John Stuart Mill, the nineteenth-century English utilitarian, believed that laws and social policies should be devised to prevent harm to innocent third parties. His starting point was that people ought to be left free to do whatever they like, as long as they do not harm others by their actions. If competent individuals want to hurt themselves, or agree to be hurt by others, their actions should not be restricted in the name of 'their own best interest', or in the name of 'rationality', or 'morality.' If they do not harm others, their liberty should not be interfered with. (Mill p. 13) Mill recognized that people could be harmed psychologically as well as physically, and indirectly as well as directly, but for legal purposes, he argued for a narrow understanding of harm. Since people can be irrationally offended by other people's doings, and since it is difficult to assess the long-term consequences of our actions, he thought that only the concrete and relatively immediate infliction of harm should be publicly regulated. (Mill pp. 14-15) The Millian view on liberty and harm gives rise to three norms as regards human reproductive cloning:
Other 'outcome-oriented' ethicists have, however, thought that Mill's...
- Since the technique is, as experiments with other mammals show, unsafe, the production of babies by cloning should not, for the time being is allowed.
- Since, however, research on freely donated embryos, where no new individuals are born, does not harm anybody, it should be allowed.
- And if, in the future, the technique becomes reasonably safe, then the production of new individuals by cloning should be permitted.
Other 'outcome-oriented' ethicists have, however, thought that Mill's notion of harm is too limited. Even Mill himself conceded that our actions and policy choices could have effects which are indirect, or cumulative, or which will only be felt in the future. Moreover, he understood that our actions could cause offence, anguish, and mental suffering (which may be difficult to assess but nonetheless real). So why regulate only actions, which lead to immediate physical damage Some contemporary followers of Mill seem to think that if only 'irrational people' in 'irrationally jeopardize societies' would be hurt by the policies they advocate, this can be ignored. (Harris p. 508-529) However, this is not a legitimate move in genuinely consequentialist, or outcome-based, models. If people's attitudes and social structures cannot be changed without causing more harm than benefit, then they should be taken on board in ethical assessments like any other facts.
What Sorts Of 'Deontological' Arguments Can Be Presented Against Human Reproductive Cloning
The most prominent theoretical source of objections in the 'deontological' school of thought is the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the German eighteenth-century thinker who stressed the ideas of 'transcendental' freedom and autonomy. (Sullivan p. 34-63) To