Bacchini, Fabio (2013) Is nanotechnology giving rise to new ethical problems? NanoEthics, Vol. 7 (2), p. 107-119. eISSN 1871-4765. Article.
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In this paper I focus on the question of whether nanotechnology is giving rise to new ethical problems rather than merely to new instances of old ethical problems. Firstly, I demonstrate how important it is to make a general distinction between new ethical problems and new instances of old problems. Secondly, I propose one possible way of interpreting the distinction and offer a definition of a “new ethical problem”. Thirdly, I examine whether there is good reason to claim that nanotechnology is giving or will give rise to new ethical problems. My conclusion is that there are no new ethical problems in nanotechnology but merely new occurrences of certain well-known types of ethical problems. Fourthly, I consider three arguments by van de Poel (NanoEthics 2:25–28, 2008) which contradict my conclusion. I argue that my negative conclusion is consistent with the claim that certain ethical issues arising in nanotechnology may require new normative standards or new analytical tools. I conclude that it is likely that a number of ethical issues arising in nanotechnology will have a considerable impact on our ethical theories and values – and that ethical reflection on nanotechnology will be one of the mother lodes of future ethical research – in spite of the fact that no ethical problem in nanoethics will actually be “new”.
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