Robert L. Frazier ( www.rlfrazier.org )

Applied philosophy, morals and metaphysics in contemporary debate; Brenda Almond and Donald Hill (Editors); London; Routledge; 1991; 334 pp; £10.99.

This anthology comprises twenty-eight articles divided among the following topics: The Environment; Personal Relationships; Terrorism, War and Conflict; Justice and Equality; and Ethics and Medicine. The articles were all originally published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, from whose editorial staff come the co-editors of this anthology. The purpose of this anthology is not at all clear. Two of the most important functions of anthologies are these: first, to assemble important papers on a subject or by an individual that were previously unpublished or widely scattered and second, to assemble articles useful for teaching. Since the articles were all published in the same journal, the anthology does not fulfil the first function. Nor is it entirely apt for the second function: seminal articles from other journals that should be required reading are omitted. What the anthology really seems to be is a `Best of ...' collection for promoting applied philosophy in general and the Journal of Applied Philosophy in particular.

Because of limitations of space, I shall confine the rest of my discussion to the section on Ethics and Medicine. In general, while the seven articles in this section are competent, none sparkles. Four of the articles concern either the beginning or end of life. E. Page argues that gametes should be transferable while embryos should not: transferring embryos would violate the principle that children should not be transferred, while transferring gametes would not. He takes it to be a consequence of this that women who have agreed to be surrogates prior to conception should be held to the agreement. J. Trusted bases a compelling criticism of this conclusion on the fact that surrogacy involves more than the incubation of an embryo. A. Holland criticizes the view that for the first two weeks after conception a fertilized egg is not an embryo and, therefore, not human. This view rests on the observation that for about two weeks the material making up the embryo is not distinct from the material making up the placenta and fetal membranes, and it is still possible for the material to develop into two distinct embryos (identical twins). In one of the more interesting articles, A. Browne discusses the vagueness of the notion of death and argues that there is no utility in formulating a general stipulative definition of death. Instead he suggests that we would be better off formulating different criteria of death for different purposes.

The remaining three papers in this section deal with a variety of topics. A description of the philosophical issues involved in practical decision making in a clinical setting is given by D. Moros, R. Rhodes, B. Baumrin and J. Strain. S. Marshall argues that the right to privacy is neither reducible to other rights nor justified on utilitarian grounds, but is founded on the requirement that a person's autonomy be respected. R. Chadwick rejects the view that a prohibition against selling body parts can be justified on the Kantian ground that persons have duties to themselves, but argues that it can be justified by appeal to a general obligation to promote human flourishing.

Robert L. Frazier Oxford



Robert L. Frazier