The Possession of Knowledge Carries an Ethical Responsibility

Topics: Human Genome Project, Ethics, Human genome Pages: 9 (2320 words) Published: December 19, 2012
“The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility” evaluate this claim  1-2

Knowledge can be a justified as a true belief, factual information or skills aquired, as stated by the Oxford dictionary: “facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”.1 It can also refer to the knowledge of human nature, perception and reason are ways of knowing which we use in our everyday life, making knowledge also the“awareness  or  familiarity  gained  by  experience  of  a  fact  or  situation”.2 Therefore what is actually knowledge? The word originates fom the old English verb gecnawan, cnāwan, which today translates to the word know and the auxiliary can.3 Consequently, the verb 'acknowledge' implies a state of aknowledgment and apprhension, together with an ability to act, which leads to the idea of a process. The latin cognosco (to conciously know) recalls the dinamic and construstive aspect of aknowledging something, an accumulation of information.4 Furthermore in 1200, knowledge was even refered to as information one confesses to possess, admitting and recognizing to have aquired knowledge. From the verb however implies a state of action which could both refer to the active apprhension of the knoweldge itself and at the same time, the power to act which is attributed to the knower.

The concept of responsibility instead refers to “the  state  or  fact  of  having  a  duty,  having  control  over someone or being accountable or to blame  for  something”.5 Deriving from the 1590s answerable (to another, for something) and the Latin responsus (to respond), the root word holds the sense of obligation which led to the meaning attested in 1836 of “morally accountable for one's actions”.6 Therefore, responsability is a condition of being responsible for something. Ethics instead are defined as:“the  moral  correctness  of  specified  conduct”.7 Ethics, deriving from the Greek ēthikos  which refers to costums, is described by Peter Singer as “the set of rules, principles, or ways of thinking that guide, or claim authority to guide, the actions of a particular group; and sometimes it stands for the systematic study of reasoning about how we ought to act”.  8Translated into the Latin root moralis, morality  is  therefore  part  of  the  root  of  the  word,  being  ethics  “the


Articolo Oxford


science of morality”.9 The concept of ethical responsability can be understood as one's duty of


acting morally correct. The philosopher Jonas Hans sustains the imperative concept: “act so that the effects of your action are compatible with the permanence of genuine human life.” 10


The first school of ethical responsibility considers the work of Aristotle which affirms that: “virtues  2-5

(such as justice, charity, and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit both the person possessing them and that person’s society”.  The second, sustained by Kant, “makes the concept of duty central to morality”11: it is the duty of all human beings to respect other rational beings. Whilst


the third uliteranian school believes “the  guding  principle  of  conduct  should  be  the  greatest  2-10

happiness  or  benefit  of  the  greatest  number”.12 Therefore, to what extent does the possession of knowledge always carry an ethical responsibility? Can the posession of knowledge stand alone or is it dependent on an ethical responsability? Imperically I believe the statements do stand parallel


because the possession of knowledge attributes power to the knower who therefore should...
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