modal claims are indeterminate in that there can be disagreement over a claim without either side having made any factual, definitional or logical (...) mistake. According to the standard view, necessities of identity are among the most secure of de re modalities. I show how determinations of whether Hesperus is Phosphorus, or Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde can be disputed without either side falling into error. Disagreements are often ended by identifying a mistake underlying one or other of the opposing views, but indeterminacy undermines the chances for such principled resolution of disagreements concerning de re modal judgments. ;This reevaluation has important practical ramifications. I argue that the notion of loss, which has great ethical and legal significance, relies on a de re modal analysis. De re modal indeterminacy threatens our ability to defend those commonplace ethical and legal judgments that rely on the modally grounded notion of loss. It is possible for disputants to agree on all relevant facts, on the concepts being deployed, on logical principles and even on matters of ethical theory, and yet still, because of modal indeterminacy, find nothing to resolve their disagreement over an alleged loss. This is troubling when we allege that an act has resulted in a loss in order to justify moral condemnation, demands for compensation and the imposition of punishment. I outline some possible responses to these difficulties. Some options preserve a notion of loss, however I do not find these conservative responses promising. I argue that abandoning commonsense ideas about compensation and doing without the notion of loss can preserve what really matters in our everyday ethical and legal thinking. (shrink)
This study juxtaposes an imaginal inquiry into the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with a historical exegesis of the ancient religious movement generally termed Orphism, which came to be associated with it. Inviting unconscious elements into the study of myth and subsequently elaborating a theoretical analysis as well as a creative project---as this study does in the form of a screenplay adaptation---corresponds to Carl Jung's theory of the transcendent function, which states that a new level of being is possible by (...) balancing these two approaches to such material. This study unfolds the myth's latent theology by dreaming it forward in this way. ;The principal thesis---that Orpheus looks back to Eurydice with purpose and an awareness that his gaze will cause her to return to Hades---is itself an example of unconscious material emerging into consciousness. The greater part of this study is devoted to deriving meaning from the twist that this re-imagining implies for the elucidation of myth in general and for the study of this myth in particular. ;A principle question addressed is "What aspects of the latent theology found to exist in this myth can be said to constitute a founder story of Orphism?" In addition, this study proposes the figure of Orpheus as emblematic of the active masculine principle---exalted in his balancing of solar and lunar masculinity---that provides a blueprint for a dualistic cognitive model of archetypal experience. ;This model posits that the dualities found in the myth, and sometimes in life, derive their patterning from the individual's inability to experience the archetype directly. Orpheus' look back exemplifies a breaching of the veil that separates us from the archetype, allowing a momentary interpenetration of the individual's sphere of consciousness with the essence of the archetype. It is thought that integration of unconscious and conscious material follows. Finally, how these insights can be applied to the lives of men and women is addressed in this study's conclusion. (shrink)
This paper uses chronic beryllium disease as a case study to explore some of the challenges for decision-making and some of the problems for obtaining meaningful informed consent when the interpretation of screening results is complicated by their probabilistic nature and is clouded by empirical uncertainty. Although avoidance of further beryllium exposure might seem prudent for any individual whose test results suggest heightened disease risk, we will argue that such a clinical precautionary approach is likely to be a mistake. Instead, (...) advice on the interpretation of screening results must focus not on risk per se, but on avoidable risk, and must be carefully tailored to the individual. These points are of importance for individual decision-making, for informed consent, and for occupational health. (shrink)
Reproductive technologies do not allow us to choose future people, but they do change who will exist. Confusion arises because of the different senses in which ”identity’ is used in ethical debate. I distinguish qualitative, cultural, and numerical identity. Reproductive choices do impact the qualitative features of children in ways that affect wellbeing, both directly and indirectly via cultural identification. I explain how the nonidentity problem makes it difficult to say what, if anything, is wrong with risky reproductive choices, and (...) I outline four strategies or responding to the non-identity problem. (shrink)