The paper examines 'the argument from autonomy' against genetic enhancement, i.e., against enhancing an embryo's nature through genetic engineering. The argument says the genetic enhancement is inadmissible because it violates the autonomy of the person to be developed from the embryo. The first part of the paper aims at clarifying the very notion of autonomy. The clarification proceeds in two stages. First, a distinction is made between personal and moral autonomy. Second, the concept of presuppositions of moral autonomy is introduced. It is argued that one can distinguish two conceptions of moral autonomy depending on whether one assumes that the contingency of birth is a presupposition of moral autonomy or not. In the second part of the paper, relations between the two conceptions of moral autonomy and two types of genetic enhancement ('directed' and 'all-purpose') are analyzed. It is argued, inter alia, that (a) if one assumes the conception of moral autonomy according to which the contingency of birth is a presupposition of moral autonomy, one is led to accept the conclusion that all the types of genetic enhancement violate moral autonomy; (b) if one assumes the conception of moral autonomy according to which the contingency of birth is not a presupposition of moral autonomy, one is led to accept the conclusion that directed genetic enhancement violates personal autonomy but does not have to violate moral autonomy, and that all-purpose genetic enhancement does not violate either personal or moral autonomy.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.