Presentation on theme: "Secular Responses Use of the Embryo. Utilitarianism Based on the idea of the greatest happiness for the greatest number or majority Also based on hedonism."— Presentation transcript:
Secular Responses Use of the Embryo
Utilitarianism Based on the idea of the greatest happiness for the greatest number or majority Also based on hedonism Concerned with maximising pleasure and minimising pain for the individual as well as the majority Often requires a ‘sacrifice’ of one’s (minorities) own happiness for the sake of the majority For Utilitarians there are no objective moral facts, things are only right or wrong depending on the results that they produce The equity principle is the notion that everyone is considered equal, no one person’s happiness is more important than that of any other’s happiness Concerned primarily with the consequences and the best outcome for the majority
Utilitarianism and Embryos With regard to the use of embryos the Utilitarian would take into consideration the state of the embryo Is the embryo a person? Utilitarian definition of a person would include consciousness, ability to feel pain/pleasure, self awareness and the ability to express themselves Since the embryo lacks all of the these qualities the embryo is not a person in the sense that we understand it The greater good for the majority therefore justifies the destruction of the embryo Destruction of the embryo is not morally relevant to Utilitarians as it feels no pain and has no self interest or consciousness
Peter Singer Australian Utilitarian Very outspoken on quality of life of severely handicapped babies and the terminally ill Believes that they should be allowed/left to die when their quality of life is so poor as to negate life itself See page 92 of text book for part of Singer’s argument Singer would consider the suffering of the majority to be the primary concern: the end does justify the means The embryo is not a sentient being If destruction of the embryo brings cures for numerous diseases that will invariably end suffering then the embryo is a means to an end
Deontological Approach Kantian Ethics Based on duty and reason No rational thinking being would will/wish that they had been experimented on as an embryo If you will it for others you must also will it for yourself Application of the Categorical Imperative- 3 formulations 1. The universal law: what ever you will must be applicable to everyone in the same or similar situation 2. Means to an end- no one must ever be used simply as a means to an end bit must be ends in themselves 3. The kingdom of ends- we are all lawmaking members of the kingdom of ends
Kant Kant believed that human beings were the high point of God’s creation This was because of their unique ability to reason Firstly we all have a duty to protect the innocent as we were all innocent (children) at one time and needed protection (self preservation) The embryo cannot defend itself so it requires protection However, the embryo cannot reason, so the question to be asked is: Does a Kantian consider the embryo to be a human person?
The Categorical Imperative If we apply the categorical imperative to the use of embryos in research we have to ask if this could become a universal law, without becoming a contradiction. Embryo research is only carried out on those embryos left over from IVF, they are never likely to become a person anyway. Could this be universalised, I think it could. Is it using the embryo as a means to an end? Yes it is and for Kantians the consequences do not matter. Even if Parkinson’s and other diseases were eradicated it would not justify the destruction of the embryo. We are all expected to be law making members of a society where everyone is treated as an end in themselves because with the application of reason this is how we would want to live and be treated. But the problem for Kantian ethics is that the embryo lacks the ability to apply reason. See page 110