Tag: virtues

Bioethics Blogs

We Can and Must Rebuild the Bridges of Interdisciplinary Bioethics

by Darryl R. J. Macer

This editorial is made available on bioethics.net. The editorial along with the target article and open peer commentary is available via tandfonline.com

Although we can argue that bioethics is holistic and found in every culture, and still alive among people of many indigenous communities as well as the postmodern ones, the academic discipline of bioethics as interpreted by many scholars has attempted to burn bridges to both different views and to persons with different life trajectories and training. The bridges between different cultural and epistemological foundations of bioethics have also been strained by the dominance of Western paradigms of principlism and the emergence of an academic profession of medical bioethics.

This editorial reacts to the points made in the article by Lee, “A Bridge Back to the Future: Public Health Ethics, Bioethics, and Environmental Ethics.” This issue of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB) includes a number of commentaries on this theme, and challenges readers to reconsider the manner in which they conceive of bioethics, as well as the range of literature and scholars that they consider to as legitimate sources of wisdom. Such a new approach will not only breathe fresh light into the important work of all scholars, students, and teachers, but also offer some fresh references for contemporary policy changes that face us. Let us approach these issues like an ostrich who is taking her head out of the sand after some years of monodisciplinary focus. To be clear, Lee and some others writing here have apparently not had their head in the sand, as the interrelatedness of health and the environment is clear through the examples shared.

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

Trump is Gross: Taking Political Taste (and Distaste) Seriously

by Shelley Park 

ABSTRACT. This paper advances the somewhat unphilosophical thesis that “Trump is gross” to draw attention to the need to take matters of taste seriously in politics. I begin by exploring the slipperiness of distinctions between aesthetics, epistemology, and ethics, subsequently suggesting that we may need to pivot toward the aesthetic to understand and respond to the historical moment we inhabit. More specifically, I suggest that, in order to understand how Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and in order to stem the damage that preceded this and will ensue from it, we need to understand the power of political taste (and distaste, including disgust) as both a force of resistance and as a force of normalization.

My 5-year-old granddaughter refers to foods, clothes, and people she does not like as “supergross.” It is a verbiage that I have found myself adopting for talking about many things Trumpian, including the man himself. The gaudy, gold-plated everything in Trump Towers; his ill-fitting suits; his poorly executed fake tan and comb-over; his red baseball cap emblazoned with “Make America Great Again;” his creepy way of talking about women (including his own daughters); his racist vitriol about Blacks, Muslims and Mexicans; his blatant over-the-top narcissism; his uncontrolled tantrums; his ridiculous tweets; his outlandish claims; his awkward hand gestures and handshakes; the disquieting ease with which he is seduced by flattery; his embarrassing disregard for facts; his tortured use of language; his rudeness toward other world leaders; the obsequious manner in which other Republicans are treating the man they despised mere months ago; the servility of many Democrats in the face of a military–industrial coup.

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

Is Hope a Virtue?

It’s perfectly understandable that hope should have featured so prominently in the coverage of the Charlie Gard case; each proposal is presented as offering fresh hope, each reversal presented as dashing hopes.  In either case, hope is something presented as desirable.  A bit more deeply, hope is one of the Theological Virtues, and so anyone who has grown up in the West, irrespective of their doctrinal commitments, will come from a culture in which there’s an overwhelming sense of hope being something good.  For some, it may even be an unalloyed good – I’ll return to that in a moment.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a culture in which hope is not fairly straightforwardly desirable: in which, that is, hope’s desirability is the exception rather than the rule.

Hard, but not impossible.

Here’s Hesiod, telling the story of Pandora in Works and Days (from Dorothea Wender’s translation for Penguin):

Before this time men lived upon the earth
Apart from sorrow and painful work,
Free from disease, which lets the Death-gods in.
But now the woman opened up the cask,
And scattered pains and evils among men.
Inside the cask’s hard walls remained one thing,
Hope, only, which did not fly through the door.
The lid stopped her, but all the others flew,
Thousands of troubles, wandering the earth.
The earth is full of evils, and the sea.
Diseases come to visit men by day
And, uninvited, come again at night
Bringing their pains in silence, for they were
Deprived of speech by Zeus the Wise. 

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

Have I Been Cheating? Reflections of an Equestrian Academic

By Kelsey Drewry
Kelsey Drewry is a student in the Master of Arts in Bioethics program at the Emory University Center for Ethics where she works as a graduate assistant for the Healthcare Ethics Consortium. Her current research focuses on computational linguistic analysis of health narrative data, and the use of illness narrative for informing clinical practice of supportive care for patients with neurodegenerative disorders.

After reading a recent study in Frontiers in Public Health (Ohtani et al. 2017) I realized I might have unwittingly been taking part in cognitive enhancement throughout the vast majority of my life. I have been a dedicated equestrian for over twenty years, riding recreationally and professionally in several disciplines. A fairly conservative estimate suggests I’ve spent over 5000 hours in the saddle. However, new evidence from a multi-university study in Japan suggests that horseback riding improves certain cognitive abilities in children. Thus, it seems my primary hobby and passion may have unfairly advantaged me in my academic career. Troubled by the implication that I may have unknowingly spent much of my time violating the moral tenets upon which my intellectual work rests, I was compelled to investigate the issue.



The study in question, “Horseback Riding Improves the Ability to Cause the Appropriate Action (Go Reaction) and the Appropriate Self-control (No-Go Reaction) in Children,” (Ohtani et al. 2017) suggests that the vibrations associated with horses’ movement activate the sympathetic nervous system, leading to improved cognitive ability in children. Specifically, children 10 to 12 years old completed either simple arithmetic or behavioral (go/no-go) tests before and after two 10 minute sessions of horseback riding, walking, or resting.

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

Should We Cure Genetic Diseases?

June 07, 2017

by Professor Bonnie Steinbock

Should We Cure Genetic Diseases?

In “Trying to Embrace a ‘Cure’,” (New York Times, June 4, 2017), Sheila Black notes that in the near future there may be a treatment that could amount to a cure for the genetic illness she and two of her children have — X-linked hypophosphatemia or XLH. Although XLH is not life threatening, it has significant disadvantages, including very short stature (short enough to qualify as a type of dwarfism), crooked legs, poor teeth, difficulty in walking, and pain. A cure would seem to be cause for celebration.

But Ms. Black is ambivalent about the prospect. Although she acknowledges the potential benefits both to individuals and to society, the issue is, for her, complex.

Having a serious disability may enable the development of certain virtues. She writes, “… to be human often entails finding ways to make what appears a disadvantage a point of strength or pride.” Or, as Nietzsche put it,  “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

It’s very likely that having polio made Franklin Roosevelt emotionally more mature and strengthened his character, but would that be a reason to oppose the development of the Salk vaccine? Comedians often credit their talent from having been bullied as children; novelists and playwrights find inspiration in their awful childhoods. Admiring their ability to overcome adversity does not mean being ambivalent about ending bullying and child abuse.

Another reason is that disabilities have created communities that are a source of support and identity.

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 Campaign Trail as a Carnival of Virtues

by Andreas Kappes

@AnKappes

Imagine you are asked to evaluate candidates who apply for a job. The person who gets the job will interact with you a lot. What would be more important to you, that the person is friendly, honest, and overall a good person or that the person is competent, educated, and good at what they are doing?

Or imagine your adult child is bringing home a new partner, would you rather have that person to be honest and trustworthy or have a great job and a great salary?

Now, consider the next prime minster of Britain. Do you want to give the job to a person that has good intentions toward you and people you like, or do you want somebody who is fantastically efficient in implementing their policies?

Ideally, you want each of the people mentioned so far to have both but that is not how life often works. If you have to choose, then, what do you feel is the lesser evil (or the greater good)?

If you are like most people, the choice is easy: you strongly prefer a person that is benevolent toward you and yours over a person who lacks such compassion but is highly competent. And this is also true when we evaluate political candidates. Sure, both morality and competence are important, but morality dominates the picture. Morality here refers to whether you perceive the political candidate to be partial towards the well-being of you and others you care about. Just imagine how devastating it would be to have an evil, yet brilliant leader, and you will happily live with a nice, yet dull mind at the helm.

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

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: The Ethical Dilemma of Youth Politics, written by Andreas Masvie

 This essay was the runner up in the undergraduate category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics 2017

Written by University of Oxford Student, Andreas Masvie

 

The West in general, and perhaps Europe in particular, tend to celebrate youth politics as a vital force of democracy. This is reflected in the current literature on youth politics, which appears to be almost exclusively descriptive (e.g. ‘What is the level of youth politics in country X?’) or positively normative (e.g. ‘How can country X heighten engagement in youth politics?’). Various youth councils and parliaments are encouraged and empowered by government as well as civil society, both at local and national level. This is also the case internationally. The UN, for instance, demands that youth politics be stimulated: “[Such] engagement and participation is central to achieving sustainable human development.”[1] I will approach the rationale of this collective celebration as a syllogism, defining ‘youth politics’ as organized political engagement of people aged 13–25:

P1        Youth politics increases the level of political engagement;

P2        Political engagement promotes democratic vitality and sustainability; thus

C1        Youth politics promotes democratic vitality and sustainability.

In this paper I am interested in challenging P2. Does the increased political engagement due to youth politics promote democratic vitality and sustainability? For the sake of argument, I will posit the trueness of P1. When it comes to P2: it would be difficult to argue that all forms of political engagement promote democratic vitality and sustainability (e.g. authoritarian neo-Nazism or revolutionary Communism). Hence, I shall take it for granted that P2 is constrained to activities and policies compatible with democracy.

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

Transhumanism: the abolition of man?

Transhumanist goal intends to free human beings from their human condition with technological support

What is transhumanism? What is the meaning of this concept? When we hear the word transhumanism, the idea may come to mind that it is possible to improve human nature, to go beyond the cultural and social present in which human societies find themselves right now. That is essentially the claim. Transhumanism seeks to improve the human condition, to perfect it, to take it beyond the present moment to overcome its limitations through technology.

Viewed thus, the transhumanist goal seems legitimate, for when has man not sought to perfect himself, to find new cultural situations that offer him a better way of life commensurate with his dignity? Perhaps this is not the right question, though, to find the supposed legitimacy of transhumanism to perfect the human being.

This word must be examined more closely: trans-humanism. It seeks to go beyond the human. Perhaps because the human is seen as a problem. It can undoubtedly be said here that this is the case: the trans is sought – because the human should be eradicated. In itself, the nature of the human being is his condemnation. We can thus see in the transhumanist position the pursuit of European Enlightenment culture, which holds the belief that the human being must be removed from nature in order to be free. Human freedom must be withdrawn from the order of nature in order to be fully realised. In a certain way, herein lies the ideal of scientific progress of modernity.

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

Two Wrongs Do Not Make A Right

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A draft of a new executive order that would re-open CIA black site prisons (facilities outside the United States where more torturous forms of interrogation are not prohibited) and restart the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (which many consider to be torture) was made public on Wednesday. Trump also publicly stated that he believes torture works and thus thinks it should be reinstated.

Trump’s justification for torture is that without it “we’re not playing on an even field.” He said that since terrorists will torture people, we need to be able to do the same. Mr. Trump, two wrongs do not make a right.

Simply, torture is wrong. It is a willful infliction of harm on another human being, which violates notions of nonmaleficence. It also breaches a person’s dignity and autonomy. Torture defies Kant’s principle of humanity since torture victims are treated merely as means to achieving the end of learning information.

Legally, torture contravenes the Geneva Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Of course, some might argue that these detainees are not prisoners of war and thus are not covered. And the US is about to abandon the UN anyway (also look here). The International Criminal Court defines torture as a crime against humanity (the US is not a member of the Court). When you capture and detain people against their will and their government’s assent, and deny them basic rights of anyone living inside your own borders, that person is in fact your prisoner.

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

Is “sanctity of life” a useful concept?

In increasingly heated debates over abortion and euthanasia, pro-lifers cling doggedly to the concept of “the sanctity of life”. This has been under attack for years by utilitarian philosophers, notably Princeton’s Peter Singer. In a 2005 article Singer went so far as to contend that “During the next 35 years, the traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments. By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct.”

You might think that Singer’s withering prediction would be countered with a robust defence by Catholic bioethicists. However, in a controversial article in The New Bioethics, David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, in the UK, suggests that the term “sanctity of life” is so woolly that it should be scrapped. He says that Singer and others are attacking a straw man created by his buddies. “The connotations of this language are part of a deliberate attempt to distract from fundamental issues of justice, solidarity and human rights and falsely to imply that the legal protection which is due to vulnerable human beings is based only on religious sentiment.”

In a very interesting analysis of the term, Jones points out that Christian philosophers and theologians almost never used the term until the 1970s. It was only with the publication in 1957 of a book by Welsh legal scholar Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law, that it gained currency.

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.