The End of Ethics in a Technological Society

The End of Ethics in a Technological Society

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The End of Ethics in a Technological Society
    Book Description:

    They examine established ethical approaches to such urgent contemporary concerns as environmental degradation, nuclear energy, high tech militarism, and fetal genetic testing, showing that the prevailing viewpoint valorizes autonomy above all other goods and considers technological advances as mere extensions of the range of human freedoms. Modern ethics thus fails to take into account the moral intuition that some possibilities in the realm of techno science simply ought not to be pursued.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7498-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Lawrence E. Schmidt
  4. PREFACE: Technology and the Problem of Nihilism
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Technology: A Canadian Preoccupation at the End of Canada
    (pp. 3-10)

    “Technology” is a ubiquitous term at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, its meaning is not perfectly clear, and its central importance in our self-understanding and self-definition in the modern age is only beginning to be appreciated. Often we equate technology with machines of various sorts: cars and computers, televisions and DVDs, nuclear power plants and laser printers. We assume that these machines may make us more powerful, more comfortable, more productive, and more liberated. In this sense, technologies are understood as tools that we can use well or badly depending on the good or bad ends to which...

  6. 1 Technology, Religion, and Progress: The Beginning and the End of Optimism
    (pp. 11-21)

    The origins of Western faith in technology are obscure. Some find them in the Hebrew scriptures’ emphasis on human dominion or mastery;¹ others find them in Augustine’s (and the Western Christian Church’s) emphasis on the role of the will.² Some find them in the ninth-century thought of John Scotus Erigena, with his new, positive view of the “mechanical arts”;³ others find them in the Reformation rejection of philosophy, and the development of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.⁴ Political philosophers find them in the Renaissance projects of Bacon, Descartes, and Machiavelli.⁵ Without pinpointing its origins, we can state...

  7. 2 Technology, Poverty, and Malnutrition: The End of Distributive Justice
    (pp. 22-38)

    In the last decade of the twentieth century the annual output of the global economy grew by an estimated 25 per cent. The number of people living on less than one US dollar per day hovered at around 1.2 billion over the same period. And while the richer countries showed steady growth in their per capita income figures, more than eighty of the poorest countries had per capita incomes lower in 2001 than they had been a decade earlier.¹ “In 2001, the World Bank reported that 1.1 billion or one fifth of the population of the world’s poor countries lived...

  8. 3 Sustainable Sufficiency is Not Enough: The End of Environmental Ethics
    (pp. 39-56)

    In the first decade of the twenty-first century we find ourselves in the midst of a global ecological crisis: it is estimated that we are currently losing 50 million acres of forest annually (an area the size of England, Wales, and Scotland combined);¹ carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years, leading to alarming increases in average atmospheric temperatures – as of 2005, the hottest year on record was 2005;² in 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of scientists who review and report the latest findings, predicted...

  9. 4 Excursus on Nuclear Power: The End of Sustainable Sufficiency
    (pp. 57-78)

    As we have seen, since the first Earth Day in 1971 the environmental movement has attempted to bring to public consciousness the ambiguous ideal of “sustainable sufficiency.”³ In light of this ideal, energy experts have entered into a public debate about the advisability of constructing more and larger nuclear power plants in Canada and the United States. From the outset this debate has been about means, not about ends.⁴ Those in favour of the proliferation of nuclear power plants believe that nuclear energy is an acceptable means to the good end of economic growth and technological expansion. They believe that...

  10. 5 Modern Weapons: The End of the Just War Theory
    (pp. 79-112)

    In the eighteenth century Francis Bacon observed that “knowledge is power,” and that account of knowledge has more or less defined the project of modern science – and it also reflects a certain truism regarding the character of modern warfare. It should be remembered that before the modern era, men and women in the Western world did not conceive of knowledge, science, or warfare in the terms suggested by Bacon’s maxim. The accounts of knowledge found in the pages of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and the Book of Wisdom assume that the desire for insight or understanding, must be somehow related to...

  11. 6 Reproductive Technologies: The End of Sexual Ethics
    (pp. 113-137)

    From time immemorial, as they say, human beings, like every other animal species, have perpetuated themselves by what might be called the essentially natural processes of sexual intercourse between males and females. Insofar as there was a specifically human control over this process, it was provided by human culture, which assigned specific roles to men and women in society. Culture, which transformed animal breeding with its rutting seasons into human sexual relations based on social relationships, determined the nature of kinship and gender, the roles of males and females, and the appropriate context for sexual relationships and procreation. Although methods...

  12. 7 Excursus on Genetic Testing, Selective Abortion, and the New Eugenics
    (pp. 138-148)

    The technologization of reproduction described in the last chapter was not in the first instance undertaken or legitimized for specifically eugenic purposes. After World War II, the Nazis’ eugenic project was the source of so much revulsion that the very idea of either identifying or creating a superior genotype and then breeding for it was rejected out of hand. The Nazi war crime trials led to the formulation of the Nuremberg Code, which proscribed any experimentation on human subjects that was not clearly understood and consented to by a medical patient. Autonomy became the paramount value, and informed consent became...

  13. 8 Technology and the End of Politics
    (pp. 149-163)

    In the opening chapters of this book we described how the technological society emerged as the history-making spirit replaced the doctrine of providence and its acceptance of natural law. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment faith that the evils of scarcity, labour, disease, and war could be gradually eliminated from the world if ignorance and superstition were dispelled was dominant. This Enlightenment faith entailed a trust in reason, but reason was gradually reduced to positivist, experimental science; this positivism showed its efficacy in the accomplishments of the new physical sciences and the industrial revolution.¹ it is not...

  14. 9 Technology and the End of Ethics
    (pp. 164-180)

    Throughout this book we have described the many ways in which technology has both transformed and overridden traditional ethical considerations as it has altered every aspect of our society; agriculture, economics, energy, war, medicine, and reproduction have been radically changed as the Baconian project has taken shape. Many would argue that these changes have been all to the good even if labour, scarcity, disease, and war have not been banished from the face of the earth. They would say that our technical progress has not meant the end of ethics but the emergence of a new ethics that grapples with...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 181-218)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-234)
  17. Index
    (pp. 235-246)