Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

Bioethics from the Perspective of Universalisation

Christofer Frey

Abstract: This introduction to a presentation of Jewish bioethics follows
the guideline of universalisation – a challenging question concerning the
genesis of norms within a particular religious history. It is not the history
of a simple ethics of goods, founded in an unchangeable minimum of
human features, but the development of obligations frequently combined
with monotheistic beliefs. The Jewish Torah does not provide an abstract
Kantian approach; the Torah is closer to a vision of human life integrat-
ing presumed universal desires and interests. The main problem is teleol-
ogy, especially in the first stages of the embryo. Some hints in the Ha-
lakhic discussion prove that the Rabbis referred to Aristotelian thought
concerning the status of the embryo. Many of them seem to have accepted
different stages of becoming a human being, the telos (teleology!) being
reached at birth. A present new interest in the Torah and Halakhah, even
outside Judaism, seems to be founded in a sceptical attitude towards an
ethical deduction from a God's eye view and an interest in considering
whether particular traditions hold potential solutions to contemporary
problems.

Key Words: Anthropology, Philosophical, Dignity, Human, Embryo, Eth-
ics, empiricist or principle-oriented, Judaism, Neo-Aristotelianism, Per-
son, Reason, Practical, Teleology, Torah, Universalisation.


1. Different Types of Ethics

Many discussions in bioethics are centered on the idea of human dignity, which - according to Kant - is not a matter of value and evaluation.1 Dignity relies exclusively on reason - pure practical reason (Vernunft), whereas value and evaluation appeal to the Verstand, to emotions and to Urteilskraft. Kant argued in contrast to the British ethics of his time, especially against the trend towards emotivism and intuitionism. This ethics is not restricted to pure reason, but takes an empiricist attitude towards the world. Today, the two contrasting types can be identified as (1) empiricist ethics and (2) principle-orientated ethics.2 But we acknowledge that both presuppose certain differing ideas of reason; and unfortunately there is no utterly reasonable position from which to settle the dispute between these two suppositions of reason. However, a meta-argument is possible and can be pursued as an enquiry into the details and basic assumptions of rational

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