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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Imprimir: 2151-805X
ISSN En Línea: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2011003001
pages 1-9

Should Logic Trump Intuition in Bioethical Discourse? Contrasting Peter Singer and Leon Kass

D. John Doyle
Department of General Anesthesiology, Cleveland Clinic, 4500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44195, USA

SINOPSIS

To tackle moral dilemmas, a set of governing principles are needed. In this paper I compare two popular philosophical foundations for moral philosophy: utilitarian-based moral rationalism and moral intuition, two philosophical positions espoused by prominent philosophers Peter Singer and Leon Kass, respectively. Singer's moral rationalism approach is based heavily on reason and logic, following in the philosophical footsteps of Aristotle. By contrast, Kass's moral intuition approach relies on instinctive notions about how things should be, bypassing traditional philosophical methods of analysis for an approach that relies on gut feeling and emotion. In particular, Kass holds that we should respect moral intuitions about the special value of being human, even if we cannot identify reasons to support such intuitive notions.
I argue that Singer's position suffers from a problem common to most forms of utilitarianism, that of producing counterintuitive moral proclamations. However, given that intuition is often subject to serious cultural and cognitive biases, Kass's approach is problematic as well. In the end, while both approaches can be shown to have significant philosophical difficulties, Singer's moral rationalist position is stronger in the sense that it is the less blemished of these two philosophically flawed approaches.


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