Ideas of Jonathan Glover, by Theme

[British, b.1941, At Oxford University, then London University. Chairman of various government committees.]

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16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 2. Internal Properties
Persons are conscious, they relate, they think, they feel, and they are self-aware
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / d. Value of life
What matters is not intrinsic value of life or rights, but worthwhile and desired life, and avoidance of pain
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
The quality of a life is not altogether independent of its length
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 1. Consequentialism
You can't separate acts from the people performing them
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 2. Benefit
Aggression in defence may be beneficial but morally corrupting
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
Duty prohibits some acts, whatever their consequences
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
Satisfaction of desires is not at all the same as achieving happiness
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 5. Rule Utilitarianism
Rule-utilitarianism is either act-utilitarianism, or not really utilitarian
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 1. Applied Ethics
Double Effect: no bad acts with good consequences, but possibly good acts despite bad consequences
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 2. Dilemmas
A problem arises in any moral system that allows more than one absolute right
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 4. Autonomy
We may restrict a person's freedom for the sake of others, but not for the person's own good
Autonomy favours present opinions over future ones, and says nothing about the interests of potential people
If a whole community did not mind death, respect for autonomy suggests that you could kill them all
Autonomy seems to acquire greater weight when the decision is more important to a person
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 5. Omissions
Acts and Omissions: bad consequences are morally better if they result from an omission rather than an act
It doesn't seem worse to switch off a life-support machine than to forget to switch it on
Harmful omissions are unavoidable, while most harmful acts can be avoided
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 1. Rights
Being alive is not intrinsically good, and there is no 'right to life'
You can't have a right to something you can't desire, so a foetus has no 'right' to life
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 1. Death
'Death' is best seen as irreversible loss of consciousness, since this is why we care about brain function
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 2. Causing Death
Utilitarians object to killing directly (pain, and lost happiness), and to side-effects (loss to others, and precedents)
What is wrong with killing someone, if another equally worthwhile life is substituted?
The 'no trade-off' position: killing is only justified if it prevents other deaths
Societies spend a lot to save known persons, but very little to reduce fatal accidents
If someone's life is 'worth living', that gives one direct reason not to kill him
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 3. Abortion
It is always right for a qualified person to perform an abortion when requested by the mother
Abortion differs morally from deliberate non-conception only in its side-effects
Conception isn't the fixed boundary for a person's beginning, because twins are possible within two weeks
If killing is wrong because it destroys future happiness, not conceiving a happy child is also wrong
Defenders of abortion focus on early pregnancy, while opponents focus on later stages
If abortion is wrong, it is because a foetus is a human being or a person (or potentially so)
If abortion is wrong because of the 'potential' person, that makes contraception wrong too
If viability is a test or boundary at the beginning of life, it should also be so for frail old people
How would we judge abortion if mothers had transparent wombs?
Apart from side effects, it seems best to replace an inadequate foetus with one which has a better chance
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
One test for a worthwhile life is to assess the amount of life for which you would rather be unconscious
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 5. Euthanasia
The Nazi mass murders seem to have originated in their euthanasia programme
Euthanasia is voluntary (patient's wish), or involuntary (ignore wish), or non-voluntary (no wish possible)
Involuntary euthanasia is wrong because it violates autonomy, and it has appalling side-effects
Maybe extreme treatment is not saving life, but prolonging the act of dying
25. Society / B. The State / 9. Population / b. Human population
How can utilitarianism decide the ideal population size?
The sanctity of life doctrine implies a serious increase of abnormality among the population