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Concept: Arguments


Every day, thousands of polls, surveys, and rating scales are employed to elicit the attitudes of humankind. Given the ubiquitous use of these instruments, it seems we ought to have firm answers to what is measured by them, but unfortunately we do not. To help remedy this situation, we present a novel approach to investigate the nature of attitudes. We created a self-transforming paper survey of moral opinions, covering both foundational principles, and current dilemmas hotly debated in the media. This survey used a magic trick to expose participants to a reversal of their previously stated attitudes, allowing us to record whether they were prepared to endorse and argue for the opposite view of what they had stated only moments ago. The result showed that the majority of the reversals remained undetected, and a full 69% of the participants failed to detect at least one of two changes. In addition, participants often constructed coherent and unequivocal arguments supporting the opposite of their original position. These results suggest a dramatic potential for flexibility in our moral attitudes, and indicates a clear role for self-attribution and post-hoc rationalization in attitude formation and change.

Concepts: Addition, Change, Morality, Social psychology, Argument, Magic, Reversal, Arguments


Two Australian government inquiries have recently called for the release of information to donor-conceived people about their gamete donors. A national inquiry, recommended ‘as a matter of priority’ that uniform legislation to be passed nationwide. A state-based inquiry argued that all donor-conceived people should have access to information and called for the enactment of retrospective legislation that would override donor anonymity. This paper responds to an opinion piece published in Human Reproduction in October 2012 by Professor Pennings in which he criticized such recommendations and questioned the motives of people that advocate for information release. I answer the arguments of Pennings, and argue that all parties affected by donor conception should be considered, and a compromise reached. The contact veto system is one such compromise. I discuss the education and support services recommended by the Victorian government and question Pennings' assertions that legislation enabling information release will lead to a decrease in gamete donation. Finally, I rebut Pennings' assertion that there is a ‘hidden agenda’ behind the call for information release. There is no such agenda in my work. If there is from others, then it is their discriminatory views that need to be addressed, not the move toward openness and honesty or the call for information by donor-conceived people.

Concepts: Reproduction, Critical thinking, Organ donation, Logic, Argument, Inquiry, Arguments, Human reproduction


A common argument against prostitution states that selling sex is harmful because it involves selling something deeply personal and emotional. More and more of us, however, believe that sexual encounters need not be deeply personal and emotional in order to be acceptable-we believe in the acceptability of casual sex. In this paper I argue that if casual sex is acceptable, then we have few or no reasons to reject prostitution. I do so by first examining nine influential arguments to the contrary. These arguments purport to pin down the alleged additional harm brought about by prostitution (compared to just casual sex) by appealing to various aspects of its practice, such as its psychology, physiology, economics and social meaning. For each argument I explain why it is unconvincing. I then weight the costs against the benefits of prostitution, and argue that, in sum, prostitution is no more harmful than a long line of occupations that we commonly accept without hesitation.

Concepts: Psychology, Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Logic, Argument, Arguments


It is the JME’s 40th anniversary and my 20th anniversary working in the field. I reflect on the nature of bioethics and medical ethics. I argue that both bioethics and medical ethics together have, in many ways, failed as fields. My diagnosis is that better philosophy is needed. I give some examples of the importance of philosophy to bioethics. I focus mostly on the failure of ethics in research and organ transplantation, although I also consider genetic selection, enhancement, cloning, futility, disability and other topics. I do not consider any topic comprehensively or systematically or address the many reasonable objections to my arguments. Rather, I seek to illustrate why philosophical analysis and argument remain as important as ever to progress in bioethics and medical ethics.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Bioethics, Argument, Plato, Arguments


Children’s well-being has become the focal consideration in legal and public policy debates regarding same-sex marriage. In this article, we critically examine and rebut the central moral argument made by opponents of same-sex marriage: that the state should not license any domestic arrangement other than “traditional marriage” because doing so would be detrimental to children’s well-being. Although many have challenged the empirical premise that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children in other arrangements, we focus primarily on the normative premises for exclusively licensing traditional (that is, monogamous, heterosexual) marriage. We argue that even if the empirical support for its claims was strong, the argument is morally insufficient for denying state recognition to other types of relationships. Importantly, we affirm the state’s vital role in promoting children’s well-being. We question, however, the approach of delegitimizing certain relationships as a means to that end. Instead, we argue, the state should encourage and support individuals who want to care for children, presume that any couple or individual is capable of adequate child-rearing, and ensure that all adults who are raising children (whether married or not) have the material resources and support necessary to be good parents. Such a policy would (1) set a reasonable minimal threshold for state recognition, (2) be vigilant in identifying cases falling below this threshold, and then (3) either assist or disqualify underperforming arrangements. It would also, appropriately, decouple arguments about legitimate and illegitimate types of relationships from arguments about what is best for children.

Concepts: Marriage, Same-sex marriage, Logic, Morality, Argument, Argumentation theory, Arguments, Premise


Even among advocates of legalising physician-assisted death, many argue that this should be done only once palliative care has become widely available. Meanwhile, according to them, physician-assisted death should be banned. Four arguments are often presented to support this claim, which we call the argument of lack of autonomy, the argument of existing alternatives, the argument of unfair inequalities and the argument of the antagonism between physician-assisted death and palliative care. We argue that although these arguments provide strong reasons to take appropriate measures to guarantee access to good quality palliative care to everyone who needs it, they do not justify a ban on physician-assisted death until we have achieved this goal.

Concepts: Logic, Argument, Arguments, Premise


I argue that young patients should be able to access neuroenhancing drugs without a diagnosis of ADHD. The current framework of consent for pediatric patients can be adapted to accommodate neuroenhancement. After a brief overview of pediatric neuroenhancement, I develop three arguments in favor of greater acceptance of neuroenhancement for young patients. First, ADHD is not relevantly different from other disadvantages that could be treated with stimulant medication. Second, establishing a legitimate framework for pediatric neuroenhancement would mitigate the bad effects of diversion and improve research on neuroenhancement and ADHD. Third, some pediatric patients have rights to access neuroenhancements. I then consider several objections to pediatric neuroenhancement. I address concerns about addiction, advertising, authentic development, the parent-child relationship and equal opportunity and conclude that these concerns may inform a framework for prescribing neuroenhancement but they do not justify limits on prescribing.

Concepts: Physician, Drug addiction, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Logic, The Current, Argument, Arguments


When people seek support for a cause, they typically present the strongest case they can muster. The present research suggests that under some conditions, the opposite strategy may be superior-in particular, presenting weak rather than strong arguments might stimulate greater advocacy and action. Across four studies, we show that when individuals already agree with a cause (i.e., it is pro-attitudinal), receiving weak arguments in its favor can prompt them into advocating more on its behalf. Perceived argumentation efficacy mediates this effect such that people exposed to weak arguments are more likely to think they have something valuable to contribute. Moreover, consistent with the notion that it is driven by feelings of increased efficacy, the effect is more likely to emerge when initial argumentation efficacy and attitude certainty are moderate or low. Individuals with high argumentation efficacy and high certainty generally advocate more, regardless of the strength of arguments received.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Concepts in metaphysics, Logic, Argument, Argumentation theory, Fallacy, Arguments, Argument map


Novel assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are poised to present our society with strange new ethical questions, such as whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples should be allowed to produce children biologically related to both parents, or whether trans-women who want to experience childbirth should be allowed to receive uterine transplants. Clinicians opposed to offering such technologies to LGBT couples on moral grounds are likely to seek legal shelter through the conscience clauses enshrined in U.S. law. This paper begins by briefly discussing some novel ART on the horizon and noting that it is unclear whether current conscience clauses will permit fertility clinics to deny such services to LGBT individuals. A compromise approach to conscience is any view that sees the value of respecting conscience claims within limits. I describe and critique the constraints proposed in the recent work of Wicclair, NeJaime and Siegel as ultimately begging the question. My purpose is to strengthen their arguments by suggesting that in the controversial situations that elicit claims of conscience, bioethicists should engage with the metaphysical claims in play. I argue that conscience claims against LGBT individuals ought to be constrained because the underlying metaphysic-that God has decreed the LGBT lifestyle to be sinful-is highly implausible from the perspective of a naturalized metaphysic, which ought to be the lens through which we evaluate conscience claims.

Concepts: LGBT, Pregnancy, Metaphysics, Sexual orientation, Homosexuality, Bisexuality, Gay, Arguments


Among current studies, there is still question as to whether conflict increases, decreases, or has no effect on HIV prevalence. This lack of clarity can be attributed to the scarcity of quantitative analysis in this field. Thus, studies about conflict and HIV have failed to specify the ways conflict affects HIV prevalence, if indeed it does. In this paper, I argue that armed conflict increases HIV prevalence by reducing total per capita health spending. Using HIV prevalence data from 1990 to 2009, I find supporting evidence in the case of civil conflicts for these arguments. In addition, I find that as the severity of civil conflict increases, so do HIV rates. These findings have significant policy implications for individual governments, as well as for the international community.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Conflict, Real number, Logic, Per Capita, Civil war, Argument, Arguments