Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Ethics of Designing People: The Habermasian Critique

Suppose in the not-too-distant future we master the art of creating people. In other words, technology advances to the point that you and I can walk into a store (or go online!) and order a new artificial person from a retailer. This artificial person will be a full-blown person in the proper philosophical sense of the term “person”. They will have all the attributes we usually ascribe to a human person. They will have the capacity to suffer, to think rationally, to desire certain futures, to conceive of themselves as a single coherent self and so on. Furthermore, you and I will have the power to design this person according to our own specifications. We will be able to pick their eye colour, height, hairstyle, personality, intelligence, life preferences and more. We will be able completely customise them to our tastes. Here’s the question: would it be ethical for us to make use of this power?Note that for the purposes of this thought experiment it doesn’t matter too much what the artificial person is made of. It could be a wholly biological entity, made from the same stuff as any human child, but genetically and biomedically engineered according to our customisation. Or it could also be wholly artificial, made from silicon chips and motorised bits, a bit like Data from Star Trek. None of this matters. What matters is that (a) it is a person and (b) it has been custom built to order. It is ethical to create such a being?Some people think it wouldn’t be; some people think it [More]

Moral Luck

[Revised entry by Dana K. Nelkin on April 19, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Moral luck occurs when an agent can be correctly treated as an object of moral judgment despite the fact that a significant aspect of what she is assessed for depends on factors beyond her control. Bernard Williams writes, "when I first introduced the expression moral luck, I expected to suggest an oxymoron" (Williams 1993, 251). Indeed, immunity from luck has been thought by many to be part of the very essence of morality. And yet, as Williams (1981) and Thomas Nagel (1979) showed in their now classic pair [More]

Philosophers at the Front: Phenomenology and the First World War

2019.04.26 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Nicolas de Warren and Thomas Vongehr (eds.), Philosophers at the Front: Phenomenology and the First World War, Leuven University Press, 2017, 284pp., $59.00 (hbk), ISBN 9789462701212. Reviewed by James Dodd, The New School for Social Research This volume collates a wealth of literary and photographic materials documenting the war experience of the generation of phenomenological philosophers that lived through the First World War. As the editors express it in their Introduction, they have sought to "document the texture of the life-world of phenomenology during the war years" of 1914-1918, with some echoes from its immediate aftermath (8). Their work is based on an exhibition curated by Clara Drummond for the KU Leuven Central Library in 2015, "From Ashes to Archives," and consists of letters private and public, postcards, photographs, and excerpts from biographies and war literature. Edmund Husserl and his family figure prominently in the volume. The editors emphasize,... Read [More]