Metaphysical Foundations of Biomedical Ethics

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July 22-23, 2009

Two-day Course organized in conjunction with the International Conference on Biomedical Ontology.

The leading philosophical approaches to personal identity provide very different accounts of what we are essentially, when we come into existence, when we go out of existence, how we persist across time, and what matters in our survival. This workshop will examine the implications of different theories of personal identity for the bioethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research, abortion, death, organ procurement, informed consent and advance directives.

Suggested Readings

Baker, Lynne. “When Do Persons Begin and End?

Conee, Earl. “Metaphysics and Morality of Abortion”, Mind, 108: 1999. 619-645.

Hershenov, David B. "Death of a Person", The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 31, April 2006, 107-120.

Hershenov, David B. "Animals, Persons and Bioethics", APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine, 2008 vol. 8 no. 1.

Hershenov, David B. and Delaney James, "Why Consent May Not Be Needed For Organ Procurement", forthcoming in American Journal of Bioethics (as target article).

Hershenov, David B. "The Metaphysical Basis for a More Liberal Organ Procurement Policy," forthcoming in Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (special issue on Personal Identity and Bioethics).

Olson, Eric "Was I Ever an Embryo?", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57: 1997. 95-110.

Parfit, Derek. "Personal Identity." The Philosophical Review. 80:1. 1971

Shewmon, D. Alan. "Recovery from ‘Brain Death’: A Neurologist’s Apologia." Linacre Quarterly, February 1997. 30-96

Shoemaker, David. "Embryos, Souls and the Fourth Dimension", Social Theory and Practice. 31:1. 2005. 51-75.

Shoemaker, David. "The Insignificance of Personal Identity", underreview.


David B. Hershenov is an associate professor of philosophy at the University at Buffalo. His research interests are in the metaphysical foundations of bioethics.