Genetic Engineering

Genetic Engineering
Kantian View
Kant’s ethical theory is nonconsequentialist, so the outcome of
genetic engineering is not important.
What needs to be considered is whether
genetic engineering fits into the
categorical imperative or not.
1. Universalisability
Does genetic engineering raise universal
moral problems?
Can you imagine a situation where genetic
engineering would be morally wrong?
If you view embryos as not being human
but only with the potentiality of humanity,
it might be universalisable.
2. Using people as a means to an
end – GM crops
The case of genetic modification of crops raises
issues about using people as a means to an end.
Obligations that farmers in developing countries
have to multinational companies raises issues
about the use of people for an end.
How do the multinationals view their
development of GM crops?
Saving the planet? Making a profit?
For Kant, what matters is whether the
corporation is exploiting the farmer on the way
to meeting its aim.
3. Using people as a means to an
end – saviour siblings
Has the newborn baby been conceived
with the primary goal of helping his/her
sick sibling?
Is the saviour being used as a means to
an end rather than an end in itself?
It could be argued that this is necessary if
the life of the sick sibling is to be
Humans have a duty to preserve life.
Two of Kant’s duties seem to conflict here:
The saviour siblings are used as a means to an
end, but at the same time life is being
Kant would not see a problem with this conflict.
The universal law principle is the most
important. Humans have a duty to save life but
this cannot contradict the maxim of making
what you decide a universal law.
If we can imagine one situation where it would
be wrong to create saviour siblings, then it
cannot be a universal law.
Kant implied that human beings are often too
subjective when they make a moral judgement.
You may not wish your child to die and therefore
you wish to create a saviour sibling.
Human beings do not look at the big picture but
only at individual cases that affect them.
For Kant, it is the maxim of the universal law
that is the key to all moral decisions.
For example, it would be impossible to
universalize the maxim ‘use spare embryos left
over from IVF for stem cell research’ but not
‘create embryos for stem cell research’, as there
would be no embryos left to reproduce.

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