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Posted on May 17, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Join me for American Society for Bioethics & Humanities’ (ASBH) 21st Annual Conference in Pittsburgh in October 2019.

One of the keynote speakers will be Margaret P. Battin, PhD MFA from the University of Utah. Her presentation is “Death and Sex, Using Thought Experiments with Modern Technology to Address Issues like Abortion, Infectious Disease, and Alzheimer Disease.”

Take three perennial issues in bioethics that are related to death and sex: abortion, the control of transmissible infectious disease, and the challenges of long-term dementia, especially Alzheimer disease. 

Battin will supplement the usual ways we address such issues by employing a distinctive type of conjectural reasoning, the “thought experiment with normative force.” (This isn’t like the usual philosophers’ thought experiments about whether you’re a brain in a vat or have a famous violinist hooked up to your kidneys for 9 months. Not at all.) This strategy can provide insight into the nature of practical efforts to address real-world issues and expose problematic underlying assumptions that often block such efforts. 

Battin will pursue three thought experiments in rapid succession: one about abortion, another about infectious disease, and a third about advance directives for those with Alzheimer disease. Central in each thought experiment will be attention to the predictable objections they raise, the conceptual gains they yield, and the common issues they address.

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