Re: "Cloning Breakthrough" not one

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Nov 27 2001 - 14:26:02 MST

On Tue, Nov 27, 2001 at 10:18:22AM -0800, Mark Walker wrote:
> > It seems that this misinterpretation of Kant is very widespread, and
> > even when people do not hold it they might argue that any more use of
> > humans as means moves us in a bad direction. But that argument only
> > holds if there are no ameliorating effects of the practice; if we treat
> > humans a slight bit more like resources for stem cells that increase in
> > mean-ness is offset by the health benefits, which enable more people to
> > live full lives and use their energy in positive direction.
> This version of the categorical imperative may not be used to attack human
> cloning per se but it can be used to argue against this technology _if_ we
> grant that the "stuff" from which we hope to harvest the stem cells should
> be treated as a distinct person. If we kill off the stuff after we have
> harvested the stem cells then clearly we are treating it as a means and not
> as an end in itself. If we accept the Kantian imperative and that it is
> right to harvest stem cells from this stuff, then the stuff cannot be a
> person. For Kant this is a categorical imperative which means that all the
> talk in the world about health benefits will not override our duty not to
> treat people as mere means. This sort of consequentialist thinking is what
> Kant wanted to avoid. (Perhaps I misunderstand Anders here. Does the
> sentence which starts "It seems that this....: mean that they do not hold
> this misinterpretation of Kant or that they do not hold to Kant's
> deontological position?)

I think they usually don't know either of them :-) Remember, we are now
talking about second hand ethics, where people use ethics as a bludgeon
in the debate but seldom do any ethical reasoning.

Yes, if you view the stem cells or blastocyst as persons then it is not
right to use them. And plenty of opponents in the pro-life camp seem to
hold this cellocentric view. But what I was discussing in the paragraph
above are the anti-cloning proponents that fear that cloning will make
us more into means and less into ends. I don't know how Kant would
handle issues like that, and maybe my consequentialist handling above is
entirely contrary to his thinking, but it seems that fears that
perceptions of human value would move in a less desirable direction are
not valid ethical reasons in Kantian ethics either?

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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