Seminar: Dr Michele Loi, "Fairness, enhancements and lotteries"

Past Event

14 October 2009, 4:45pm - 6:45pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Dr Michele Loi, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele

Abstract: Many people, even those who are otherwise enthusiastic about the current evolution of biotechnology, worry that the possibility of enhancing human beings will exacerbate current injustice. Liberal egalitarians wonder whether we, as a society, have an obligation to secure equal or at least wide access to uses of biotechnology beyond therapy. Theories of social justice unsurprisingly differ in their responses to questions such as “are biological enhancements the sort of things that just institutions ought to redistribute, at all?”, or “what principles shall inspire the design of institutions for redistributing enhancements?” In my paper, I shall argue that the more demanding social objectives that seem to follow from some egalitarian political ideals cannot be easily translated in terms social policy. Moreover, the ‘simple’ prohibition of access (either for the rich or for all) may only secure equality at the cost of a considerable amount of levelling down. On the other hand, less demanding social objectives may pave the way to a “genetic aristocracy”, a possible outcome of the accumulation of inheritable enhancements. In conclusion, I argue that social institutions should at least prevent the concentration of inheritable enhancements into the hands of a socially privileged minority. In the light of the difficulties of the other approaches, such goal should be achieved by distributing access to inheritable enhancements through a state-funded lottery.