Dignity and bioethics

I will continue to look at Uncommon Descent. The majority of those on the ID are side are deeply wrong, many are unpleasantly aggressive, and some are just plain stupid. But there are exceptions, it has generated some interesting discussion, it is a great insight into a bizarre mindset and is a source of interesting links.

Today we have a post from Barry Arrington about a paper on dignity as a concept in bioethics by Alasdair Cochrane. I assume he read the entire paper. He does quote from it. But he seems to think it is something to do with allowing scientists to experiment on the disabled or incapable on the lines of Mengele.  Actually all that Cochrane does is try to clarify multiple senses of the word “dignity” and evaluate whether they are any value in bioethics. It makes no attempt to make any bioethical judgements.

The sociologist Steve Fuller comments on Arrington’s post and seems also to struggle with what is actually written in the paper. Fuller writes:

In fact, the only defence of dignity that Cochrane finds philosophically coherent is the theological one that privileges humans above the rest of nature – but the cost of that position is belief in God, which is much too high for him.

However, Cochrane explicitly says that there are multiple coherent senses of dignity. The question is how useful are they in bioethics.

It (the paper) acknowledges that coherent understandings of dignity can be found but argues that they are all flawed.

Of dignity as virtuous behaviour:

Clearly this interpretation of dignified behaviour is perfectly coherent.

Of dignity as inherent moral worth:

This conception of dignity as inherent moral worth certainly seems coherent enough as an idea.

Of Kantian dignity

Clearly then, Kantian dignity offers a coherent conception of the term and is potentially a very useful tool to help us address complex problems in bioethics.

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