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560Challenges for Bioethics from Asia

Syllabus of Classes on Neonaturalistic Bioethics – A Polish Example

- Jan Wawrzyniak, Ph.D..

Instytut Filozofii UAM, Szamarzewskiego 89c60-569 Poznan, POLAND

Email: jawa@main.amu.edu.pl

1. Introduction

I take the domain of bioethics to be the moral dimension of actions and intentions affecting vital values, or the attributes and essential conditions of being a living creature. Bioethics examines relevant theoretical issues and formulates normative regulations as well. I include the following as the main areas of bioethics:

1. Evolutionary ethics.

2. Axiological and metaethical foundations.

3. Environmental ethics (including veterinary deontology), or the interspecific ethics for the biosphere.

4. Biomedical ethics (with the environmental philosophy of health and the deontologies of the medical  professions).

5. Social bioethics, which is concerned with common attitudes towards psychosomatic differences (such as race, sex and gender, age, and  disability) within the human population and engages the concepts of normality and pathology; the issues of biological elimination of culturally unaccepted humans (e.g. capital punishment) are relevant as well.

6. The ethics of international development (which address such issues as ecology vs economy, human overpopulation, world hunger among others)

7. The moral aspects of genomics and biotechnology.

It is a methodological fallacy both to anthropomorphize natural phenomena by explaining them in terms of cultural sciences and to abuse the "anthropomorphism" argument. Hence, the theoretical proposal I want to sketch represents a neonaturalistic, which I identify as my standpoint, approach to bioethical dilemmas. By restoring the full bio-cultural dimension to Homo sapiens sapiens (HS), neonaturalism opposes both positivistic and humanistic reductionism. Neo-naturalistic bioethics is environmentally biased, also in reference to the  moral dimension of strictly biomedical dilemmas. It also represents the structure of theoretical integrity. This means that particular parts are interrelated and the basic theoretical conclusions made within the first two sections underlie further normative inferences. The ontological and logical aspects of the is-ought problem, as well as the existence/nonexistence of natural values seem to be fundamental issues, the solution of which is crucial to the construction of global bioethics.

2. Basic Curriculum - an example

At present, in Poland, classes on bioethics are electives within the curriculum of a 10-semester graduate (M.A. degree) philosophical studies. Qualified bioethics classes are chosen by students either simultaneously with the basic course on ethics or, which is more frequent, after they are credited this course which is conducted during the 5th and 6th semesters. In the planned new 6-semester specialty - that is to be started in October 2005 - in ethics as such, a course on bioethics is recognized as an integral obligatory component of the curriculum. The whole bioethics course consists of two interrelated parts, each of which takes one semester (i.e. two consecutive semesters - the 7th and 8th). The classes (15 for a semester) will be conducted in the form of units of 180 minutes each, which gives 120 lesson hours altogether for the whole course of bioethics.

Due to its unitary - in terms of axiological, metaethical and metaphysical foundations - and integral character the whole two-semester course is called Environmental Bioethics. We have to take into account that the environmental perspective, having an influence on  practical philosophy since the early 70's, has caused bio-medical ethics, hitherto understood as the ethics of clinical

. pp. 560-567 in Macer, DRJ., ed., "Challenges for Bioethics from Asia" (Eubios Ethics Institute, 2004).

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