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Social Sciences - Applied Ethics & Social Responsibility | Human Capacities and Moral Status

Human Capacities and Moral Status

Series: Philosophy and Medicine, Vol. 108

DiSilvestro, Russell

2010, XIV, 208p.

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  • About this book

  • Argues that all of a thing’s capacities are relevant to its moral status. Begins from the moral intuitions most people have when we become temporarily "incapacitated" as a result of repairable brain damage. Draws from ideas found in the moral frameworks of J. Rawls and M. Nussbaum. Interacts with influential contemporary approaches like those of R. George, J. McMahan, and M. Tooley. Applies conclusions to controversial moral debates regarding humans at the beginning and ending stages of life.

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.

Content Level » Professional/practitioner

Keywords » Ethics - Moral - World Health Assembly - bioethics - embryo - human capacity - margins of life - moral status - public policy - temporary incapacitation

Related subjects » Applied Ethics & Social Responsibility - Epistemology & Philosophy of Science - Life Sciences - Medicine - Philosophy - Public Health

Table of contents 

INTRODUCTION 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 BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX

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