ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Habermas on the Limits of Reproductive Technology

Tatiana Patrone
Ithaca College
Tatiana Patrone
Ithaca College
Open Panel

Abstract

Habermas’s arguments cautioning against reproductive technology are often taken to belong to the set of conservative positions that build on the special case of parent/ child relationships and that seek to exempt this case from the standard deontological analysis (e.g., Michael Sandel and Leon Kass). My argument in the paper is twofold. First, I aim to show that some of Habermas’s arguments indeed are to the conclusion that traditional Kantian and Rawlsian deontology (in ethics and in politics) does not do justice to the complexity of the issues surrounding biotechnology and that therefore a new ‘ethics of the species’ is called for. In that respect, Habermas’s view is akin to other critics of contemporary normative ethical and political theory. Second, I argue that in addition to this line of criticism, Habermas offers a different type of argument concerning reproductive technology that his critics usually attribute to him. I argue that Habermas ought not to be read merely as a conservative critic of biotechnology. Instead, his account ought to be understood in terms of Kant’s concept of perfect duties to others. Thus, on his account we would be wronging (albeit not directly harming) the future generations if we choose to embrace some aspects of reproductive technology. In other words, our choices will inevitably interfere with the right of the future generations to exercise their power of choice. On Habermas’s (Kantian) account, this constitutes the primary reason for rejecting some aspects of biotechnology. With these two exegetical arguments in place, I go on to show that Habermas’s deontological argument can be made consistent with his demand for the ‘ethics of’ (not merely ‘morality for’) the species, but that this deontological argument itself ought to be defended on non-deontological grounds.