“Bioethics” as a New Challenge to Philosophy1
The advance of medical and biological science and technology has presented us with new ethical and legal issues. Is embryonic stem cell research morally justified and legally allowed? What moral status do embryos have? Who can be a morally appropriate user of In Vitro fertilization? Who can use donated sperm and/or egg? What is the scope of reproductive liberty? What is the meaning of a family and that of reproduction? How far does our genetic intervention go?
Scientists, lawyers, and laymen are waiting for clear answers from philosophers. Unfortunately, philosophers have not seemed to give satisfactory answers to them. We may have various reasons. One of main reasons, however, seems to me that the above philosophical questions have not been the main research topics for philosophers since philosophy gave up metaphysical and/or religious questions. Thus, I argue that biomedical ethical issues urge philosophers to change the philosopher’s attitude of doing philosophy. Those issues make them consider and rethink our fundamental concepts of life, death, family, and values pursued by human beings.
In addition, it is easy to find conflicting ethical and philosophical answers to the above questions. Thus, it is very hard to reach consensus on the above ethical issues. This makes philosophers consider how we make a group decision over ethical issues showing conflicting but reasonable ethical answers in a plural society. This requires philosophers, especially scholars of ethics, develop a new ethics and its relevant concepts. This ethics must be able to work in a plural society where reasonable comprehensive belief systems coexist. In these respects, I argue that bioethics has to struggle with a new challenge to philosophy.