Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

What Makes Killing Wrong? And Why It Matters.

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Hour 2:           If killing is wrong, what makes vital organ transplantation – as it is currently practiced – compatible with morality? We’ll discuss the issue this hour with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He’ll deliver the lecture “What Makes Killing Wrong? And Why It Matters” at UT Southwestern Ethics Grand Rounds tomorrow at noon.

  • a-man

    Wow. Walter’s ideas on life and death are some of the most shocking and compassionless that I’ve heard. To suggest that a living being (human or otherwise) is only defined by his or her abilities (mental or physical) as measured by us seems like a very narrow-minded perspective. What about someone who is born with a low IQ, becomes paralyzed, and has no creative abilities to speak of – does that mean they have no worth? Part of Walter’s problem is that he start’s (like so many ego-centric humans) with the assumption that humans are “more special” than all other beings on this planet. We are only special as a part of the overall tapestry of this amazing universe. All parts are special and equally important. (And I’m not a religious person trying to preach a certain dogma.) I do agree with most religions however in believing that the feeble minds of man should be very careful when attempting to assign value.

  • a-man

    Wow. Walter’s ideas on life and death are some of the most shocking and compassionless that I’ve heard. To suggest that a living being (human or otherwise) is only defined by his or her abilities (mental or physical) as measured by us seems like a very narrow-minded perspective. What about someone who is born with a low IQ, becomes paralyzed, and has no creative abilities to speak of – does that mean they have no worth? Part of Walter’s problem is that he start’s (like so many ego-centric humans) with the assumption that humans are “more special” than all other beings on this planet. We are only special as a part of the overall tapestry of this amazing universe. All parts are special and equally important. (And I’m not a religious person trying to preach a certain dogma.) I do agree with most religions however in believing that the feeble minds of man should be very careful when attempting to assign value.

  • melanie

    This program was extremely interesting, and I found the caller’s question regarding potentially selling organs both unsettling and ethically evocative. People are already selling organs. Well, not organs necessarily so much as reproductive vessels, if you will. Sperm and eggs are currently being sold. One thing this discussion made me wonder, was if the importance of life isn’t so much “life” itself, but “abilities,” then wouldn’t the potential ability inherent in sperm and eggs make these highly valuable commodities, to the point of making them priceless. Because each of these can potentially give life and therefore a lifetime of “abilities,” how were the prices on sperm and egg donations devised? And should these prices be higher? Also, on the show, there was debate about lower income individuals and whether or not they would donate their organs if they could gain monetarily from these donations. Well, people are already gaining monetarily on egg and sperm donations. I would hesitate to guess, that unless a sperm or egg donor was donating for a specific individual they knew, that no donors refuse the money offered to them in exchange for their donation. In fact, I would think that most of these donations are driven by a monetary need. Which makes me wonder, if other organs could be donated for money as well, wouldn’t people with monetary woes be just as tempted?

  • melanie

    This program was extremely interesting, and I found the caller’s question regarding potentially selling organs both unsettling and ethically evocative. People are already selling organs. Well, not organs necessarily so much as reproductive vessels, if you will. Sperm and eggs are currently being sold. One thing this discussion made me wonder, was if the importance of life isn’t so much “life” itself, but “abilities,” then wouldn’t the potential ability inherent in sperm and eggs make these highly valuable commodities, to the point of making them priceless. Because each of these can potentially give life and therefore a lifetime of “abilities,” how were the prices on sperm and egg donations devised? And should these prices be higher? Also, on the show, there was debate about lower income individuals and whether or not they would donate their organs if they could gain monetarily from these donations. Well, people are already gaining monetarily on egg and sperm donations. I would hesitate to guess, that unless a sperm or egg donor was donating for a specific individual they knew, that no donors refuse the money offered to them in exchange for their donation. In fact, I would think that most of these donations are driven by a monetary need. Which makes me wonder, if other organs could be donated for money as well, wouldn’t people with monetary woes be just as tempted?

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