HFIA03737U Modul 4: Ethics of emerging Biotechnologies

Volume 2014/2015
Master in Philosophy

Like never before, developments in biotechnology offer human beings possibilities of altering and improving all aspects of life. However, emerging biotechnologies raise novel ethical issues concerning human existence and our relation to the social and natural environment. This course offers a systematic and thorough investigation of these issues, which are likely to gain more prominence and urgency in the near future.

The course examines ethical issues relating to three abilities, that these new technologies offer us:

1) The ability to enhance our bodies and minds (e.g. cognitive enhancement, ”designer babies”)

2) The ability to map, navigate and utilize the human genome (e.g. genetic ownership, biobanking, screening)

3) The ability to design and create new life forms (e.g. GMO, synthetic biology)

We will study cases of these technologies, and examine various theoretical approaches from moral and political philosophy to discussing their ethical and social significance. We examine a) reasons given by philosophers and ethicists for thinking that such technologies are, or are not, problematic in themselves, and b) wider normative issues raised by the application of technologies in society (such as discrimination, inequality and management of risks).

The course provides students with tools for identifying and thinking through ethical issues relating to new biotechnologies. Students will be able to analyze new biotechnologies, and determine what aspects of them are potentially ethically problematic, and why.

Furthermore, the course gives students theoretical tools for normative assessment of these issues. As such, the course provides a general exercise in thinking ethically and normatively about concrete issues that are prominent in modern society.

Learning Outcome
The Master’s Programme in Philosophy 2014:
Module 4, Contemporary Philosophical Discussion: HFIK03731E

The Master’s Programme in Philosophy 2008:
Module 2, Freely chosen topic A: HFIK03521E
Module 4, Freely chosen topic B: HFIK03541E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic C: HFIK03551E
Module 6, Freely chosen topic D: HFIK03561E
Module 7, Freely chosen topic E: HFIK03571E

We will be discussing general theories from philosophers such as J. S. Mill, John Rawls, Robert Nozick and Peter Singer, and more specialized views on biotechnology from thinkers such as Julian Savulescu, Jürgen Habermas and Michael Sandel.  Additional readings will be identified by students as a part of the process of writing their papers.

There are no formal requirements for signing up for the course. It is not necessary to have a background in philosophy, but basic familiarity with ethics is an advantage. The course will be taught in English. Assignments may be written in either English or Danish.

The course will consist of three ‘phases’:

Phase (1): A general introduction to the issues of the course. During this phase, students will pick a topic for their midterm and final papers.

Phase (2): In the second phase, students and instructors give feedback on other students’ papers.

Phase (3): In-depth discussion of topics selected on the basis of students’ chosen paper topics.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Course Preparation
  • 367,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Type of assessment
For details, see the curriculum
Criteria for exam assesment