The three major classical accounts of the morality of abortion are all subject to at least one major problem. Can we do better? This article aims to discuss three accounts that purport to be superior to the classical accounts. First, it discusses the future of value argument for the immorality of abortion. It defends the claim that the future of value argument is superior to all three of the classical accounts. It then goes on to discuss Warren's attempt to fix up her personhood account and David Boonin's attempt to fix up Tooley's desire account. Warren claims that her updated version of a personhood account is superior to any potentiality account, such as the future of value account. The article evaluates her claim. Boonin argues that his improved desire view both deals adequately with the apparent counterexamples to Tooley's original account and also is superior to the future of value account. The article evaluates his views as well.
Stephen G. Post
Of the many topics worthy of discussion regarding older adults and bioethics, two seem to provide an especially pointed opportunity for reflection on our aging society. First, is aging itself something that biomedical researchers should focus on as a deficit to be overcome through eventual anti-aging treatments? While aging may not fall neatly into the disease category, it is clearly the primary susceptibility factor for the innumerable diseases of older adults, and therefore its potential deceleration consistent with the compression of morbidity might constitute a salutary biomedical goal. The aging society is no panacea to those who suffer from a host of chronic illnesses and feel overwhelmed by the burden of years. Second, we must concentrate on the most challenging problematic of our current aging society, assuming that anti-aging technologies will only become available in future decades. One immense problem is the harsh reality of irreversible progressive dementia, which will serve here as an example of the rise of chronic illness, for which age itself is the primary risk factor.
This article explores a number of issues in agriculture and agricultural biotechnology putting a special emphasis within the philosophy of biology which is a fruitful area of study. The ecological impact of agriculture and the potential for humans to make novel contributions to genetic diversity raises questions about biodiversity. Thousands of years of selective breeding and food production using microorganisms in wine, bread, and cheese qualify as agricultural biotechnology. There are various disputes regarding genetically modified food, between products of agricultural biotechnology, and their conventional counterparts. The agricultural revolution also raises many ethical issues including concerns about corporate control, intellectual property rights, and use of traditional biological knowledge. We are on the threshold of the life sciences revolution. Unrevealing these mysteries of science will increase our knowledge and provide understanding of the world around us. Thus, it should lead to a better quality of life.
This article takes the central issue concerning the ethics of animal experimentation to be the moral status of animals. Since most animal experimentation involves treating experimental subjects in ways that would clearly not be morally acceptable if the subjects were human, and since no animal experimentation involves the informed consent of the experimental subject(s), any attempt to justify such experimentation must include a defense of the claim that the moral status of animals differs significantly from that of humans. The influence of animal welfare advocates, in particular Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and their followers, but certainly dating back to Bentham and Mill, seems to have resulted in at least the grudging acceptance by the research community that animals have some moral status. That is, that the interests of animals should be taken into account when designing and justifying experiments involving them.
This article discusses the conditions under which it is permissible and advisable to use animals in biomedical experimentation. The “Common View” is that there are moral limits on what we can do to nonhuman animals, but humans can use them when doing so advances significant human interests. This view entails that animals have some moral status, but not a demandingly high status. The idea also states that most people believe that medical experiments using animals do wind up benefiting humans. The “Lenient View” holds that even if animals have moral worth, their worth is so slight that humans can use them virtually any way we wish. The “Demanding View” holds that the moral worth of animals is so high that it bars virtually all uses of animals in biomedical research.
This article continues the discussion of whether animals possess moral standing, which it considers to be the question of whether they are deserving of our sympathy and concern and whether they possess moral rights. It notes that the question of moral rights should receive a negative answer, even though it believes firmly in the evolutionary and cognitive continuities between humans and other animals. The first half of this article argues that pain and suffering of a great many animals do appropriately make them objects of sympathy, and it shows that they have minds with structures often similar to those of humans. However, the final half of this article turns to a defense of a contractualist perspective, which is that all humans, and probably no other animals, possess moral standing. From this contractualist perspective, morality is the outcome of an idealized contract among agents who can then constrain and guide their relations with others.
This article probes the widely held view in philosophy and the biological sciences that the amount and ways in which a nonhuman animal can experience pain, by comparison to the human animal, is limited to the feeling of physical pain. The justification for this view is often said to be that animals are less cognitively sophisticated than humans because they lack awareness of self and a sense of the past and the future. This view suggests that pain for animals is not as bad as pain is for us. The discussion presents a notably different approach to the understanding of animal pain. It uses welfare analysis and decision-making frameworks to argue that pain may be worse for animals than the comparable amount of pain is for humans.
This article examines the history of early modern philosophy, principally in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It explains why early modern philosophers and jurists seldom reflected deeply about animal life and why the arrival of a decent theory of animal rights in early modern philosophy was a remarkable development. It begins with the general background of rights theory as it was developing in political philosophy. It uses as an instructive example eighteenth-century experimentalist Robert Boyle and his thesis that there is a duty to experiment on animals. It describes the steady movement toward both a rejection of Boyle's view and toward the view that we have moral duties to animals. It argues that this historical trend led to the “invention” of animal rights at the hands of Scottish moral philosopher Francis Hutcheson.
Stephen R. L. Clark
This article explores a large array of conceptions and theories in the ancient world, with an emphasis on what the ancients thought of both themselves and the other “animals.” The scope is immense in terms of leading schools of philosophy: the Pre-Socratics, the Golden Age of Athens, the Hellenistic period, and the Late Antique period. One generalization that does seem to hold is that non-human animals were commonly viewed as foils—beastly in habits and without minds of moral significance. The discussion assesses the ancient, classical, Greek, and Mediterranean attitudes as complicated and often contradictory. In general, animals were seen as entirely unlike us, but humans also were seen as capable of a descent into beastly behavior—to the point that humans were in effect seen as no more than animals.
This article argues that some animals are moral subjects in the sense that they can be, and sometimes are, motivated by moral considerations. It argues that there are no empirical or conceptual obstacles to regarding some animals as motivated by moral concerns. To suppose otherwise, the discussion notes, is to fall victim to certain views that invest quasi-magical properties in “meta-cognition”—properties that afford humans a status of a sort possessed by no other beings. It argues that the sentiments of animals can be genuinely moral ones and that there are no compelling reasons to suppose that these animals are not moral subjects that can be morally evaluated—even if they cannot be moral agents.
This article considers whether we have moral duties that are owed directly to animals, or whether all duties regarding animals are derivative from duties we have to human beings. It maintains that we have moral duties directly toward nonhuman animals, not merely duties regarding them, and that this claim can be adequately grounded in the thesis of the fundamental standing of animals. Nonetheless, it finds that the thesis of the fundamental standing of animals is in tension with a very different and intuitively plausible thesis called the thesis of the fundamental concern of morality: morality is fundamentally concerned with advancing human welfare by enabling human beings to live together successfully in societies. This article argues that the two theses can be shown to be compatible; even the apparent “speciesism” of the second thesis is compatible with recognizing the fundamental standing of animals.
This article considers the defensibility of “species egalitarianism”—the position that all living things have equal moral standing and therefore all species command our respect. It challenges the view that there are good reasons to believe that all living things have moral standing in even a minimal sense. It explains why members of other species understandably and justifiably command our respect, but also why they cannot command equal respect. It also argues that there is reason to doubt that species egalitarianism is compatible with true respect for nature. The theory improperly suggests that the moral standing of dolphins is no higher than that of tuna, and that the standing of chimpanzees is no higher than that of mice. Such a view does not give dolphins and chimpanzees the respect they deserve.
This article considers the concept of persons as the central issue in moral status debates. It finds questions about whether members of one or more nonhuman species of animals are persons among the most difficult philosophical questions we face today. It locates the difficulty in two sources: how the concept of a person should be analyzed, especially the properties that give an entity a right to continued existence; and how to determine which psychological capacities and which forms of mental life adult members of nonhuman species have. It argues that the fact that something is a continuing subject of experiences and has mental states that are psychologically connected over time is crucial to creatures having moral status and having a right to continued existence.
R. Peter Hobson
This article examines the relationship between the conception of self and early childhood autism. It highlights the difficulties of autistic children in using personal pronouns which reflect the lack of coherency in their practices of self-reference, or in co-reference between self and other. It suggests that autistic children have trouble experiencing and understanding themselves as selves in relation to other people with selves of their own.
No single concept has been more important in the contemporary development of bioethics, and the revival of medical ethics, than the concept of autonomy, and none better reflects both the philosophical and the political currents shaping the field. This article proposes to consider autonomy in three of its facets and functions: first, as a concept in ethical theory; second, as a concept in applied ethics; and finally, as what might be called an ideological concept — that is, one that both draws from and reinforces non-philosophical interests at work in the profession of medicine, biomedical science and technology, and the broader liberal individualistic culture of Anglophone countries, particularly the United States, where a bioethical discourse centred on autonomy has flourished.
This article discusses “anthropomorphism” in the sense of the attribution of uniquely human mental characteristics to nonhuman animals. One philosophical problem is to figure out how we can identify which properties are uniquely human. The discussion maintains that one goal of animal cognition studies is to determine which cognitive abilities animals use and whether some identifiable cognitive properties are found only in the human species. If the properties are uniquely human, then asserting that some other animal has that property would be false and an example of anthropomorphism. In the empirical and the philosophical literatures, features that have been described as uniquely human include psychological states such as beliefs and desires, personality traits such as confidence or timidity, emotions such as happiness or anger, social-organizational properties such as culture or friendship, and moral behavior such as punishment or rape.
Louise Irving and John Harris
This article looks at some of the chance discoveries and elegant ideas that were borne out through the availability of archived tissue samples. It then discusses some of the planned changes to the method and purpose of tissue storage and collection. The changes are in the form of new types of tissue bank, or biobank as they are conceived. These banks are part of a trend to move towards a preventative approach to public health rather than the current costly interventionist model. This approach is not without its problems and it is these that threaten the unfettered continuation of the tissue archive. The sophistication of new research tools can uncover information about individuals that may have a detrimental effect on their well-being in various ways. The article analyses these possibilities in the context of how health care might develop.
Jonathan D. Moreno
The term ‘bioterrorism’ seems to have become a kind of shorthand for sowing terror through the use of other ‘unconventional’ weapons, especially chemical, nuclear, and radiological weapons, or ‘dirty bombs’. The ethical problems associated with these other threats are closely associated with those raised by biological agents. Therefore, this article necessarily refers to these related potential terrorist technologies, all of them made more available to militant organizations through the spread of knowledge and material in the post-cold war era.
This article argues that the best biological explanation for the existence of altruistic behavior supports noncognitivism. In its view, evolutionary biology supports the idea that the function of moral attitudes is to create motivation for the kinds of altruistic behavior that improve social cohesion. The criterion of success of a system of moral rules is not accurate representation, but the improvement of social cohesion in ways that promote the transmission of the system itself. One might combine the view of this article, according to which moral codes have the function of improving social cohesion, with the view that moral truths are “grounded in” the tendency of a system of moral rules to improve social cohesion. The result would be a cognitivist moral functionalism. However, there is no need to postulate the existence of moral truths in order to explain altruistic behavior.
This article begins with a sketch of current knowledge about animal thinking. It inquires into what this knowledge suggests for ethics and for public policy. It finds that it challenges what has been the most influential approach to the ethics of animal treatment, namely classical utilitarianism. After rejecting this theory, it proposes a theoretical approach that has two non-utilitarian elements as centerpieces. First, the approach has a Kantian element—a fundamental ethical starting point that we must respect each individual sentient being as an end in itself. Second, the approach has a neo-Aristotelian, capabilities-theory element: the Aristotelian idea that each creature has a characteristic set of capabilities, or capacities for functioning, distinctive of that species, and that those more rudimentary capacities need support from the material and social environment if the animal is to flourish in its characteristic way.