Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Implications of moral uncertainty: implausible or just unpalatable?
  1. Mike King
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mike King, Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; mike.king{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Setting aside some complexities, Koplin and Wilkinson1 argue:

  1. Moral status is uncertain if there is a non-zero chance that an entity has, or would develop, full moral status.

  2. If its moral status is uncertain, then moral caution is warranted towards that entity.

  3. The moral status of both non-chimeric pigs and human-pig chimaeras is uncertain.

    (Conclusion 1) Therefore, consistency demands that moral caution is warranted towards both non-chimeric pigs and human-pig chimaeras.

  4. The commonly held view is that moral caution is warranted towards human-pig chimaeras, but not non-chimeric pigs.

    (Conclusion 2) Therefore, the commonly held view is inconsistent.

This is a valid argument. The authors claim that the inconsistency they expose in conclusion 2 could be resolved in favour of either commonly held view, or by revising both to equivalency. However, it is clear from conclusion 1, and the paper more generally, that the authors are arguing for moral caution to be applied to the treatment of pigs of both types.

I will focus on evaluating premises 1 and 2, and the generalisability of the argument in light of this. In doing so, I will attempt to show that the argument has implausible logical implications, and that the moral caution warranted towards human-pig chimaeras of uncertain moral status does not require confidence that they lack full moral status, as the authors claim.

According to premise 1, if an entity might currently have moral …

View Full Text


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

Linked Articles

Other content recommended for you