Ideas of Jonathan Glover, by Theme

[British, b.1941, At Oxford University, then London University. Chairman of various government committees.]

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16. Persons / A. Concept of a Person / 1. Existence of Persons
Persons are conscious, they relate, they think, they feel, and they are self-aware
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 5. Action Dilemmas / a. Dilemmas
A problem arises in any moral system that allows more than one absolute right
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 5. Action Dilemmas / b. Double Effect
Double Effect: no bad acts with good consequences, but possibly good acts despite bad consequences
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 5. Action Dilemmas / c. Omissions
Harmful omissions are unavoidable, while most harmful acts can be avoided
Acts and Omissions: bad consequences are morally better if they result from an omission rather than an act
It doesn't seem worse to switch off a life-support machine than to forget to switch it on
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 2. Values / c. Life
What matters is not intrinsic value of life or rights, but worthwhile and desired life, and avoidance of pain
22. Metaethics / B. Value / 2. Values / e. Death
'Death' is best seen as irreversible loss of consciousness, since this is why we care about brain function
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
You can't separate acts from the people performing them
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 1. Goodness / h. Good as benefit
Aggression in defence may be beneficial but morally corrupting
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
The quality of a life is not altogether independent of its length
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
Duty prohibits some acts, whatever their consequences
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
Satisfaction of desires is not at all the same as achieving happiness [PG]
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 5. Rule Utilitarianism
Rule-utilitarianism is either act-utilitarianism, or not really utilitarian
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 2. Population / a. Human population
The sanctity of life doctrine implies a serious increase of abnormality among the population
How can utilitarianism decide the ideal population size?
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / g. Liberalism critique
Autonomy favours present opinions over future ones, and says nothing about the interests of potential people
If a whole community did not mind death, respect for autonomy suggests that you could kill them all
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 5. Freedom of lifestyle
Autonomy seems to acquire greater weight when the decision is more important to a person
25. Social Practice / C. Rights / 2. Moral rights
Being alive is not intrinsically good, and there is no 'right to life'
You can't have a right to something you can't desire, so a foetus has no 'right' to life
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 1. Causing Death
If someone's life is 'worth living', that gives one direct reason not to kill him
Utilitarians object to killing directly (pain, and lost happiness), and to side-effects (loss to others, and precedents)
What is wrong with killing someone, if another equally worthwhile life is substituted?
The 'no trade-off' position: killing is only justified if it prevents other deaths
Societies spend a lot to save known persons, but very little to reduce fatal accidents
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 2. Euthanasia
Euthanasia is voluntary (patient's wish), or involuntary (ignore wish), or non-voluntary (no wish possible)
Involuntary euthanasia is wrong because it violates autonomy, and it has appalling side-effects
Maybe extreme treatment is not saving life, but prolonging the act of dying
The Nazi mass murders seem to have originated in their euthanasia programme
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 3. Abortion
If killing is wrong because it destroys future happiness, not conceiving a happy child is also wrong
Defenders of abortion focus on early pregnancy, while opponents focus on later stages
If abortion is wrong, it is because a foetus is a human being or a person (or potentially so)
If abortion is wrong because of the 'potential' person, that makes contraception wrong too
Conception isn't the fixed boundary for a person's beginning, because twins are possible within two weeks
How would we judge abortion if mothers had transparent wombs?
Abortion differs morally from deliberate non-conception only in its side-effects
If viability is a test or boundary at the beginning of life, it should also be so for frail old people
Apart from side effects, it seems best to replace an inadequate foetus with one which has a better chance
It is always right for a qualified person to perform an abortion when requested by the mother
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 4. Suicide
One test for a worthwhile life is to assess the amount of life for which you would rather be unconscious