Genetic Engineering: What are the Ethics?

Essay by slinconA, September 2006

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Ethics of Genetic Engineering Richard Williams proposed that the issue of human freedom be re-conceptualized. Rejecting the traditional view of self-direction as the possibility of choosing among alternatives, Williams suggested that we ground our understanding of individual freedom in morality. In this view, human freedom is enhanced as one "lives truthfully."

Truthful living runs counter to self-deception and thereby opens the way for greater freedom, which is fundamentally concerned with being, or existing. It is also concerned with doing or choosing, but only as such individual actions harmonize with an already existing schema of existence When the act of choosing results in self-deception, one cannot automatically assume that choice has been exercised. If deception occurs, one has merely used the freedom to choose to step out of the arena in which it exists.

The Aristotelian ethics concurs with the basic tenets of Williams' philosophy. Aristotle believed that an absolute moral standard was not possible because morality is determined by behavior and outcome and these are governed by the individual and the choices made by that individual.

The individual is by definition unique, which foregoes that each choice and outcome is unique. The concept of Plato's "good" is seen in terms of the action and the result of the action, rather than a predetermined, 'a priori', standard.

The viewpoint held by Aristotle placed ethics beyond the arena of theoretical and into the empirical, observable world of human behavior. The nature of the behavior is the purpose of the action, and as such, defines the ethical component. Inasmuch as individuals dwell within a society, there exists an ethical component to community behavior and is grounded on the "purpose" of the behavior: the highest form of community behavior being for the purpose of the 'good' of man. Happiness is the most common point...