Tag: philosophy

Bioethics Blogs

Mari Mikkola, The Wrongs of Injustice: Dehumanization and its Role in Feminist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2016

Mari Mikkola identifies three primary forms of social injustice—oppression, domination, and discrimination—and asks what makes them wrong. She argues that feminist philosophy has thus far focused heavily on gender as a lens or anchor through which to understand and respond to injustice. In Mikkola’s view, this orientation around gender (and what she terms “the gender controversy”) is limiting feminist philosophers’ theoretical engagement with the roots of injustice. To remedy this problem, she builds a case for moving toward a more broadly humanist conception of injustice. The humanist feminism that she puts forth centers dehumanization as a way to theorize injustice; dehumanization, for Mikkola, is the very foundation of injustice.

Following an introductory chapter that frames Mikkola’s approach and argument, the book is divided into two parts. The first part of the book is dedicated to articulating Mikkola’s argument for moving beyond the “gender controversy” in feminist philosophy. She explains that the perspectives debated in the gender controversy produce two kinds of puzzles: one semantic, the other ontological. The semantic puzzle asks: “Given that ordinary language users tend not to distinguish sex and gender (treating ‘woman’ largely as a sex term, or a mixture of social and biological features), what precisely are feminists talking about when they talk about ‘women’? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions that the concept woman encodes, if any such conditions exist to begin with?” (28). The ontological puzzle, by contrast, is concerned with: “How should we understand the category of women that is meant to undergird feminist political solidarity, if there are no necessary and sufficient conceptual conditions underlying our gender talk?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The moral bioenhancement of psychopaths

Guest Post: Elvio Baccarini and Luca Malatesti

Paper: The Moral Bioenhancement of Psychopaths

We argue that the prescription of mandatory moral bioenhancement (from now on MB) of psychopaths is justified because it satisfies the requirement of public reason as elaborated in political philosophy. This is the requirement that a moral or political prescription should be justifiable to all those persons over whom the prescription purports to have authority.

We maintain that, in this case, a notion of open justification is appropriate to state the requirement of public reason. An open justification of a prescription addressed to an agent is a reasoning grounded on premises that consider the system of reasons (such as beliefs, preferences, etc.) of that agent. Thus, it could be said that this type of justification has an internal dimension, given that it considers reasons that are endorsed by the agent. However, an open justification has also an external dimension. This type of justification does not require that the agent is aware or accepts all its inferential steps. It requires, instead, that she would be aware or accept them by reasoning correctly from her system of reasons. Furthermore, we argue that the mandatory MB is openly justified to psychopaths.

We are aware of the controversies about the MB of psychopaths that stem from empirical and theoretical issues concerning the robustness of the construct of psychopathy and the validity of different diagnostic measure, the specific nature of their differences with non-psychopathic agents and the availability of safe and reliable biomedical treatments.  We think, however, that it is meaningful investigating the moral significance of the application of present or proximate future scientific research on the enhancement of individuals with antisocial conditions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Rape, disability, and gender: A response to McMahan and Singer’s op-ed on the Anna Stubblefield case

Unfortunately, there have been numerous cases of sexual
harassment and sexual assault in academia and particularly in more
male-dominated fields, including my home field of philosophy. In these cases,
professors use their position of prestige and power to sexually harass and
abuse their students. UC Berkeley philosophy professor John
Searle
is just the most recent example. To my knowledge, all of these cases
have involved male professors victimizing female students. The lone exception
is Anna
Stubblefield
, a former professor of philosophy at Rutgers. Here is a
summary of her case from Current Affairs

At issue is the case of Anna
Stubblefield, a Rutgers University philosophy professor convicted of sexually
assaulting her mentally disabled pupil, and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The case is, to say the least, extremely unusual. The student, D.J., was a
severely impaired 30 year old man with cerebal palsy, who had never spoken a
word in his life and communicated through “screams” and “chirps.” Stubblefield
acted as his personal tutor, using a discredited pseudoscientific technique to
elicit what she insisted were complex communications from D.J. Eventually,
based on what she believed D.J. wanted, Stubblefield began engaging in sex acts
with him, having become romantically attracted to him over the course of her
time assisting him.  

Stubblefield’s case is not only different because she is a
woman and her victim is a man, but also because she is one of the few
professors to go through the legal system and be convicted.

There are
many complexities to Stubblefield’s case and I don’t have the space to address
them all here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Sliding down along the slippery slope

Debates on euthanasia, abortion or embryonic stem cell research frequently invoke slippery slope arguments. Here is an example of such reasoning:

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) at the end of life pushes healthcare morality in a dangerous direction. Soon, PAS may be practiced even on people who are not at the end of life and who do not request it. Even if this does not happen, the general population’s trust in healthcare will erode. Therefore, PAS must be forbidden.

Reasoning about the future is important. We need to assess consequences of allowing new practices. However, how do we assess the future in a credible way?

In an article in Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, Gert Helgesson, Niels Lynøe and Niklas Juth argue that many slippery slope arguments are not empirically substantiated, but are based on value-impregnated factual assumptions. Anyone who considers PAS absolutely wrong considers it as a fatal step in a dangerous direction. Therefore, it is assumed that taking such a step will be followed by further steps in the same dangerous direction. If you chose the wrong path, you end up further and further away in the wrong direction. It seems inevitable that a first step is followed by a second step…

The problem is that this prophesying is based on the original moral interpretation. Anyone who is not convinced of the fatality of a “first” step does not have a tendency to see it as a “first step” with an inherent tendency to lead to a “second step” and finally to disaster.

Thinking in terms of the slippery slope can sometimes be experienced as if you yourself were on the slippery slope.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The ethnographic case: series conclusion by Emily Yates-Doerr

Editors note: This entry concludes the series “The Ethnographic Case” which ran every other Monday between June 2015 and July 2016. The bookCase, which holds 27 cases, can be accessed here.

One day, early on in the series, we received two submissions. Their similar anatomy was striking. Each featured a medical waiting room. Someone entered the space with a gift for the clinical personnel, the gift was accepted, and something shifted in the resulting care.

In Aaron Ansell’s case, set within gardens of an informal clinic in Piauí, Brazil, the gift was a small satchel of milk. Rima Praspaliauskiene’s was set in a Lithuanian public hospital and the gift was a rich chocolate cake. Aaron, who works and teaches on legal orders, analyzed the exchange as a challenge to hospital norms of equalitarianism. He helped us to see how the give-and-take of milk interrupts the requirements of a deracinated liberal democracy, offering instead the warm sociality of personal affinity. Rima, who focuses on medical care and valuing, used the object of the cake to query the social scientist’s impulse to explain why people do what they do. She shows us how this impulse may rest upon the linearity and equivalence of rational calculation, uncomfortably treating sociality as a commodity.

The juxtaposition of these submissions is emblematic – a case, if you will – of something we have seen throughout this series: the art of ethnographic writing resides in a relation between what is there and what is done with it.

Beginnings

We might trace the origin of the series to a business meeting at the AAAs, when we offered the idea of “the ethnographic case” for a Somatosphere series.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Toxicologist Aims To Label Ethical Standards

Toxicologist Alan Goldberg knows what an industrial pig nursery should look and smell like. So one with no pigs, no slop, and no aroma was certainly surprising. Goldberg toured such a sanitized—and possibly staged—facility in 2006 while he was part of the 15-member Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, tasked to examine how industry practices impact human health, animal welfare, the environment, and rural communities.

 

The facilities with actual animals in them told a different tale. He recalls one poultry shed in Arkansas that housed 45,000 chickens clustered on a dirt floor that had likely not been cleaned since before the last harvest. Inside, the potent mix of nitrous oxide and ammonia, a byproduct of the chicken feces and urine, made the commissioners’ eyes burn. “The word the Pew Commission used to describe the conditions we saw was ‘inhumane.’ Personally, I would say ‘cruel,’” says Goldberg, a professor of environmental health and engineering at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the founding director of the school’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

 

THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE PROJECT IS TO CREATE A TEMPLATE OF ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR THE FOOD INDUSTRY AND BETTER INFORM CONSUMERS ABOUT THEIR CHOICES.

In its 2008 landmark report, the commission condemned the state of industrial production and made sweeping recommendations, including the ban of nontherapeutic anti­biotics, improved management of food animal waste to lessen contamination of waterways, and the phasing out of intensive animal confinement.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

End of Life Doulas

Birth doulas have been supporting women through childbirth since the 1980s. In 2003, Henry Fersko-Weiss, co-founder of the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), adapted the philosophy, tools, and approaches used by birth doulas to create a program with a new kind of doula, an end-of-life doula, to support and guide people through the dying process. This new approach brings deeper meaning and greater comfort to dying people and their loved ones.


That first program created was highly successful and became the model for two additional hospice programs Fersko-Weiss built in New Jersey. Through these programs, hundreds of people have had the benefit of end-of-life doula services in the final days of life. In addition, the INELDA end-of-life doula principles and techniques have been presented in public trainings at the Open Center in New York City and the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Toronto, Canada.


INELDA, an international nonprofit organization, is the next step in the evolution of the end-of-life care approach. INELDA is dedicated to helping hospices build end-of-life doula programs. It is committed to setting the standard for end-of-life doulas and supporting them in their professional life. INELDA will also continue to research and develop new tools and techniques to further advance best practices in end-of-life care.

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: Why you might want to think twice about surrendering online privacy for the sake of convenience

Written by Carissa Veliz

DPhil Candidate in Philosophy, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

This article was originally published in The Conversation

Just a click away once you tick this too-long-to-read privacy agreement. Shutterstock

It is inconvenient to guard one’s privacy, and the better one protects it, the more inconvenience one must endure. Enjoying privacy, at a minimum, demands installing software to block tracking online, using long and different passwords for online services, remembering to turn off the WiFi and Bluetooth signals on your mobile phone when leaving the house, using cash, and so on.

The more privacy conscious have to go through the trouble of using encryption for all their messages, covering the camera on their laptop with a sticker, suffering the slowness and limitations of using Tor (a software that enables anonymity online), and may even be willing to forgo the many advantages of having a mobile phone altogether.

Companies and institutions should not make it this hard for people to enjoy privacy – we shouldn’t have to go through all this trouble to make good on a right. However, we live in a non-ideal world, where it is more and more a fact of the matter that governments and businesses exploit people’s personal information for economic and political reasons.

So, individuals living in the real world are faced with the dilemma of either complying with the default option and surrendering their privacy, or trying to resist exposure through paying a high price in inconvenience. It makes sense to ask whether privacy is worth all the trouble.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Functional neo-Aristotelianism as a way to preserve moral agency: A response to Dr William Casebeer’s lecture: The Neuroscience of Moral Agency

Written by Dr Anibal Monasterio Astobiza

Audio File of Dr Casebeer’s talk is available here: http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/HT17_Casebeer.mp3

 

Dr. William Casebeer has an unusual, but nonetheless very interesting, professional career. He retired from active duty as a US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and intelligence analyst. He obtained his PhD in Cognitive Science and Philosophy from University of California, San Diego, under the guidance and inspiration of Patricia and Paul Churchland, served as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2010-14 in the Defense Sciences Office and helped to established DARPA’s neuroethics program. Nowadays, Dr. William Casebeer is a Research Area Manager in Human Systems and Autonomy for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories. As I said, not the conventional path for a well known researcher with very prominent contributions in neuroethics and moral evolution. His book Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition (MIT Press) presented a functional and neo-Aristotelian account of morality with a clever argument trying to solve G. E. Moore´s naturalistic fallacy: according to Casebeer it is possible to reduce what is good, or in other words morality, to natural facts.

In his public lecture of 14 February 2017, held at the Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School, Oxford, entitled “The Neuroscience of Moral Agency (Or: How I Learned to Love Determinism and Still Respect Myself in the Morning”, Dr. William Casebeer resubmitted the case for a functional neo-Aristotelianism  model for agency that defends a compatibilist view of free will: to accept determinism as viable but still hold moral concepts true.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Janis H. Jenkins’ “Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness” by Katie Barron

Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness

Janis H. Jenkins

University of California Press, 2015, 343 pages

It has been a privilege, through reading Extraordinary Conditions, to come into contact with a writer and practitioner of extraordinary compassion. The book bears witness to a process of open-ended interviewing that contributed to presenting the lives and experiences of Jenkins’ interlocutors with a deep concern for their dignity and self-esteem.

Part One of Extraordinary Conditions focuses on experiences of schizophrenia among different ethnic groups within the US, while Part Two focuses on trauma among Salvadoran refugees also living in the US. In all the interviews, Jenkins has been especially struck with the “centrality of struggle” which entail the wide variety of difficulties, including, losing jobs and relationships, weight gain as a result of medication, cognitive and logical incoherencies in experience, family criticism, and so forth. To describe the traditionally-named “patient” as an agent struggling to define and attain positive outcomes has political implications, implied in the text though not stated at length, viz. that the psychiatrist and the struggler are placed on an equal footing, as co-workers, along with helpers from other disciplines, working to accomplish negotiated goals.

The contention of the book is that psychiatry and anthropology have much to teach each other. For the anthropologist, studying mental illness within a given group sheds light on the whole group. The “extraordinary” illuminates the “ordinary”. In fact, Jenkins believes that those suffering diagnosed mental illness can be viewed not as different and separate from their community but as typical examples: “those with mental illness are just like everyone else – only more so.” A simple example of this comes in Chapter 3, where we meet the Spanish noun “nervios”.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.