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TitleHuman Lives: Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics
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Page 2

HUMAN LIVES

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118 Human Lives

these attitudes are part of a rationally consistent conceptual scheme
which is an integral part of our everyday life as human beings who live
out our lives in relation to one another. This scheme is, however, quite dis-
tinct from a scheme in which we regard human beings as bits ofbiological
stuff caused by impersonal forces to behave in this or that way on the ba-
sis of internal mechanisms (although that might also be a true descrip-
tion of us in terms of a certain kind of discourse). What is more, he
argues that the reactive attitudes scheme- which includes concepts like
belie£ intention, respect,freedom, and resentment- is not only permissible
for us to employ in the sense that it informs our normal dealings with
other human beings, but is unassailably rational. It is rational to hold fast
to the descriptions and conclusions that emerge within this scheme, be-
cause as a scheme it is indispensible to those dealings with each other in
which such things as justification, meaning, intention, action, assertion,
and so on are employed. By contrast, the 'objective or reductive scheme'
in which we consider purely physical descriptions of objects, mechan-
isms, and impersonal forces as the only facts holding sway in the world
would, if uncritically applied to human behaviour, undermine the inter-
personal attributes that structure our discursive and moral universe.
For Strawson, it is not rational for us to allow any theory to preempt
ways of acting and relating that are intrinsic to our nature as rational
social beings.

When we search around for similar patterns of thought in relation to
very young human lives, it is evident that we are torn between wanting to
regard them as human beings and acknowledging the fact that they are
not the kind ofhuman beings with whom we are in reciprocal moral dis-
course. If we then extend our reflection to things such as human embryos,
we find ourselves in a domain of thought in relation to which our moral
judgments no longer have clear implications. It should, therefore, be no
surprise to us that we commonly experience moral conflict in relation to
life-and-death decisions about embryos and foetuses.

However, when we try to understand this conflict, frrmly based in our
(essentially reactive) ways of relating to human beings, we find that con-
sequentialist interpretations are unhelpful For instance, many of us
would appeal to something like potentiality to defend the intrinsic value
of young human lives. But here the consequentialists are quite severe.
Singer says we must look at the very young human life for what it is, that
is, in terms of 'the actual characteristics it possesses'. 25 What are these
actual characteristics, and what does it mean to say that a young human
being is a potential person? That is not at all obvious. Consider the fol-
lowing analog}t I hold a ticket to the FA Cup Final (or NBA finals if you

Page 127

R>ung Human Beings: Metaphysics and Ethics 119

prefer). My wife casually announces one evening, 'I was so sick of you
not getting your trousers cleaned I emptied the pockets and sent them
to the dry cleaners.• My heart sinks because that was where I kept my tick-
et I ask about the ticket and learn that she threw it in the rubbish (or gar-
bage if you prefer). I am upset (to put it mildly). She says, 'What are you
upset about, it was only a little piece of paper: Now my wife is right: it
was only a little piece of paper, in terms of the actual characteristics it
possessed - but she is producing a paradigmatic Humean reduction. I
would contend that a similar move is going on in the consequentialist
view ofpotentiali~

Basing our attitudes to things on the consequences of a certain course
of events going in a particular way leaves us perplexed about what it is
that concerns us in the case ofhuman embryos and foetuses. By treating
each individual human embryo as the mere focus of a set of events that
might result in a person if not interfered with by ourselves or other influ-
ences, we lose a number of conceptual connections which relate what we
think of that thing to what we think of other things which have a certain
place in our universe of discourse. In particular, this view completely ob-
scures what is important about an object whose future is destined to be
destroyed before it is a person. The reading of potential as projectible fu-
ture (depending on the consequences of intervening events) yields the
conclusion that a to-be-ended young human life is of no moral conse-
quence. But the intrinsic nature of the young human life is not so easily
disconnected from the person-to-be. My ticket carried the significance
it did because of a complex place in human discourse and a number of
things that mean a great deal to anybody who understands the values in-
herent in being a soccer (or basketball) fan. In the case of embryos, there-
levant discourse involves us all because it is the discourse of human
origins. In this discourse, things like embryos have a unique place not
captured by an austere description of their physical characteristics. For
this reason there is merit in the view that a human embryo has potential
as an intrinsic feature of its nature and its moral status must include that
of a person-to-be. If we shut out such a basic meaning or significance as
this, then our view of the being in question loses the kind of links with
our moral attitudes that are, in general, basic to our ethical thinking
about any of the beings whom we encounter.

This counter to the consequentialist focus on a fairly narrow concep-
tion of the 'actual characteristics' of young human lives allows us to con-
nect our moral reasoning to the range of judgments, perceptions, and
reflective techniques that inform us about the world in generaL Things
are subject to many descriptions or significations and various of these

Page 251

Index 243

La Puma, 1, 157 n
Lawson, n, 223 n
Lepore, E., 157 n
Lewis, n, 178 n
life, right to

inalienable, 12, cb. 12 passim
as structural moral right, 237-40
see also rights
li~ A., 69,75 n, 224 n
Locke, 1, 87, 94 n
Lyons, n, 22, 36 n

Mabbott, 1 n, 37 n
Macintyre, A, 9,147,152-3, 158 n, 159 n
Maclean, A., 34 n
Macphail, E. M., 95 n
Malebranche, N., 80
Margolis, J., 158 n
Marker, R., 223 n
Mathews, F., 208, 222 n
McCloskey, H., 127 n, 211, 222 n
McDowell,!, 32-3,38 n
medicine, integrity of, 9-10, cbs. 7 and 8

passim,l61-2, 175
see also health; euthanasia; virtue theory;

'thick' concepts
Midgley, M., 224 n
Mies, M., 221 n
Mill, J. S., S-6, 13-14,16-18, 2~34, 3S n,

36n,37 n, 38n, 81-2, 94n
non-conscqucntialist interpretation of,

16--18, 2~34
traditional view of animals, support for,

81-2
moral scepticism of, 188-9

Miller, B., 183-4, 194 n
Miller, n, 159 n
Momeycr, R., 129, 140 n
Moore, G. E., 14-15, 18, 35 n
Moravcsik,1,158 n
Morgan, L, 87-8
Morison, R. S., 194 n
Munson, R.,158 n
Murray, P. D. F., 82, 94 n

nature
integrity of, 6, ch. 3 passim (esp. 68-72)
and species, 68-72
beauty of, 72-4

Noddings, N., 127 n

Oderberg, D. S.,l2
O'Donovan, 0., 67, 75 n
O'Neill, 0.,193 n

Paracelsus, 130,140 n
Pargcttcr, R., 9S n
patcrnalism,184
Paul, St, 56 n
Pellegrino, E. n,193 n, 194 n
Pcpys, S., 87, 94 n
pcrsonism, 7o, 89-93, 114,197, 199-200,

205-9
rights-based arguments for killing

cfistinsuished, 200-1
theories of culpability distinguished,

201-2
and baby-farming. 212-16
see also Singer, P.;Toolcy, M;

conscqucntialism
Peters, R. S., 93 n
Piagct, 1, 88,89
Plato, 56 n, 85, 94 n, 132, 140 n, 141 n
Pluhar, E., 72
pluralism, moral

as partly responsible for pre-eminence of
autonomy, 1~11,183,186-7

see also autonomy
potcntiali~ importance of, 7, 9~3,

203-7
rejected by Singer, 202, 203-7
and the sleeping, 92,206-7

Price, C, 140 n
Prichard, K A., S, 13-16,18
Pursel, V. G, 69

Quinn, W., f78 n

Rachels, 1,162-3, 169-70, t76, 177 n, 178 n,
179n, 181n

Railton, P., 3S n
Ramsey, F.,84, 94n
Ramsey, P.,194 n
Rawls, 1, 94 n,l42 n
Regan, T., 67-8, 224 n
Rifkin,!, 72
rights

defmed, 228-9
and consequentialism, 2~ 1, 229-34
and justice, 12,226-7
inalienable, existence of, 12, ch. 12 passim
life, right to, as inalienable, 12, ch. 12

passim
to life and property compared, 235-6
and doctrine of paramountcy of the will,

234-5
andabsolutism,~2
and equality, 79-81
see also animals; speciesism; Singer, P.

Page 252

244 Index

Rollin, B., 75 n
Ross,W. D., 5, 13-16,18, 35 n, 38 n
Ryder, R. Il, 78, 93 n
Ryle,G.,84

sanctity oflife, doctrine of, 218
Sandoo, P., 58,75 n
Sartre, l-P.,l42 n
Scarlett, B. F., 7
scepticism, moral

as partly responsible for pre-eminence of
autonomy; 1~11.183,187-90

see also autonomy
Schaffner, K. F.,158 n
Scheffier, S., 35 n, 36 n, 56 n
Schiedermayer, Il,l57 n
Seamark, R. F., 58, 75 n
Sebeok, T. A, 95 n
Sen, A., 15-16, 40, 56 n
sentience, 8, 208-9
Sidgwick, H.,l3, 17-18, 24, 34
Simmons, L, 9-10
Singer, P., 7,11-12, 18, 75 n, cbs.4 and 5

passim,lll,ll3,114, 115, 126 n,l27 n,
177 n,l78 n, ch.ll passim

on animals, 7, cbs. 4 and 5 passim, 219-20
on disabled infants, 114, ch. 11 passim
on baby-farming, 212-16
on critical and intuitive moral reasoning,

217
on speciesism, 7, 11-12, 89-93, cbs. 4 and 5

passim, 202, 207-9
on third-party desire, 12, 203, 209-12
inconsistency of, 12, ch.11 passim
interpretation of, ch. 11 passim
equivocation of, 12, ch.ll passim
on equality; 7, cbs. 4 and 5 passim
on potentiality; 7,11, 9~3, 202, 203-7
on 'persons', 7,11, 89-93, 114,197,199-200,

205-9
protests against, 11, 77,197-8, 218-19
see also consequentialism; utilitarianism

Skorupski, J., 36 n
Slote, M, 34n, 158n
Smart, ll C,l8,35n,37n, 56n,222n
Smimo'l I., 156 n
Smith, J. A., 61, 75 n
speciesism, 7-8, cbs. 4 and 5 passim, 202,

207-9

defmition of, 78, 96
see also animals; equality; Singer, P.

Spencer, H., 36 n
Stafford, 8.,157 n
Strawson, P. F., 117-18, 122, 127 n

Taylor, C, 85, 94 n,l40 n
Teichman, l, 75 n, 91-2,95 n, 221 n, 223 n,

224n
tendencies (of actions~ 6, 21-7
'thick' concepts, 9-10,147-52,154

see also Williams, B.; virtue theory;
health

Thomasma, D. C, 193 n
Thomson, J. J., 179 n, 20~ 1, 221 n, 222 n
Tooley; M., 45-6, 56 n, 89, 111, 113-14, 126 n,

127n
Trevarthen, C, 95 n

Uniacla:, S., 127 n, 211, 222 n
Urmson, l 0., 21, 36 n
utilitarianism, 17-18, 62-3, 73, ch. 5 passim,

109-12, 121, 185, 208
welfare, 15
act, 52,170
rule, 17,21-5,28-9
preference, 31-4, 111-16, 199, 203, 209-12
see also Singer, P.; consequentialism

Vines, G., 221 n
virtue theory; 9, cbs. 7 and 8 passim

and consequentialism, 135-40
see also Williams, B.; Macintyre, A.;

'thick' concepts; health; medicine,
integrity of

Wear, S., 193 n, 194 n
Wells, D., 223 n
Williams, B., 9, 21, 25, 28, 31, 35 n, 36 n, 37 n,

38 n, 40, 56 n,l08, 147-8, 156 n, 157 n,
158n,222n

Williams, G.,l71-3,180n
Wilson, E. 0, 75 n
Wittgenstein, L, 82, 94 n
Woodfield, A.,l40 n

Yeide, H.,l93 n

Rollin,

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