Venue: City University of Hong Kong
Abstract: Jointly organized by the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, James Martin 21st Century School, Oxford University & Governance in Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong.
Human nature is an important notion in moral philosophy and bioethics. Our beliefs about human nature have implications for such topical issues as abortion, euthanasia, organ transplantation, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, gene therapies, and enhancement; and about how we should treat the environment, animals, and artificial life. Moreover, it is not only academic philosophers who recognise the importance of human nature to ethical debates: the US President’s Council writes in Being Human (2003), ‘To enlarge our vision and deepen our understanding [of bioethical dilemmas], we need to focus not only on the astonishing new technologies but also on those … aspects of “being human” on which the technologies impinge and which they may serve or threaten’.
In recent years, thinkers from a range of disciplines around the world have questioned whether human nature exists, and if so what it is and what are its normative implications. We believe that Hong Kong, China is an excellent location for such a workshop because the Asian setting would provide an ideal environment in which to identify possible sources of bias and irrationality in mainstream western ideas about human nature, arising from cultural or other factors, and to evaluate and compare Western and Eastern conceptions of human nature and its relevance to bioethics.