Sunday, August 10, 2014


I think that there is always only one question.
Bioethics... Are these others other enough that I can do unto them what I don't want done unto me?
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
If that is the question that the bioethicist asks, then we are all bioethicists. We simply have different understandings of what we mean by other. It has always been like this.
  • Are these criminals other enough that I can lock them away in prison for life?
  • Are these wealthy people other enough that I can take from them to meet my own needs and desires?
  • Are these foreigners other enough that I deny them the opportunity to live where they think life would be better for them?
  • Are these people of a different genotype other enough that I can assume their level of intelligence based solely on their appearance?
  • Are these immoral people other enough that I can kill them in the name of doing the will of the divine?
  • Are these members of the opposite sex other enough that I can presume to know their thoughts and motivations?
  • Are these partisans other enough that I can attribute to them every extremist idea I've heard is associated with their party?
  • Are these unlikeable people other enough that I can expect others to condemn them for acts for which there is no evidence?
  • Are these mentally ill other enough that I can have them institutionalized against their will and/or forcibly medicated?
  • Are these bad parents other enough that I can have their children taken away from them?
These are the questions, large and small, that we ask ourselves every day - whenever we want or feel we need to do unto others what we don't want done unto ourselves. Whether or not we are correct in that is beside the point - everyone makes these determinations feeling, in the moment, that they are justified. We may regret that choice later, or feel compelled and remorseful in the present; but either way, we ask ourselves these questions and we take actions based on our answers. The difference between justification and rationalization is not an objective one.

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