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A Rich Bioethics

Public Policy, Biotechnology, and the Kass Council

Adam Briggle

Publication Year: 2010

Several presidents have created bioethics councils to advise their administrations on the importance, meaning and possible implementation or regulation of rapidly developing biomedical technologies. From 2001 to 2005, the President's Council on Bioethics, created by President George W. Bush, was under the leadership of Leon Kass. The Kass Council, as it was known, undertook what Adam Briggle describes as a more rich understanding of its task than that of previous councils. The council sought to understand what it means to advance human flourishing at the intersection of philosophy, politics, science, and technology within a democratic society. Briggle's survey of the history of U.S. public bioethics and advisory bioethics commissions, followed by an analysis of what constitutes a “rich” bioethics, forms the first part of the book. The second part treats the Kass Council as a case study of a federal institution that offered public, ethical advice within a highly polarized context, with the attendant charges of inappropriate politicization and policy irrelevance. The conclusion synthesizes the author's findings into a story about the possible relationships between philosophy and policy making. A Rich Bioethics: Public Policy, Biotechnology, and the Kass Council will attract students and scholars in bioethics and the fields of science, technology, and society, as well as those interested in the ethical and political dilemmas raised by modern science.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Series: Notre Dame Studies in Medical Ethics

Title Page/Copyright/Dedication

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pp. ix-x

This work has evolved tremendously from its humble origins first as a seminar paper and then a Ph.D. thesis. Throughout this evolution I have benefited from the wise counsel, steadfast commitment, and good cheer of my colleagues, friends, and family. I was hesitant to pursue this project because American bioethics...

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Introduction: An Experiment in Public Bioethics

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pp. 1-10

Though his presidency would soon be dominated by the war on terrorism, in the summer of 2001 George W. Bush was focused on the war on disease. The U.S. and other developed countries have long committed national resources...

Part I: Rich Public Bioethicsand the Kass Council

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pp. 11-12

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One: Public Bioethicsand the Birth of the Kass Council

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pp. 13-38

In his 1784 essay “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Immanuel Kant articulated the spirit of the modern era: “Dare to know!” In this aphorism Kant expressed his conviction that deference to the natural order...

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Two: The Deeper History of the Kass Council

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pp. 39-60

In The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), Immanuel Kant wanted to seek out and establish a foundation for ethics that was based in the autonomy of rational individuals. Kant was compelled to seek out such a foundation anew because values...

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Three: In Defense of Rich Public Bioethics I: Self and Society

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pp. 61-86

Facing imminent death for his crime against Athens, Soc - rates is visited in prison by his friend Crito, who implores him to escape. In considering possible reasons that could justify fleeing, Socrates sets himself into an imaginary conversation with the laws of Athens...

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Four: In Defense of Rich Public Bioethics II: Mind and Body

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pp. 87-112

According to Aristotle, the human is a rational animal. Humanity is simultaneously immanent and transcendent, belonging to and rising above nature. As an integration of reason-passion, the human’s rational and moral qualities are continuous with the living world...

PART II: The Politics and Policy of Public Bioethics

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pp. 113-114

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Five: The Kass Councilas Institution and Lightning Rod

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pp. 115-130

Substance and holism comprise the essence of rich bio - ethics as an ideal and set it apart from the formalism and isolationism of instrumentalist bioethics and the wider instrumentalist habit of mind that is a legacy of our modern inheritance...

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Six: The Politicization of Ethics Advice

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pp. 131-148

There is more at stake in the debate surrounding the “po - liticization” of the Kass Council than the fate of a single advisory body. Indeed, this debate provides a perfect case study to investigate the norms governing the interface between expert knowledge and democratic decision making...

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Seven: The Kass Council as Humanities Policy

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pp. 149-166

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birth-mark” tells of a scientist, Aylmer, who becomes obsessed with his beautiful wife’s only blemish. His growing disgust at the small hand-shaped birthmark on her cheek shames his wife, Geor giana, and persuades her to cooperate with his plan to remove it. Yet in trying to erase the stigma,...

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Conclusion: Public Philosophy in a Liberal Democracy

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pp. 167-179

In book VI of The Republic, Socrates compares the state to a ship and reflects on the nature of a good captain. “The true pilot,” he argues, “must give his attention to the time of the year, the seasons, the sky, the winds, the stars, and all that pertains to his art if he is to be a true ruler of a ship...


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pp. 180-194


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pp. 195-213


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pp. 214-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780268075781
E-ISBN-10: 0268075786
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268022211
Print-ISBN-10: 0268022216

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Notre Dame Studies in Medical Ethics