About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday self-promotion - "Margaret Somerville and the Perils of Bioethics"

I've long been troubled that much in contemporary bioethics is illiberal, unjustifiable, and motivated by quasi-religious (or outright religious) sentiments that should have no place in public policy. This does not apply so much to philosophical bioethicists employed as university academics, but even here too much free rein is given to views that are put forward as having policy implications while being at least quasi-religious in nature. "Margaret Somerville and the Perils of Bioethics", first published back in 2001, was an early effort of mine to articulate some of this at length. In this case, I was replying to The Ethical Canary by Margaret Somerville, which I think exemplifies the troubling tendencies in the bioethics discipline.

At this stage of my life, I had a law degree, a deep interest in bioethical controversies, some relevant publications, and some experience working in the health/medical law area of a major Australian law firm. I did not, however, have formal qualifications in bioethics as an academic discipline. My thinking about such issues led me to do something about that, and I went on to undertake a Masters degree in bioethics at Monash University in 2002. (Monash has long had a very respected program in philosophical bioethics - perhaps the most prestigious in the southern hemisphere.) Since I was doing a lot of other things at the time, I could easily have justified studying this over two years... but I managed to complete it in one year, with a perfect run of High Distinctions in my coursework and research essay.

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