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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
Abstract of "Intuitive Responses and Reasoned Arguments: Regurgitating the Yuck Factor"
Niall W. R. Scott
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2HE UK
An aspect of the debate between bioconservatism and bioliberalism concerns the weight that can be given to responses to bioethics problems that do not initially show a rational foundation. Can we give rational support for intuitive responses to bioethics, where intuitive responses might be easily knocked down by good and well-reasoned argument, but fail to address the initial expression of concern? Here, as Peter Herisonne-Kelly (2008) identifies is a problem in Michael Sandel's work The Case against Perfection, pretheoretical intuition expresses that something may be of value (gifted human nature) but not why it is of value. Just because a reason cannot be provided following an initial intuitive worry response to, say, a new biotechnology does not mean that there is no reasonable reason to respond in such a manner. Häyry (2004) presents the suggestion that philosophers often argue that irrational or unreasonable fears and hopes can be ignored. However, it may well be that such responses are too easily characterized and dismissed where the charge of irrationality misses the deeper nature of concern that has not found the voice or the tools to be articulated. What of fears that are by definition irrational, but could turn out to be quite reasonable? Indeed one may show that some responses are warranted. It may be that we can, as Alan Gibbard (1992) has suggested, reject a rational approach with sarcasm, e.g., That would be the rational thing to do.Jonathan Glover (1999), in discussing eugenics, argues that it can be quite hard following the yuck response to explicate an argumentit is more tempting to turn away rather than confront it. However, he holds that the yuck is better followed by the thought response. I am wary of the destructive deployment of rationality, i.e., knowledge in argument that interrogates emotion too quickly and too easily. In this paper I would like to pursue the possibilities open to supporting intuitive, pretheoretical responses to bioethical issues, looking at the goals of rational bioliberal argument and asking whether these serve the pursuit of wisdom rather than knowledge.
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