assistant professor - Jagiellonian University, Institute of Philosophy & Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics
Deep uncertainties in bioethics: Regulating scientific research on ontologically ambiguous entities
Here are my main objectives during my two-month project at the Brocher Foundation:
In recent years there have been a number of attempts to understand and find the relevant criteria for making decisions under normative uncertainty, but this topic is still unexplored. My main objectives are: i) to analyze criteria proposed recently in philosophical literature, and ii) to apply them to real-life cases, e.g. normative regulations or courts judgments concerning human embryos or embryo-like products of genetic engineering.
Some scholars have proposed the decision theoretic approach modeled on the cases of factual risk that recommends taking the subjective probabilities of various outcomes and combining them with the values we attach to the outcomes (Lockart 2000, Ross 2006). Applied in the face of normative uncertainty, we ought (although the very nature of this normative ought is contested, whether it is rational or moral ought, see Weatherson 2014) to evaluate the subjective probabilities of different doctrines (e.g. about the moral status of early human embryos) and combine them with the disvalues attached by these doctrines to the destruction of embryos and/or social benefits of this kind of research.
Nevertheless, these decision theoretic approaches met with serious objections (e.g. the problem of inter-theoretical comparisons of moral values, see: Sepielli 2013) and this is why some authors have proposed that a morally conscientious agent should choose an option that is permitted by the most credible moral position (Gustafsson, Torpman 2014; see also propositions to treat normative uncertainty as a voting problem, MacAskill 2016).
The main aim of this subproject that could be conducted during my research stay at the Brocher Foundation is to analyze different kinds of factual, but mainly normative uncertainties related to the latest advances in aspects of biomedicine (that have not yet been understood properly), to investigate how different kinds of uncertainties may influence regulatory decisions, to identify cognitive barriers that distort normative judgments, to search for reliable methods of reasoning that deal with normative uncertainties, to reveal the possible implications of these decision methods under normative uncertainty for bioethics.