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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 4, 1998

Bioethics and Medical Ethics

Maja E. Pellikaan-Engel
Pages 118-123

Philosophy Educating Humanity?

Over two millennia of Western philosophy has not yet contributed much to the education of humanity. Philosophy has almost always been the exclusive domain of a small group of men. This elite character makes the assumption that philosophy could contribute to the education of human beings towards humanity — a humanity of human rights — improbable. If we want to educate human beings towards humanity, we will first have to teach them a sense of responsibility. The power of persuasion needed in order to teach such a sense of responsibility requires that we demonstrate our involvement in and co-responsibility for their concrete problems by presenting clear analyses of these problems and by setting a good example wherever possible. One of the most universal and concrete problems of life is the issue of procreation. As regards this issue, however, philosophers have failed miserably: they themselves have often exhibited irresponsible procreation and have, in fact, only recently begun to consider the issue a subject for philosophy. I will try to analyze when a decision to procreate or abort may be called responsible and whether and to what extent the applications of modern techniques such as in vitro fertilization are in line with our views of human rights.

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