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Bioethics

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Bioethics

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Bioethics

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Cover image of Bioethics

Bioethics

Updated 1 day ago

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Bioethics

Rank #1: Can Moral Behavior be Improved or Enhanced? - Part 1

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Should the research on moral psychology be interpreted as suggesting new approaches for improving, or perhaps enhancing, moral intuitions, attitudes, judgments, and behavior or for reforming social institutions? Can we create more effective educational tools for improving moral development? For the last century psychiatry has attempted to medicalize moral failings - lack of self-control, addiction, anger, impatience, fear. But what of engineering ourselves to higher states of virtue? If the enhancement of morality is possible, which virtues or cognitive capabilities will it be safe to enhance and how? What might be the unanticipated side effects of attempts to enhance moral behavior?

May 18 2012

1hr 29mins

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Rank #2: Can Moral Behavior be Improved or Enhanced? - Part 2

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Should the research on moral psychology be interpreted as suggesting new approaches for improving, or perhaps enhancing, moral intuitions, attitudes, judgments, and behavior or for reforming social institutions? Can we create more effective educational tools for improving moral development? For the last century psychiatry has attempted to medicalize moral failings - lack of self-control, addiction, anger, impatience, fear. But what of engineering ourselves to higher states of virtue? If the enhancement of morality is possible, which virtues or cognitive capabilities will it be safe to enhance and how? What might be the unanticipated side effects of attempts to enhance moral behavior?

May 18 2012

1hr 20mins

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Rank #3: Beyond Point-And-Shoot Morality: Why Cognitive (Neuro)Science Matters for Ethics

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Does the "is" is of empirical moral psychology have implications for the "ought" of normative ethics? I'll argue that it does. One cannot deduce moral truths form scientific truths, but cognitive science, including cognitive neuroscience, may nevertheless influence moral thinking in profound ways. First, I'll review evidence for the dual-process theory of moral judgment, according to which characteristically deontological judgments tend to be driven by automatic emotional responses while characteristically consequentialist judgments tend to be driven by controlled cognitive processes. I'll then consider the respective functions of automatic and controlled processes. Automatic processes are like the point-and-shoot settings on a camera, efficient but inflexible. Controlled processes are like a camera's manual mode, inefficient but flexible. Putting these theses together, I'll argue that deontological philosophy is essentially a rationalization of automatic responses that are too inflexible to handle our peculiarly modern moral problems. I'll recommend consequentialist thinking as a better alternative for modern moral problem-solving.

May 18 2012

1hr 4mins

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Rank #4: On the Permissibility of Creating Enhanced People

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In Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement (OUP, forthcoming 2012) Julian Savulescu and I argue that in order to solve the greatest moral problems of the present time, like anthropogenic climate and environmental deterioration and global inequality, it is necessary to morally enhance human beings, not only by traditional means but also, if possible, by biomedical means. Some, like John Harris, have replied that moral enhancement by biomedical means would undercut our freedom and, so, would not really increase our moral value. I believe that this objection is mistaken, that these means would undercut neither our freedom nor our rationality. However, what I shall mainly discuss in my presentation is a reply which grants that this is so, that genuine moral enhancement could be produced by biomedical means. What I shall discuss is Nicholas Agar's argument in Humanity's End (MIT, 2010) to the effect that it is morally permissible for human beings to prevent the creation of morally enhanced people because this could harm the interests of the unenhanced. I argue that this argument fails because it overlooks the distinction between morally permissible and impermissible harm. The harm that the enhanced would cause the unenhanced would be permissible harm, and it is not permissible to prevent such harm.

May 18 2012

38mins

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Rank #5: Moral Enhancement and the Law

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The invention of a drug that enhanced moral judgment would raise a number of legal issues. What should the impact be of taking the drug, or refusing or being unable to take it, on criminal and civil liability? Could taking it be a condition of parole? How safe would such a drug have to be to be approved by the FDA, and how would the agency weigh risks and benefits? Under current law, to what extent could the government require people to take it? Could parents be required to give it to their children? If not, should the law be changed? Would the drug be covered under third party health insurance programs, including the Obama health reform plan, and if not, should it be? Are there certain types of persons who should not take it, such as soldiers, in whom it might interfere with the duty to follow lawful orders? How should the availability of the drug affect international law?

May 18 2012

23mins

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Rank #6: Are Intuitions Heuristics?

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Many psychologists and philosophers are attracted to the idea that intuitions are heuristics, a kind of mental short-cut or rule of thumb. As a result, many think that the issue of whether intuitions are reliable is just the issue of whether heuristics are reliable. In this paper, I argue that there are reasons to suspect that intuitions are heuristics. I consider the implication of this point for the debate concerning the reliability of intuitions and for those who hold some kind of dual-process model of moral judgment.

May 18 2012

56mins

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Rank #7: Can Moral Behavior be Improved or Enhanced? - Part 4

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Should the research on moral psychology be interpreted as suggesting new approaches for improving, or perhaps enhancing, moral intuitions, attitudes, judgments, and behavior or for reforming social institutions? Can we create more effective educational tools for improving moral development? For the last century psychiatry has attempted to medicalize moral failings - lack of self-control, addiction, anger, impatience, fear. But what of engineering ourselves to higher states of virtue? If the enhancement of morality is possible, which virtues or cognitive capabilities will it be safe to enhance and how? What might be the unanticipated side effects of attempts to enhance moral behavior?

May 15 2012

1hr 27mins

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Rank #8: When the Mind Matters for Morality

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Mental state reasoning is critical for moral cognition, allowing us to distinguish, for
example, murder from manslaughter. I will present neural evidence for distinct cognitive
components of mental state reasoning for moral judgment, and investigate differences in mental
state reasoning for distinct moral domains, i.e. harm versus purity, for self versus other, and for
groups versus individuals. I will discuss these findings in the context of the broader question of why
the mind matters for morality.

May 15 2012

1hr 5mins

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Rank #9: Can Moral Behavior be Improved or Enhanced? - Q&A

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Should the research on moral psychology be interpreted as suggesting new approaches for improving, or perhaps enhancing, moral intuitions, attitudes, judgments, and behavior or for reforming social institutions? Can we create more effective educational tools for improving moral development? For the last century psychiatry has attempted to medicalize moral failings - lack of self-control, addiction, anger, impatience, fear. But what of engineering ourselves to higher states of virtue? If the enhancement of morality is possible, which virtues or cognitive capabilities will it be safe to enhance and how? What might be the unanticipated side effects of attempts to enhance moral behavior?

May 15 2012

14mins

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Rank #10: Feeling Good About Feeling Bad: Moral Aliefs and Moral Dilemmas

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In some cases, moral behavior seem to be fully commendable (only) when the subject
performs it wholeheartedly, without conflict between or among counter- or pro-moral beliefs and
counter- or pro-moral aliefs. But in others, (perhaps those where moral demands at different levels
pull in different directions) moral behavior seems to be fully commendable (only) when the subject
experiences a conflict between pro-moral beliefs and pro-moral aliefs where the latter -- generally
pro-social -- response is morally overridden in this (exceptional) circumstance. In still others, moral
behavior seems to be fully commendable when it occurs as a result of the agent's overcoming
certain counter-moral aliefs or beliefs. What sorts of systematic patterns do these cases exhibit, and
how do they connect to Tetlock's work on tragic and taboo tradeoffs, Williams' work on "one
thought too many" and "residues", Kant and Arpaly on enkratia and (reverse) akrasia, and recent
work in neuroscience?

May 15 2012

1hr 7mins

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