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J Med Ethics 39:77-78 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100836
  • Commentaries

Is Agar biased against ‘post-persons’?

  1. Ingmar Persson
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ingmar Persson, Department of Philosophy, University of Gothenburg, Box 200, Gothenburg 40530, Sweden; ingmar.persson{at}filosofi.gu.se
  • Received 27 July 2012
  • Accepted 5 September 2012
  • Published Online First 9 October 2012

I shall discuss only one of Nicholas Agar's main claims,1 namely ‘that the bad consequences/of moral status enhancement/are, in moral terms, so bad that a moderate probability of their occurrence makes it wrong not to seek to prevent them’. His other main claim, which I grant, is that moral status enhancement to the effect of creating beings with a moral status higher than that of (mere) persons—post-persons—is possible. My chief objection to Agar's argument is that it is biased in favour of (mere) persons. This comes out when he sums it up: ‘the creation of post-persons would be a morally bad thing. It is likely to impose significant penalties on mere persons’. Suppose it is true that the creation of post-persons will impose such significant penalties on mere persons that they are worse off than they were before the creation of post-persons. Then it follows that the creation of post-persons is bad for mere persons, but it does not follow that it is bad overall. This follows only if it is not the case that post-persons receive benefits to an extent that morally outweighs the burdens to mere persons. (For simplicity, I bracket sentient non-persons.) As far as I can see, Agar does not show this—that is why I think he is biased towards mere persons, and simply assumes that what is bad for them is bad overall.

I have, in fact, been too concessive to Agar …

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