JOURNAL ARTICLE

Moral philosophy and public policy: the case of NRTs

Will Kymlicka
Bioethics 1993, 7 (1): 1-26
11654026
In this paper, I will express some reservations about the usefulness of moral philosophy for the analysis of public policy issues.... My question is whether taking morality seriously requires taking moral philosophy seriously. This paper focuses on one particular public policy context -- namely, government commissions into new reproductive technologies, such as Britain's Warnock Committee, Australia's Waller and Michael Committees, Canada's Baird Commission, and many others.... Moral philosophers are sometimes asked to participate in these commissions, either as Commissioners, staff, or expert advisers. How can moral philosophers contribute to the analysis of public policy recommendations on NRTs? A survey of the literature suggests that there are two main views on this question, one of which is ambitious, the other more modest. The ambitious view says that moral philosophers should attempt to persuade Commissioners to adopt the right comprehensive moral theory (e.g. adopt a deontological theory, rather than utilitarianism or contractarianism), and then apply this theory to particular policy questions. The more modest view shies away from promoting a particular moral theory, given that the relative merits of different moral theories are a subject of dispute even amongst moral philosophers. Instead, it says that moral philosophers should attempt to ensure that the Commission's arguments are clear and consistent. On this view, philosophers should focus on identifying conceptual confusions or logical inconsistencies within the Commission's arguments without seeking to influence its choice of the underlying theory.

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