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Protecting Humanity: Habermas and His Critics on the Ethics of Emerging Biotechnologies

Abstract

In this article, I present what I believe to be the core of Jürgen Habermas’s views on the morality, ethics, and regulation of emerging genetic and reproductive technologies in his book The Future of Human Nature.

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Notes

1. Habermas J.The Future of Human Nature. Rehg W, Pensky M, Beister H, trans. Cambridge: Polity Press; 2003.

2. His earlier work does, of course, inform his presentation in The Future of Human Nature. I have said more about this connection in Häyry M.Rationality and the Genetic Challenge: Making People Better? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2010.

3. For an informative overview on the situation in the United States, see Baruch S, Kaufman D, Hudson KL.Genetic testing of embryos: Practices and perspectives of US in vitro fertilization clinics. Fertility and Sterility 2008;89:1053–8.

4. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 174–6.

5. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 17n34.

6. As pointed out by Green RM.Babies by Design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2007, at 57.

7. Wilmut I, Schnieke AE, McWhir J, Kind AJ, Campbell KHS.Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells. Nature 1997;385:810–3.

8. Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, Waknitz MA, Swiergiel JJ, Marshall VS, et al. . Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science 1998;282:1145–7.

9. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 124–73.

10. It should be noted that I have only read the book in its English translation. This means that my interpretations can occasionally catch the translators’ rather than the author’s lines of thought. It would be interesting to compare my results with the results of someone who has only used the German text.

11. See note 2, Häyry 2010. Other interpretations of Habermasian lines of argument from The Future of Human Nature (and beyond) can be found in Green RM.Confronting rationality. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2011;20:216–27; Árnason V.Nonconfrontational rationality or critical reasoning. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2011;20:228–37; Gunson D.Are all rational moralities equivalent? Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2011;20:238–47; Herissone-Kelly P. Habermas, human agency, and human genetic enhancement: The grown, the made, and responsibility for actions. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2012;21:200210; Gurnham D.Bioethics as science fiction: Making sense of Habermas’s The Future of Human Nature. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2012;21:235246; and Gunson D.What is the Habermasian perspective in bioethics? Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2012;21:188199.

12. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 40.

13. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 73, 92.

14. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 55. See also note 2, Häyry 2010, at 36–7.

15. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 40.

16. Jaspers K.The Origin and Goal of History (orig. 1949), Bullock M, trans. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 1953.

17. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 53–60.

18. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 58.

19. I have explained my views on the Kantian position in Häyry M.The tension between self-governance and absolute inner worth in Kant’s moral philosophy. Journal of Medical Ethics 2005;31:645–7.

20. On cloning, see note 1, Habermas 2003, at 62–3; see note 2, Häyry 2010, at 140–2. On genetic manipulation, see note 1, Habermas 2003, at 51–2, 86; see note 2, Häyry 2010, at 179, 181–2.

21. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 49–51.

22. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 64.

23. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 60.

24. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 54.

25. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 65–66.

26. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 37.

27. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 65.

28. Sandel M.The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 2007, at 45–6, 85–7, 89–92. See also note 2, Häyry 2010, at 33–5.

29. See note 28, Sandel 2007, at 85ff.

30. See note 28, Sandel 2007, at 100.

31. See note 28, Sandel 2007, at 79–82.

32. See note 28, Sandel 2007, at 95–7.

33. Kass L.Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics. San Francisco: Encounter Books; 2002, at 19–22, 53, 155–61, 269–72. See also note 2, Häyry 2010, at 32–3.

34. See note 33, Kass 2002, at 33, 134–6, 172.

35. See note 33, Kass 2002, at 121–3, 130ff.

36. Sandel M.The ethical implications of human cloning. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 2005;48:241–7.

37. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 180–1.

38. Glover J.Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design. Oxford: Clarendon Press; 2006.

39. See note 38, Glover 2006, at 72.

40. Harris J.Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2007, at 142.

41. See note 40, Harris 2007, at 139.

42. See note 40, Harris 2007, at 137.

43. See note 40, Harris 2007, at 141–2.

44. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 79. Italics in “future” removed.

45. See note 40, Harris 2007, at 141. Italics in “future” removed,

46. See note 40, Harris 2007, at 141.

47. Parfit D.Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1984. This book exposed the fallacies of thinking about future people’s well-being by using traditional moral intuitions.

48. On this latter point, see note 1, Habermas 2003, at vii.

49. For the record, “yes” would sound like a very reasonable answer to me. See, e.g., Häyry M.A rational cure for pre-reproductive stress syndrome. Journal of Medical Ethics 2004;30:377–8.

50. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 43, 51–2.

51. See note 1, Habermas 2003, at 86.

52. See note 2, Häyry 2010, at 190–3.

53. Jonas H.The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age (orig. 1979). Jonas H, Herr D, trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1984.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
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