Monday, 22 June 2009

Wake up Maggie

... I think I got something to say to you
It's late September and I really should be back at school.
I know I keep you amused
but I feel I'm being used ...

Margaret Somerville - a cougar? Unlikely, though stranger things have happened. No, I suspect Maggie is a latex - errr, latent and likely self-suppressed dominatrix though that orientation breaks out when she launches in one of her predictable and tedious public floggings of public morality.

Dr Dawg, who can run epistemological circles around Somerville, nails her sanctimonious hide to the wall. Metaphorically, of course.

...while on the subject of public intellectuals, the Citizen graces us today with another incompetent column by Margaret Somerville, the popular self-anointed authority on bioethics from McGill who is fond of telling us how to live and what to think under the guise of ethical discussion. There is, in fact little real discussion in Somerville's writings: it's all moral claims and assertions.

This time she's on about stem cell research and the sacredness of the embryo. ... "We are all ex-embryos," she says, in her sloppy way. We are, of course, all pre-corpses, too. ... Somerville makes much of the potential of an embryo, its "becoming," and summons up that phantasm, "moral intuition," which she has referred to, in other columns, as the "yuck factor." But the same abstract argument of potential could be used about contraception, since sperm and ova are, at least potentially, joined. In fact one could trace a chain of potential back to the origins of life. A protozoan has the potential of evolving into a human being. Morally speaking, must the chain never be broken? How can it be avoided?

Frances Kissling has a much better understanding of these issues, in addition to being more rigorous and honest in her intellectual analysis.

Surely I'm not the only one scratching my head at Somerville's never-ending perorations and wondering what deep, dark private secrets she knows about selected gros fromages. It's certainly not her MASSIVE moral authority or intellect that keeps McGill officials in her thrall.


rww said...

If I remember todaty's argument correctly it ended with her stating that if you don't agreee with her you don't have enough imagination.

My ethics do not involve imaginatuion.

ADHR said...

Somerville's problem is that she doesn't really understand ethics or moral philosophy. First problem -- her training is in law (not philosophy). Second problem -- she seems oblivious to the fact that there's a whole huge literature on the ethics of things like abortion which would show how shallow her arguments really are.


If your ethics don't involve imagination, then I'm not sure how they're "ethics" at all. After all, you have to be able to project beyond your own experiences in order to draw moral conclusions.

deBeauxOs said...

ADHR, Somerville ends her ConWest screed (see link in blogpost) by saying:

"To conclude, I suggest that seeing human embryo stem cell research as ethical is primarily a result of a failure of the ethical imagination."

I'm assuming rww was being sarcastic.

Dr.Dawg said...

Kissling seems a trifle, er, "nuanced." :)

Oh well, bygones be bygones and all.

deBeauxOs said...

1) Kissling is not running for political office on a resolutely pro-choice platform and 2) she doesn't label women's choices as capricious.

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