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The Ethics of Human EnhancementUnderstanding the Debate$
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Steve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, Tony Coady, Alberto Giubilini, and Sagar Sanyal

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754855

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198754855.001.0001

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Repugnance as Performance Error

Repugnance as Performance Error

The Role of Disgust in Bioethical Intuitions

3 Repugnance as Performance Error
The Ethics of Human Enhancement

Joshua May

Oxford University Press

An influential argument in bioethics involves appeal to disgust, calling on us to take it seriously as a moral guide (e.g. Kass, Miller, and Kahan). Some argue, for example, that genetic enhancement, especially via human reproductive cloning, is repellent or grotesque. While objectors have argued that repugnance is morally irrelevant (e.g. Nussbaum and Kelly), the author argues that the problem is more fundamental: it is psychologically irrelevant. Examining recent empirical data suggests that disgust’s influence on moral judgement may be like fatigue: an exogenous influence, yielding a ‘performance error’ that does not reflect our understanding of moral matters. This conclusion also challenges appeals to repugnance on other topics (e.g. homosexuality) and generally downplays the importance of disgust in moral discourse.

Keywords:   disgust, repugnance, Kass, moral judgement, cloning

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