Vagueness and Indeterminacy in Ethics

Authored by: Tom Dougherty

The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138812208
eBook ISBN: 9781315213217
Adobe ISBN:


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In an artificial incubator, a zygote gradually develops from a handful of cells to a child who is capable of surviving on its own (Manley ms). With a sufficiently powerful microscope, we would see that its continuous development is constituted by smaller processes in which cells gradually multiply and differentiate. There will come a point in these processes at which we assign the emergent human a moral status higher than that of a cat. But is there a specific millisecond, at which the entity gains this moral status? If we had to choose between terminating the human entity or terminating a cat, are there individual strands of protein that need to bind together for it to become impermissible to terminate the human entity?

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