Philosophy Week 12

After a careful reading of the arguments for and against reproductive cloning (RC), please try to give your view on the subject. Do you support RC or not? What arguments do you find persuasive or not persuasive and why? If you are not able to make up your mind, just describe your current thoughts on the issue: what makes sense, what doesn’t, which way you are leaning and why, which arguments you like so far and why, etc.


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What is cloning?

What are the three types of cloning?

Be sure to note one crucial issue that comes up a few times in the course of the reading, namely, the fallacy of genetic determination or the “view that a person’s genes are the sole determining factor of her behavior and physical appearance; essentially, that a person’s identity is solely determined by her genetic constitution. If a person were to believe that genetic determinism is true, then it follows that she believes that a cloned person would be psychologically identical with her genetic predecessor because they are (almost) genetically identical” (see section 2 of the reading). This view is false since an individual is not reducible to his or her genetics: environment also plays a role in the formation of individuality. Nonetheless, this fallacy is often brought up in discussions of cloning and plays a crucial role in how people evaluate various dilemmas.

What are the arguments for and against reproductive cloning? Just be sure to know the central arguments that are listed in the menu of the IEP overview. You don’t have to know all the objections to the central arguments.

How can we apply utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and natural law theory to this issue? Here are some quick notes:

● Utilitarianism can certainly be applied in therapeutic cloning since here we are investigating what therapies might come from cloning, i.e., how much pleasure might come from new discoveries and how much pain might be avoided. You will also see that many of the issues that fall under reproductive cloning have to do with how much the clone might suffer, how much pleasure might be brought to those who long to see a loved one cloned, how much we might all benefit – or not benefit – if we could clone certain good or evil people, etc. Just think about consequences for pain and pleasure as you read and how the greatest Happiness Principle might be applied.

● Kant’s emphasis on dignity and autonomy, as you will see, comes up quite a bit in cloning. For example, would people expect certain things of clones thereby violating their right to an autonomous and open future? Wouldn’t such expectations lead many cloned humans to be seen as commodities? Wouldn’t many children become designer babies to be made in a way that reflects the wealthy and privileged background of the parents? In all these cases we might fear that clones might be seen as a means to an end only thus violating the second categorical imperative.

● The development of virtue can be easily related to these concerns as well: what kind of people might we become if we clone humans? People, as we just noted, might expect certain things of clones thereby violating their right to an open future. Wouldn’t people develop vicious character traits that led them to see others as commodities, replacements, and so on? Some people who think cloning would be a matter of playing God might add that cloning would make us excessive in many ways – perhaps in our desire for power and control over life – and deficient in others, such as humility, reverence, awe, and so on.

● Lastly, many think cloning is profoundly unnatural in many ways. Thus natural law theory can come in at this point. Those who claim we shouldn’t be playing God will obviously employ a more religiously motivated natural law approach. But objections about cloning not being natural need not be related to religion: they can simply revolved around the dangers involved in going against certain natural processes. And be sure to note that natural rights, which are so important in natural law theory, can have an important role to play as well and can link nicely to Kant’s emphasis on autonomy.

So be on the lookout for ways in which these suggestions can be connected to the reading.

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