All entries by this author

The Buck-Passing Account of Value: Lessons from Crisp

T. M. Scanlon’s buck-passing account of value (BPA) has been subjected to a barrage of criticisms. Recently, to be helpful to BPA, Roger Crisp has suggested that a number of these criticisms can be met if one makes some revisions to BPA. In this paper, I argue that if advocates of the buck-passing account accepted these revisions, they would effectively be giving up the buck-passing account as it is typically understood, that is, as an account concerned with the conceptual priority of reasons or the right vis-à-vis value or the good. I conclude by addressing some of the broader implications of my arguments for the current debate about the buck-passing account of value. [Philosophical Studies 151(3) 2010: 421-432] [pdf | html]

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Agency and Human Rights

What grounds human rights? How do we determine that something is a human right? James Griffin has persuasively argued that the notion of agency should determine the content of human rights. However, Griffin’s agency account faces the question of why agency should be the sole ground for human rights. For example, can Griffin’s notion of agency by itself adequately explain such human rights as that against torture? Or, has Griffin offered a plausible explanation as to why one should not broaden the ground for human rights to include other elements of a good life such as freedom from great pain, understanding, deep personal relations, and so on? These concerns have been raised regarding Griffin’s agency account, but in his new book, On Human Rights, Griffin has offered new arguments in support of his view that agency is the sole ground for human rights. In this paper, I examine these new arguments, and I argue that Griffin’s arguments are ultimately unsuccessful. [Journal of Applied Philosophy 27(1) 2010: 15-25] [pdf | html]

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Twinning, Inorganic Replacement, and the Organism View

In explicating his version of the Organism View, Eric Olson argues that you begin to exist only after twinning is no longer possible and that you cannot survive a process of inorganic replacement. Assuming the correctness of the Organism View, but pace Olson, I argue in this paper that the Organism View does not require that you believe either proposition. The claim I shall make about twinning helps to advance a debate that currently divides defenders of the Organism View, while the claim I shall make about inorganic replacement will help to put the Organism View on a par with its rival views by allowing it to accommodate a plausible intuition that its rivals can accommodate, namely, the intuition that you can survive a process of inorganic replacement. Both claims, I shall also argue, are important for those who are interested in the identity condition of a human organism, even if they do not hold the view that you are essentially an organism. [Ratio, forthcoming] [pdf | html]

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Is There A Duty to Share Genetic Information?

A number of prominent bioethicists such as Mike Parker, Anneke Lucassen, and Bartha Maria Knoppers have called for the adoption of a system in which by default, genetic information is shared among family members. In this paper, I suggest that a main reason given in support of this call to share genetic information among family members is the idea that genetic information is essentially familial in nature. Upon examining this ‘familial nature of genetics’ argument, I show that most genetic information are only shared in a weaker way among family members and do not necessarily lead to the actual manifestation of particular diseases. The upshot is that the idea that genetic information is familial in nature does not provide a sufficient ground for why we should move towards a system in which by default, genetic information is shared among family members. [Journal of Medical Ethics 35(5) 2009: 306-309] [pdf | html]

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The Basis of Human Moral Status

When philosophers consider what moral status human beings have, they tend to find themselves either supporting the idea that not all human beings are rightholders or adopting what Peter Singer calls a ‘speciesist’ position, where speciesism is defined as morally favoring a particular species – in this case, human beings – over others without sufficient justification. In this paper, I develop what I call the ‘genetic basis for moral agency’ account of rightholding, and I propose that this account can allow all human beings to be rightholders without being speciesist. While my aim is to set out this account clearly rather than to defend it, I explain how this account is different from a potentiality account and I argue that it is preferable to an actual moral agency account of human moral status. [Journal of Moral Philosophy 7(2) 2010: 159-179] [pdf | html]

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The Loop Case and Kamm’s Doctrine of Triple Effect

Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Loop Case is particularly significant in normative ethics because it calls into question the validity of the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect, according to which there is a significant difference between harm that is intended and harm that is merely foreseen and not intended. Recently, Frances Kamm has argued that what she calls the Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE), which draws a distinction between acting because-of and acting in-order-to, can account for our judgment about the Loop Case. In this paper, I first argue that even if the distinction drawn by DTE can be sustained, it does not seem to apply to the Loop Case. Moreover, I question whether this distinction has any normative significance. The upshot is that I am skeptical that DTE can explain our judgment about the Loop Case. [Philosophical Studies 146(2) 2009: 223-231] [pdf | html]

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Selecting Children: The Ethics of Reproductive Genetic Engineering

Advances in reproductive genetic engineering have the potential to transform human lives. Not only do they promise to allow us to select children free of diseases, they can also enable us to select children with desirable traits. In this paper, I consider two clusters of arguments for the moral permissibility of reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Perfectionist View and the Libertarian View; and two clusters of arguments against reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Human Nature View and the Motivation View. I argue that an adequate theory of the ethics of reproductive genetic engineering should take into account insights gained from these views. [Philosophy Compass 3 2008: 1-19] [pdf | html]

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The Duty to Disclose Adverse Clinical Trial Results

Participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. We argue that this situation is unacceptable and that there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. This duty is grounded in the human right not to be placed at risk of harm without informed consent. We consider objections to disclosure grounded in considerations of commercial interest, and we argue that these concerns are insufficient to override the moral duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. However, we also develop a proposal that enables commercial interests to be protected, while promoting the duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. [The American Journal of Bioethics 9(8) 2009: 24-32, with Mark Sheehan and Steve Clarke] [pdf | html]

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The Normativity of Memory Modification

The prospect of using memory modifying technologies raises interesting and important normative concerns. We first point out that those developing desirable memory modifying technologies should keep in mind certain technical and user-limitation issues. We next discuss certain normative issues that the use of these technologies can raise such as truthfulness, appropriate moral reaction, self-knowledge, agency, and moral obligations. Finally, we propose that as long as individuals using these technologies do not harm others and themselves in certain ways, and as long as there is no prima facie duty to retain particular memories, it is up to individuals to determine the permissibility of particular uses of these technologies. [Neuroethics 1(2) 2008: 85-99, with Anders Sandberg] [pdf | html]

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Issues in the Pharmacological Induction of Emotions

In this paper, David Wasserman and I examine issues raised by the possibility of regulating emotions through pharmacological means. We argue that emotions induced through these means can be authentic phenomenologically, and that the manner of inducing them need not make them any less our own than emotions arising “naturally.” We recognize that in taking drugs to induce emotions, one may lose opportunities for self-knowledge; act narcissistically; or treat oneself as a mere means. But we propose that there are circumstances in which none of these concerns arise. Finally, we consider how the possibility of drug-regulation might affect duties to feel emotions. [Journal of Applied Philosophy 25(3) 2008: 178-192] [pdf | html]

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