Talk: “Biological sex” and “normal human bodies”: Problematising the case for human enhancement, by Robert Sparrow (2 Nov 2010)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 2 November 2010, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Robert Sparrow, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: I will argue that the existence of sexual dimorphism poses a profound challenge to those writers who wish to deny the moral significance of the idea of “a normal human body” in debates about the ethics of human enhancement. The biological sex of a child will make a much greater difference to their life prospects than many of the genetic variations that the philosophical and bioethical literature has previously been concerned with. It seems, then, that advocates of human enhancement should have something to say about the choice between a male and a female embryo. Either, 1) parents have reasons to choose boys over girls; (2) parents have reasons to choose girls over boys; or, (3) parents have neither a reason to choose girls over boys nor a reason to choose boys over girls. Embracing either of the first two alternatives has strongly counterintuitive—and arguably morally repugnant—consequences. To motivate the third option we must either make reference to a sexed conception of “normal” human bodies or argue that parents should consider the interests of society when thinking about what sort of children they should bring into the world—an implication that should be extremely controversial in debates about the “new eugenics”. I conclude, then, that a sexed conception of “a normal human body” is properly crucial to reasoning about the ethics of shaping future persons.

rsparrow8About the Speaker: Dr. Sparrow is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University.  His current research interests include the ethics of human enhancement, multiculturalism, and new reproductive technologies. His presentation will extend upon research published as “Better than men? Sex and the therapy/enhancement distinction,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20 (2): 115-144.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: Normative Problems of Transplant Medicine, by Thomas Gutmann (14 September 2010)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 14 September 2010, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Thomas Gutmann (Chair for Civil Law, Philosophy of Law, and Medical Law, and Co-director, Center for Advanced Study in Bioethics, University of Münster, Germany); Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: Professor Gutmann will discuss some of the pros and cons of live organ donation and the ethics of organ allocation, both of which are highly controversial issues that he has dealt with extensively in his work. The session will include an open dialogue on the topic with students and staff in attendance.

thomas_gutmannAbout the Speaker: A graduate from the University of Munich, where he underwent his legal and philosophical training, from which he obtained a Ph.D. in law and Habilitations in both law and philosophy, and where he served as assistant professor between 2000 and 2006, he was appointed full professor at Münster in 2006. He is the author or co-author of six books, co-editor of another four books, and he has published numerous journal articles and book chapters that have appeared in German, English, Russian and Spanish. His work covers a broad range of issues, from bioethics to the normative foundations of modernity, human dignity, torture, paternalism, communitarianism, several intricate legal matters,and others. He is one of the leading German experts on transplant ethics.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.