Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the question and answer portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The first and second parts may be found here, the third and fourth here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Q&A

Highlights: What is the relevance of John MacEachran’s position within the university? Should the university apologize? Should the Philosophy Department apologize?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

The Body as Object

Symposium Announcement

The Body as Object: The human as material culture

1 May 2009, Telus Centre; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (8:30 a.m. registration), University of Alberta, Edmonton
Cost:
$30 / $15 (concessions). Lunch and refreshments included.
Register at:
http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/materialculture

The Material Culture Institute’s 3
rd Annual Symposium investigates human bodies in relation to the material world. Please join us for a day of exciting and thought-provoking discussion concerning how bodies may be perceived as objects!

Speakers & topics (beneath the fold): Continue reading

An End to Disability?

Well, some kinds anyway.

Current medical technologies in the field of regenerative medicine have regrown the severed tip of a man’s finger (about a 1/2 inch) in 10 days.  With some refinement those who have lost entire limbs or who have suffered severe burns and/or scarring may also be given new hope… or would they?  I don’t think this is as clear cut an issue as it may first appear.

For many people their physical abilities and physical form are a huge part of who they are.  Giving this up to become “normal” may not be the obvious choice that many likely believe.  Nor is it clear that this would be a good thing, either for those facing the choice or the rest of us.  A richness of perspective and a host of other benefits are brought to the world as a consequence of there being people of differing abilities.  Whether it is something as commonplace as the installation of a wheelchair ramp that doubles as a bike jump or as world changing as the rise of the modern intensive care unit in response to the polio epidemic of the twentieth century* there are benefits to heterogeneity that would be lost in a world of normals.

I think the first response of our world would be to “heal the suffering” and to “save those in need”.  We’d see those who would refuse treatment as being slightly crazy, in the same way that parents who choose to keep children classed as severely disabled as being crazy (see this previous post for a chilling example), thereby giving us cause to step in an take make the choice that they are not in the right mind to make.  I admit that this is my initial response.  But in my gut I also have another hope, namely that some of those whom we would force our help on, either physically or through subtler forms of violence and oppression, will have the strength to hold us off—we never know what’s coming for us and if we should have learned anything at all from studying evolution it should have been that a diversity of ideas and people are the best way to play the odds.  Or perhaps I’m totally out to lunch?

Medical technology really does open a Pandora’s Box of ethical questions and moral trials, doesn’t it?

To read the original article about regrowing a finger with “Pixie Dust” as reported by the BBC, just click Continue reading

How many years?

Article 7  of Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act of 2000 defines crimes against humanity and includes “enforced sterilization.” The Act implements the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998. SO… it might appear that involuntary sterilization only was recognized as a crime against humanity in relatively recent history. But actually, Canada agreed to uphold  Charter of the London Agreement along with in August of 1945, and under that Charter the Medical Trials convicted Nazi doctors of crimes against humanity as early as 1947 for the the involuntary sterilization of German citizens with intellectual disabilities. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 3&4

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The preceding parts may be found here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Part 3

Highlights: exploration of validity of a purely consequentialist argument, challenge of academic cowardice, inadequacy of strict utilitarian approach, what features of the case justify removing the MacEachran prize, (un)importance of overstepping legal authority.

A transcript and the concluding Part 4, follow the cut; fiery Q and A to follow later. Continue reading

Thoughts about “Twice Lost”

This morning CBC’s morning radio show The Current aired a documentary called “Twice Lost”. There are a lot of questions that it raises–about relationships, diseases, families, suicide, and reconciliation. You can listen to the whole documentary by clicking here and then selecting Part 2.  It runs about 20 minutes, and is worth listening to in full. But here are the basics and some questions, if you don’t want to (or can’t) listen to the podcast. Warning: spoiler below. One question, up front: what difference should it make to family understanding of a shared past (or a shared future) to discover that a close relative has a previously undisclosed disease, disability, or condition? Continue reading