La vie artificielle - Le statut moral des êtres vivants artificiels [Artificial Life. The moral status of artificial living beings]

Contributions to Ethics and Biotechnology, Volume 6 (2009) - in French

What moral status do artificial living beings have? The question of the moral status of each individual living organism is of central importance, as this gives us a basis for determining how we should treat that particular living organism and what moral boundaries we are set in relation to its use.

Up until now, only naturally occurring living beings have been known to humankind. However, we will most likely be able to produce artificial living beings in the near future. This, at least, is the declared aim of synthetic biology. This raises the question as to whether the artificial nature of these living beings has an effect on their moral status.

In an attempt to answer this question, this volume first of all identifies what it means to accord a living being moral status. Taking this understanding of life, which is in harmony with that of the biological sciences, the various meanings of the dichotomy between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are then explained. The investigation comes to the conclusion that moral status is independent of whether we are dealing with a natural or an artificial living organism.

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Last edition: 23.11.2018


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Dr. Bernard Baertschi, lecturer and research scientist at the Interfaculty Centre for Medical Bioethics and Human Sciences at the University of Geneva, works in the fields of normative and practical ethics. He is the author of ‘Enquête philosophique sur la dignité. Anthropologie et éthique des biotechnologies’ (Philosophical Study of Dignity. Anthropology and the Ethics of Biotechnology), Geneva, Labor & Fides, 2005, as well as of ‘La Neuroéthique. Ce que les neurosciences font à nos conceptions morales’ (Neuroethics. What neurosciences do to our moral conceptions), Paris, La Découverte, 2009. Bernard Baertschi is also a member of the ECNH.