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Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
Good badugly
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Good badugly

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  • 1. Vermelding onderdeel organisatie April 23, 2014 1 The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Moral and a-moral emotions in bioethics Den Haag, Moral Emotions and Intuitions conference David Koepsell Delft University of Technology
  • 2. April 23, 2014 2 Background • Some modern bio-conservatives (notably Leon Kass), have argued that appeal to the “yuck factor” is warranted in making decisions in bioethics • This is because: if emotions are to be properly considered in ethical decision-making, then disgust, revulsion, and similar visceral emotions ought to be taken into account.
  • 3. April 23, 2014 3 Background • But are emotions of disgust in bioethics on equal ground with other emotions in guiding ethical decision- making? • From my moral-realist perspective, in which rights are grounded upon brute facts • This depends upon determining whether there are brute-fact-based rights involved, and whether disgust is derived from, or impedes rights
  • 4. April 23, 2014 4 Background • I am not a bioconservative. I have argued that genetic engineering, for instance, is ethically persmissible (with some minor exceptions - where rights are impeded) • See, 2007 "The Ethics of Genetic Engineering," Policy "White" Paper, Center for Inquiry, Transnational. Published August 28, 2007. http://centerforinquiry.net/opp/opp_work/category/ positions
  • 5. April 23, 2014 5 Background • But I oppose the patenting of unmodified genes. The logic behind my argument is rights-based, whereas I argue that the logic behind GMO-opponents is largely based upon disgust or revulsion. • Hypothesis: • Both rights and disgust provoke emotions, but they are not equal, nor should they be considered equally in decision-making about bioethics.
  • 6. April 23, 2014 6 The good • Recent research suggests that our responses to justice are hard- wired:
  • 7. April 23, 2014 7 The good • If true, then a sense of justice seems biologically-determined, and our emotional responses grounded in brute-facts:
  • 8. April 23, 2014 8 The bad • Do our emotional responses about justice reflect grounded rights?
  • 9. April 23, 2014 9 The bad • Is our sense of equality grounded in evolutionary truths hard- wired in our brains?
  • 10. April 23, 2014 10 The bad • In other words, is justice a real concept, grounded in biology, and reflected in emotions?
  • 11. April 23, 2014 11 If so, then how should we balance emotions regarding justice with other emotions? Are they all equal?
  • 12. Anecdotal evidence • My work on gene patenting provokes in my audiences an emotional response, but it is not fear or disgust • The typical response is anger. “you mean they own my genes?” • I believe this is an appropriate and justified emotional response to an incursion upon individual autonomy, or a violation of a right to the “comkons by necssity”… or spaces that cannot justly be owned.
  • 13. Anecdotal evidence • Disgust and revulsion over biological phenomena are, I belive, rooted in fear. • “Frankenfoods,” “test tube babies,” and genetic manipulation of higher orgamnisms threaten our sense of the biologically “normal” or expected. These are the things of ancient and modern horros stories. • We are disgusted because they frighten us, rather than anger us. But we can look to horror stories to see the conflict between fear and righteous anger, where rights become involved.
  • 14. April 23, 2014 14 The ugly Biology provokes different sorts of emotions, namely those described as disgust, revulsion, and accounting for the “yuck factor” promoted by some as a valid measure for ethical-decision making Our responses to the biologically foreign or disturbing have long been the source of topics for horror stories, and also seem biologically-determined.
  • 15. April 23, 2014 15 The ugly Nineteenth-century freak-shows capitalized on our revulsions
  • 16. April 23, 2014 16 The ugly Joseph Merrick… The “Elephant Man” Treated first as a freak … only later as a man, with rights
  • 17. April 23, 2014 17 The ugly Modern horror … “Dren”
  • 18. April 23, 2014 18 The ugly Classic horror
  • 19. April 23, 2014 19 The ugly Modern horror “the Fly”
  • 20. April 23, 2014 20 Conflict between disgust and justice In each of these true and fictional scenarios, we are conflicted. Physical revulsion vs. justice. Freaks, Joseph Merrick, Dren, Frankenstein’s monster and Seth Brundle are all victims of our (or some) disgust. Revulsion violates rights, and this is unjust.
  • 21. April 23, 2014 21 Conflict between disgust and justice Fear of predators, like snakes, spiders, disease, seem to be the bases for our biological sense of disgust. So, is fear a good basis for ethical decision-making? Perhaps, but not where it conflicts with rights. Past injustices illustrate the dangers.
  • 22. April 23, 2014 22 Conclusions • Not all emotions should be treated equally in ethical decision-making in bioethics. • While our emotional responses to injustice and fear are grounded in brute-facts, rights should trump fear • After all, spiders, snakes, and other monsters are often not only harmless, but may themselves deserve rights.

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