Skip to main content

Can the Distinction between the Moral and the Descriptive Support a Full Moral Standing of an Embryo?

  • Chapter
Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics
  • 992 Accesses

One of the issues is to question arguments based upon a clear epistemic split between the normative and the descriptive meant to support the full moral standing of embryos, especially that the concept ‘human embryo’ is a purely descriptive concept independent of moral considerations. Two arguments in support of this view is criticized, i.e. the metaphysical and the potentiality argument. The present view is not only that an alleged descriptive premise may be co-conditioned by normative considerations, but that even concepts used in such premises, e.g. what count as human embryos, are co-conditioned by moral considerations. Concepts of this type correspond (roughly) to what Bernard Williams called ‘thick’ concepts. It is argued that these concepts express natural properties, that they can figure in the norm conditions of general prima facie ethical norms, and typically express gradual properties. The consequence of this is a gradual view according to which the strength of the ethical considerations to protect a human embryo does vary and increases to a full moral standing some time during pregnancy. – At the end a further argument against a non-gradual moral development is added.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Beauchamp, Tom L. and Childress, James F (2001). Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 5th ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Byrne, Peter (1988). “The animation tradition in the light of contemporary philosophy”. In: Dunstan and Seller (eds.), The Status of the Human Embryo. Perspectives From Moral Tradition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farley, Margaret A. (2001). “Roman catholic views on research involving human embryonic stem cells”. In: Holland, Lebacqz and Zoloth (eds.), The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate. Science, Ethics, and Public Policy, Cambridge, MA: MIT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gärdenfors, Peter (1990). “Induction, Conceptual Space and AI”, Philosophy of Science 57, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quine, Willard van Orman (1960). Word and Object, Cambridge, MA: MIT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rawls, John (1971). A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singer, Peter (1979). Practical Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • White, Morton (1981). What is and What Ought to be done. An Essay on Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, Bernard (1973). “A Critique of Utilitarianism”. In: Smart, J.J.C. and Williams, B. (eds.), Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, Bernard (1985). Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, Bernard (1995). “Which slopes are slippery?” In: Bernard Williams (ed.): Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2008 Springer Science + Business Media B.V

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Baune, Ø. (2008). Can the Distinction between the Moral and the Descriptive Support a Full Moral Standing of an Embryo?. In: Østnor, L. (eds) Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6989-5_11

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics