About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

European Court of Justice outlaws "immoral" patents

I'd like to read the full judgment in this case before I pontificate too much about it.

From what has been reported it is a stupid outcome and one that should be protested in any way possible. Courts should not be making their decisions based on what they regard as "immoral". They are there to apply legal norms, which may have their sources in statutes, in customs that have traditionally been recognised by the courts, or elsewhere, but not in contested moral claims.

In some cases, legal norms will resemble core moral norms, which is understandable as both serve similar functions. So it's not surprising that murder is condemned both morally and legally. But the courts should not be giving the force of law to one of the many moral positions that are open for people to take in modern pluralist societies, and statutes should not encourage them to engage in that sort of inquiry.

On the face of it, this looks like a bleak day for the progress of medicine, but also for liberalism and social pluralism.

(None of which is to get into issues about whether some sorts of things should be unpatentable on other grounds, such as being products of nature rather than human inventions. That's a separate argument.)


Anonymous said...

The law should be used to enforce morality. A society that is not guided by a solid moral foundation is a society that is lost. Laws that pay respect to moral relativism and have no concept of moral absolutes should not be used in our society. Anyway, the key success to Western Civilisation is that it is based on Judeo-Christian principles, and why would anyone want to shift away from that?

Russell Blackford said...

Jesus frakking Christ, the last thing we should want is the legal enforcement of the miserable Judeo-Christian morality.

Anonymous said...

And what is wrong with it? Can't you see that our society's greatness depends on it?

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, I've decided you're a troll. If you were a regular reader you wouldn't even be asking such stupid questions since I've addressed this many times over the years.

That's your last comment here.

Legal Eagle said...

Here is the full decision, just in case you hadn't tracked it down yet.

It's most strange to see pro-lifers in bed with Greenpeace. Although I lost all respect for Greenpeace a while back. They really are not nearly as progressive as they think; as this case shows.

Russell Blackford said...

Thanks, Legal Eagle. I'm now trying to make sense of it. As so often, one does need to read the actual decision.