Titel: Human Capacities and Moral Status
Autor/en: Russell DiSilvestro
Dateigröße in MByte: 1.
21. April 2010 - pdf eBook
Many debates about the moral status of things-for example, debates about the natural rights of human fetuses or nonhuman animals-eventually migrate towards a discussion of the capacities of the things in question-for example, their capacities to feel pain, think, or love. Yet the move towards capacities is often controversial: if a human's capacities are the basis of its moral status, how could a human having lesser capacities than you and I have the same "serious" moral status as you and I? This book answers this question by arguing that if something is human, it has a set of typical human capacities; that if something has a set of typical human capacities, it has serious moral status; and thus all human beings have the same sort of serious moral status as you and I. Beginning from what our common intuitions tell us about situations involving "temporary incapacitation"-where a human organism has, then loses, then regains a certain capacity-this book argues for substantive conclusions regarding human fetuses and embryos, humans in a permanent vegetative state, humans suffering from brain diseases, and humans born with genetic disorders. Since these conclusions must have some impact on our ongoing moral and political debates about the proper treatment of such humans, this book will be useful to professionals and students in philosophy, bioethics, law, medicine, and public policy.
CHAPTER ONE: YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU THINK: CAPACITIES, HUMAN ORGANISMS, AND PERSONS
1. The Adventure of Ronald Reagan's Brain
2. What Are Humans?
3. What Is Serious Moral Status?
4. What Are Typical Human Capacities?
5. What Are Persons?
6. What Are We?
CHAPTER TWO: ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO ALSO: HUMANS, OUR CAPACITIES, AND THE POWERS WE SHARE
1. How to Compare Capacities Between Individuals
2. A Temporary Change Argument About What We Are
3. The Capacities of Undeveloped Human Organisms
4. The Capacities of Damaged and Disabled Human Organisms
CHAPTER THREE: THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN: WHY CAPACITIES MUST MATTER MORALLY
1. A Temporary Change Argument About What Matters Morally
2. Moral Status and the Past
3. Moral Status and the Future
4. Why Not Stop at the First-Order Capacity?
5. Actual, Continuing Subjects of Experience
6. Capacities and the Original Position
7. Capacities and the Capabilities Approach
CHAPTER FOUR: LITTLE PEOPLE: HIGHER-ORDER CAPACITIES AND THE ARGUMENT FROM POTENTIAL
1. The Dreaded Argument from Potential
2. Not Every Cell is Sacred
3. Potential Presidents and Potential Persons
CHAPTER FIVE: NOT JUST DAMAGED GOODS: HIGHER-ORDER CAPACITIES AND THE ARGUMENT FROM MARGINAL CASES
1. The Dreaded Argument from Marginal Cases
2. Tooley's Cat, Boonin's Spider, McMahan's Dog, and Balaam's Ass
3. How Not to Be a Speciesist
CHAPTER SIX: OLD OBJECTIONS AND NEW DIRECTIONS: CAPACITIES AND MORAL STATUS AT THE VERY BORDERS OF HUMAN LIFE
1. Does the Temporary Change Argument Prove Too Much?
2. The Corpse Problem
3. Solving the Corpse Problem
4. Are Active Capacities Preferable to Passive?
5. Drawing Lines Near Altered Nuclear Transfer and Anencephaly
"Chapter 4 Little People: Higher-Order Capacities and the Argument from Potential (S. 107-108)
If the arguments of Chapters 2 and 3 are sound, then even human infants, fetuses, embryos, and zygotes have the typical human capacities that are sufficient to generate serious moral status. This conclusion was reached by arguing that, as an adult human organism undergoes temporary changes that are more and more serious, the order of the capacities we must appeal to in generating serious moral status gets higher and higher. We eventually reach a point where the adult in the middle of a temporary change has an order of capacities that is just as high as the order of capacities possessed by the most undeveloped human organisms.
But this seems to make the main argument of the book into a version of the Argument from Potential (AFP), which has often been accused of leading to absurd conclusions and of relying on mistakes in moral reasoning. Therefore, in this chapter, I explain why the main argument of the book does not lead to the absurd conclusion that human gametes or somatic cells have serious moral status. I also explain why the main argument does not rely on any of the alleged mistakes in moral reasoning that are made by “potentiality” arguments in ethics.
1 The Dreaded Argument from Potential
The general strategy of the “Argument from Potential,” as its name suggests, is to argue from the claim that an entity has some potential or other to the claim that this entity has some moral status or other. The term “potential” here can mean a variety of things, depending on the philosopher using it, but at the very least this term typically means mere potential and thus implies “not actual”: for example, a potential “person” is typically not thought to be an actual person, and a potentially rational entity is typical
ly not thought to be an actually rational entity.1 The AFP argues that the mere fact that an entity has a certain potential generates certain obligations on the part of others to treat the entity in certain ways, whether or not that potential is now being actualized or has ever been actualized before.
Although this is the general strategy of the AFP, particular versions of it vary. At least three main things account for the differences between the versions. First, as just mentioned, different versions of the AFP employ different meanings of the term “potential”. This term can mean one or more of the following: bare logical possibility; probability or likelihood; an active causal propensity to change in certain ways; a passive receptivity to undergo certain sorts of changes.
Second, different versions of the AFP rely on different understandings of what the (given notion of) potential is said to be a potential for. Some focus on a given attribute: the potential for consciousness or sentience or rationality. Others focus on the potential for being a certain kind of thing: a potential “person” or a potential human being or a potential right-holder or a potential bearer of interests."
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