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However, it should be acknowledged that Cohen concedes that the conservative bias is defeasible. However, in such cases, whilst the conservative may celebrate the new value that has been created, it is also fitting that they should lament the value that we have lost in doing so.
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Interestingly, Cohen makes these claims after describing an example that suggests that his views can be readily applied to the enhancement debate: If I want us to continue as we are, do I want us to retain our negative features? What if a genetic manipulation could, for example, eliminate envy … I would not want to eliminate all of our bad features. I conjecture that that is partly because the negative traits are part of the package that makes human beings the particular valuable creatures that we personally cherish, and are therefore worth preserving as part of that package Cohen, , p.
The first reason that Cohen highlights above is grounded by an appeal to particular valuing. For instance, it could be argued that human beings bear intrinsic value by virtue of our shared human characteristics or nature. We call this the argument from particular value Pugh, Kahane and Savulescu. In his concluding remarks, Williams claims: Hopes for self-improvement can lie dangerously close to the risk of self-hatred…. The self-hatred, in this case, is a hatred of humanity Williams, , pp. On the individual level, it seems plausible to claim that we each have a relationship to our own features that may be understood as a basis for each of us placing personal value on ourselves.
However, to broaden the scope of the argument beyond the individual to the collective level, one would have to claim that humans as a species have developed their shared characteristics over the course of a shared biological history. One might then argue that to seek to improve ourselves by using enhancement technologies would be to fail to recognise the significance of our collective relationship to our own shared biological history, and the personal value that we, as a collective, place on it Pugh, Kahane and Savulescu, , p.
Whilst objections to human enhancement technologies that appeal to conservative modes of valuing or the human prejudice have some advantages over bioconservative objections that appeal to the much contested concept of human nature, they are not without their own limitations.
Furthermore, many attractive enhancements such as life-extending enhancements can be understood as potentially preserving valuable features of human beings in a manner that is compatible with the conservative bias. Yet it seems that there are problems with both accounts.
First, Cohen himself conceded that his account of conservatism faces important objections Cohen, , pp. Savulescu, , pp. Common sense morality suggests that it can be permissible for agents to incorporate reasons of partiality in their moral deliberations. To illustrate, suppose that you are told that you have only enough time to save either two people who are drowning on the left side of a pier, or one person drowning on the right.
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If you were told that the one person drowning on the right is your brother, this fact might plausibly be understood to make it morally permissible for you to save him rather than the two strangers, even though we would normally claim that you have an obligation to save two people rather than one in such a situation, ceteris paribus. In view of the above, we might claim that we can have defeasible reasons of partiality to favour our friends and family in our moral deliberations. In the case of family and close friends, this question does not seem to be overly problematic; the close ties that we have forged with these individuals may easily be understood to give rise to a non-instrumentally valuable relationship, and this sort of value can ground reasonable partiality towards our friends and family in our moral deliberations.
However, the question is more problematic when we consider partiality towards members of groups to which we belong, because we often lack close ties to all members of the groups to which we belong. For instance, even if we believe that co-nationality can ground reasonable partiality, it is clearly not the case that we have a close individual tie with every co-national of ours who exists. Furthermore, we surely cannot be morally justified in being partial towards members of certain groups, such as members of our own sex or race, in our moral deliberations.
To illustrate, it would be no moral justification of your saving the one instead of the two in the above pier example if you were to point out that the person on the right was the same sex or race as you, whilst the two on the left were not. In order to avoid the discriminatory partiality objection, it seems that one must claim that partiality is only morally justifiable towards attachments that are in some way valuable.
For instance, John Cottingham , pp. This seems to weaken this form of response to the discriminatory partiality problem. In order to strengthen this sort of account, one would need to establish that there is a non-contingent relationship between human flourishing and the abandonment of racist and sexist attitudes; on such a view, holding such attitudes would simply be inimical to human flourishing.
Alternatively one could adopt a view with somewhat broader scope by claiming that partialities are justified as long as they are grounded by a relationship that has final value Kolodny, ; Scheffler, On such an account, partialities may be justified by valuable relationships that are finally valuable for non-welfare based reasons. With this discussion of the grounds of reasonable partiality in mind, we can begin to provide a sketch of what partiality for humanity might involve and the implications that it might have for the enhancement debate. We shall first suggest an account of partiality for humanity as being grounded by membership-dependent reasons, that is, by reasons that flow from our non-instrumentally valuing our membership of the human species.
If not, then partiality for humanity might be discriminatory. As we highlighted in the first section, Williams suggests that his burning building case speaks in favour of the human prejudice. However, as one of us has argued elsewhere, deeper consideration of this case suggests that it is not sufficient for establishing the claim that we value human beings per se , in abstraction from the valuable capabilities that they tend to instantiate, and which demarcate personhood from non-personhood.
To see why, consider an analogue of the claim Williams makes on the basis of his burning building case: Told that there are permanently unconscious human beings trapped in a burning building, on the strength of that fact alone we mobilise as many resources as we can to rescue them Savulescu, , p.
Consider now two further cases.
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In the first, we must compare the reasons we have to save a human non-person with the reasons we have to save a non-human person: Case One : A permanently unconscious human being is trapped in one room of a burning building. A benevolent extra-terrestrial who exhibits all the capacities associated with personhood is trapped in another.
You only have time to save one. Crucially though, it is not clear that it is best to construe our moral reason here as a reason of partiality. As we suggested above, we can understand a reason of partiality to be a distinctive kind of reason that has its source in a non-instrumentally valued attachment. However, when we choose to save the person in case one, our reason to do so does not seem to stem at least not primarily from the fact that we value our membership of the group that contains all and only persons; rather, in this case, our reason to save the person stems directly from the value of the person herself.
However, the fact that our moral reasons in these cases are not grounded by reasons of partiality to humanity does not entail that such reasons cannot ever obtain. To see why, consider a case in which we must compare the reason we have to save a human person with the reason we have to save a non-human person. Case Two : A human person is trapped in one room of a burning building. In this case, it at least seems plausible to claim that one might permissibly choose to save the human person rather than the non-human person. Suppose that this is so. Assuming this is the case, this example suggests that there may yet be scope for a reasonable partiality for humanity that goes beyond the moral reasons that we have to treat persons in certain ways.
Case one shows that we have strong moral reasons that, as McMahan , p. However, in case two, in so far as we might justifiably choose to save the human person rather than the non-human person, the moral reason to do so is not derived from the same set of considerations. Rather, our reason to do so seems to derive from extrinsic relational factors, or from what we are calling a reason of partiality for humanity.
On this account, it is not membership of a species per se that in non-instrumentally valuable; as McMahan, also argues, it is difficult to see how this could be morally significant in any way. Rather, what may be understood to ground the non-instrumental value of our membership of the human species is the contingent fact that we as a species have shared a common cultural and biological history with and crucially only with other members of our species in developing the valuable capabilities that humans instantiate.
Although we share parts of our biological history with other species such as chimpanzees , what makes our shared history with other humans special is that only other humans have shared in the part of our history over the course of which we have developed and exercised the very capacities that separate us from other animals. If this is coherent, then there may be some basis for reasonable partiality to humanity that might provide us with sufficient moral justification to save a human person rather than a human non-person in a situation where we have to choose between saving one or the other.
However, this partiality provides only very weak reasons; indeed it might be claimed that moral reasons that derive from a consideration of the intrinsic properties of other beings might be understood to take lexical priority over our reasons of partiality that are grounded on the non-instrumental value of our attachments. McMahan seems to endorse this sort of view. The view of reasonable partiality for humanity that we have outlined here is influenced by the arguments of Williams and Cohen that we explored in section I.
First, reasons of partiality are a familiar element of many plausible moral theories; as such, in appealing to such reasons, we do not need to appeal to a novel and controversial form of valuing as Cohen does. Whilst they give us moral reasons to favour human beings in our moral deliberations, these reasons only obtain if we have already met our more stringent moral duties to non-human persons that are generated by the value of personhood. It seems that a suitably developed account of this sketch of reasonable partiality for humanity could provide a theoretical foundation for an objection to human enhancement technologies that would be superior to many existing bioconservative objections that appeal to the concept of human nature.
An objection grounded in partiality for humanity offers bioconservatives a way of providing a determinate account of what we have reasons to preserve about human beings, without facing the standard problem of explaining how certain relatively contingent and arbitrary features of the human species, selected as they were by a blind evolutionary process, can generate such reasons. On an objection based on the account of partiality illustrated above, the human features that we have reasons to preserve are not understood to be intrinsically valuable in the somewhat implausible manner that other bioconservative objections have claimed; rather, we are understood to have reasons to preserve certain features by virtue of the non-instrumental but extrinsic value that these features bear.
The extrinsic value they bear is grounded by the fact that these features are the product of our shared biological and cultural history. Moreover, unlike other objections to human enhancement that appeal to the intrinsic value of human nature, the objection from reasonable partiality is not committed to the claim that changing human nature must necessarily involve a change for the worse. The thrust of the objection is that even if changing human nature might in some ways be a change for the better, we can nonetheless have reasons to refrain from making such changes.
On the account of partiality outlined above, the reasons at work here are reasons of partiality for humanity grounded in the non-instrumental value of the characteristics that we as a species have developed over a shared cultural and biological history. However, even if we assume that reasonable partiality for humanity is a plausible position, there are some remaining concerns about whether it can be developed into a successful anti-enhancement argument.
The first problem is that on the account outlined above, reasons of partiality are relatively weak, and are lexically inferior to the moral reasons generated by the value of personhood.
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As such, if it can be argued that certain enhancements are necessary to safeguard the moral value of persons, reasons of partiality to humanity would not be sufficiently strong to rule out the moral permissibility of enhancement. Indeed, one of us has argued elsewhere that as our technological capabilities continue to expand, there is an increasing probability that a small group of individuals could destroy the human race, and that the only way to prevent this from happening may be to use technological means to morally enhance the species Persson and Savulescu, A second problem with a partiality-based objection to enhancement technologies is that it is not clear that reasons of partiality to humanity can ground a strong objection to forms of enhancement that seek to preserve what is valuable about human beings.
Life-extension technologies thus seem to preserve much of what we value in being human rather than replace it with something else. We have suggested that an appeal to reasonable partiality could ground a limited form of objection to human enhancement technologies.
We have provided a brief sketch of what a plausible value-based account of reasonable partiality for humanity might involve, suggesting that reasonable partiality for humanity could be grounded by the non-instrumental extrinsic value of the, cultural and biological history that we share with all and only other members of the species Homo Sapiens. We suggested that an objection to human enhancement based on these accounts of partiality has several advantages over common bioconservative objections to human enhancement that appeal to the value of human nature, and the objections that can be drawn from the arguments of Williams and Cohen.
Having said this, since reasons of partiality can ground only weak moral reasons, there are some remaining concerns about whether a view of partiality for humanity can be developed into a successful anti enhancement argument. We have provided only a brief sketch of how one might give an account of the non-instrumental value of being a member of the human species by appealing to the shared cultural and biological history of our species. However, such an account requires further defence than we can provide here.
Indeed, it is telling that both Cottingham and Scheffler are sceptical of whether we can make sense of reasonable partiality for humanity on their value-based account. If an account of partiality for humanity cannot stand up to critical scrutiny, even the weak objections to enhancement that we discussed above may simply amount to conclusions that follow from an irrational and morally despicable bias for humanity that is on par with sexism and racism.
See also Annas ; Habermas One might advance the stronger claim that morality might even oblige us to be partial to certain individuals in our moral deliberations.
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Cohen often writes in a way that gives the impression that when we value particulars in this way, we are responding to a special kind of value that goes beyond the intrinsic value they possess. But the claim is better understood as a claim about how we should properly respond to the intrinsic value possessed by particular things.
See also Bostrom and Ord, However, see Nebel for an argument that the status quo bias can be rational on conservative theories. And as the examples we discuss below show, it is the moral significance of personhood seems to vastly outweigh the possible further significance of being human, once personhood is set aside. Notice that Hurka , pp. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, and Sagar Sanyal.