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Human Capacities and Moral Status (Philosophy and Medicine) Hardcover – June 25, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-9048185368 ISBN-10: 904818536X Edition: 2010th

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Many debates about the moral status of things—for example, debates about the natural rights of human fetuses or nonhuman animals—eventually migrate towards a discussion of the capacities of the things in question—for example, their capacities to feel pain, think, or love. Yet the move towards capacities is often controversial: if a human’s capacities are the basis of its moral status, how could a human having lesser capacities than you and I have the same "serious" moral status as you and I? This book answers this question by arguing that if something is human, it has a set of typical human capacities; that if something has a set of typical human capacities, it has serious moral status; and thus all human beings have the same sort of serious moral status as you and I. Beginning from what our common intuitions tell us about situations involving "temporary incapacitation"—where a human organism has, then loses, then regains a certain capacity—this book argues for substantive conclusions regarding human fetuses and embryos, humans in a permanent vegetative state, humans suffering from brain diseases, and humans born with genetic disorders. Since these conclusions must have some impact on our ongoing moral and political debates about the proper treatment of such humans, this book will be useful to professionals and students in philosophy, bioethics, law, medicine, and public policy.

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy and Medicine (Book 108)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2010 edition (June 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 904818536X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9048185368
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alfredo Watkins on January 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Argues that the intrinsic capacities which humans have entails a strong presumption against them being killed. Uses various distinctions between 'higher-order' and 'lower-order' capacities, recalling Aristotle's various grades of potentiality. Interesting insofar as it places moral status in potentialities and the type of things that humans are. Applies this type of reasoning to controversial cases such as the moral status of the fetus.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Omelianchuk on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Russell DiSilvesto's Human Capacities and Moral Status is the most thorough defense of the idea that there is a strong presumption against killing human beings by virtue of the kind of being they are. This is because the basis for "a serious moral status" is found in the kind of features human beings as a natural kind possess: "typical human capacities" that are innate in our embryonic form and develop over time such that they can be exercised in adulthood. These capacities (both passive and active) are "higher-" and "lower-order" capacities where the latter are developed by virtue of possessing the former. The outcome of DiSilvesto's thesis is a a conservative one: human being retain moral status at the margins of life; zygotes, embryos, newborns, the severely disabled, those suffering from Alzheimer's, and those in a permanent vegetative state all incur a presumption against their being killed.

Each chapter deploys numerous thought experiments and rigorous argumentation for this conclusion. They are listed as follows:

1. You are not what you think: capacities , human organisms, and persons.
2. Anything you can do, I can do also: humans, or capacities, and the powers we share.
3. The only game in town: why capacities must matter morally.
4. Little people: higher-order capacities the argument from potential.
5. Not just damaged goods: higher order capacities and the argument from marginal cases.
6. Old objections and new directions: capacities and moral status at the very borders of human life.

DiSilvesto interacts at length with key voices in the literature such as Michael Tooley, David Boonin, Jeff McMahan, John Rawls, Robert George, Christopher Tollefsen, Martha Nussbaum, CD Broad, RA Charo, and D. Dombrowski.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. McCall on December 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book expecting it to be about how much a person could eat. I had burning questions about the number of burritos a single human could consume both by physical capacity and to be judged morally correct. This is not what this book is about at all.
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Human Capacities and Moral Status (Philosophy and Medicine)
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