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Harman, Elizabeth, , . Can we harm and benefit in creating?
2004,
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The non-identity problem concerns actions that affect who exists in the future. If such an action is performed, certain people will exist in the future who would not otherwise have existed: they are not identical to any of the people who would have existed if the action had not been performed. Some of these actions seem to be wrong, and they seem to be wrong in virtue of harming the very future individuals whose existence is dependent on their having been performed. The problem arises when it is argued that the actions do not harm these people – because the actions do not make them worse off than they would otherwise be.1 Consider: Radioactive Waste Policy: We are trying to decide whether to adopt a permissive radioactive waste policy. This policy would be less inconvenient to us than our existing practices. If we enact the newly-proposed policy, then we will cause there to be radioactive pollution that will cause illness and suffering. However, the policy will have such significant effects on public policy and industry functioning, that different people will exist in the future depending on whether we enact the policy. Two things should be emphasized. First, the illness and suffering caused will be very serious: deformed babies, children with burns from acid rain, and adults dying young from cancer. Second, the policy will affect who will exist in the future because our present practices invade people’s everyday lives, for example by affecting recycling practices in the home; these practices will change if the policy is adopted. Furthermore, whether we adopt the policy will determine which plants are built where, what jobs are available, and what trucks are on the road. These effects will create small differences in everyone’s lives which ultimately affect who meets whom and who conceives with whom, or at least when people conceive. This affects who exists in the future.

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Macklin, Ruth, , . Cloning and Public Policy
2002, In Justine Burley & John Harris (eds.), A companion to genethics. Blackwell. pp. 206-215.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: It seemed like only minutes after a team of Scottish scientists announced, in late February 1997, that they had successfully cloned a sheep, that governmental officials and private citizens throughout the world called for a ban on cloning human beings. The rush to legislate or issue executive orders was so swift, it is reasonable to wonder why the news that a mammal had been cloned ignited such a stampede to prohibit, even criminalize, attempts to clone humans. These events raise a series of separate, yet related questions. Why does the prospect of cloning human beings incite such strong reactions? What reasons have been proposed for enacting national laws or international conventions to prohibit cloning? Can these prohibitions be justified by sound ethical arguments? Before attempting to answer these questions, let us look first at the responses that called for public policy measures to ban human cloning.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . Some limits of informed consent
2003, Journal of Medical Ethics 29 (1):4-7
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Many accounts of informed consent in medical ethics claim that it is valuable because it supports individual autonomy. Unfortunately there are many distinct conceptions of individual autonomy, and their ethical importance varies. A better reason for taking informed consent seriously is that it provides assurance that patients and others are neither deceived nor coerced. Present debates about the relative importance of generic and specific consent (particularly in the use of human tissues for research and in secondary studies) do not address this issue squarely. Consent is a propositional attitude, so intransitive: complete, wholly specific consent is an illusion. Since the point of consent procedures is to limit deception and coercion, they should be designed to give patients and others control over the amount of information they receive and opportunity to rescind consent already given.

Comment: A great introductory text offering a short overview of the problems related to consent. The point regarding the intransitivity of consent is likely to inspire interesting discussions. As the paper is quite short, it can easily be used in conjunction with other texts.

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Sarkar, Sahotra, , . Environmental Philosophy: From Theory to Practice
2012, Wiley-Blackwell.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Rose Trappes

Publisher’s Note: The first comprehensive treatment of environmental philosophy, going beyond ethics to address the philosophical concepts that underlie environmental thinking and policy-making today

  • Encompasses all of environmental philosophy, including conservation biology, restoration ecology, sustainability, environmental justice, and more
  • Offers the first treatment of decision theory in an environmental philosophy text
  • Explores the conceptions of nature and ethical presuppositions that underlie contemporary environmental debates, and, moving from theory to practice, shows how decision theory translates to public policy
  • Addresses both hot-button issues, including population and immigration reform, and such ongoing issues as historical legacies and nations’ responsibility and obligation for environmental problems
  • Anchors philosophical concepts to their practical applications, establishing the priority of the discipline’s real-world importance

Comment: This book provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to major philosophical issues in environmental science, ethics and policy. There are handy ‘boxes’ with examples to illustrate the text. Chapters are fairly short and can be a bit dense, but they are good as overviews of the major issues when paired with related but more specific texts. It’s also sensitive to indigenous and racial issues when it comes to conservation.

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Stemplowska, Zofia, , . What’s Ideal about Ideal Theory?
2008, Social Theory and Practice 34(3): 319-340.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Introduction: One of the main tasks that occupies political theorists, and arouses intense debate among them, is the construction of theories—so-called ideal theories—that share a common characteristic: much of what they say offers no immediate or workable solutions to any of the problems our societies face. This feature is not one that theorists strive to achieve but nor can it be described as an accidental one: these theories are constructed in the full knowledge that, whatever else they may offer, much of what they say will not be immediately applicable to the urgent problems of policy and institutional design. Since this may seem puzzling, and has been subjected to severe criticism, the main task of this paper is to ask what is the point of ideal theory and to show the nature of its value. I will also argue that, while the debate over the point of ideal theory can be productive, it will only be so if we avoid treating ideal and nonideal theories as rival approaches to political theory.

Comment: Does a good job of defending ideal theory from prominent criticisms and setting out an account of ideal and non-ideal theory in which they complement one another. Would work as a main text for a lecture or seminar developing the ideal/non-ideal theme, or as further reading for anyone writing about it.

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