Norbert W. Paul

Abstracts

2 Epistemological and Ethical Dimensions of Current Concepts of Human Resilience in the Neurosciences

Authors: Norbert W. Paul

Abstract:

Since a number of years, scientific interest in human resilience is rapidly increasing especially in psychology and more recently and highly visible in neurobiological research. Concepts of resilience are regularly discussed in the light of liminal experiences and existential challenges in human life. Resilience research is providing both, explanatory models and strategies to promote or foster human resilience. Surprisingly, these approaches attracted little attention so far in philosophy in general and in ethics in particular. This is even more astonishing given the fact that the neurosciences as such have been and still are of major interest to philosophy and ethics and even brought about the specialized field of neuroethics, which, however, is not concerned with concepts of resilience, so far. As a result of the little attention given to the topic of resilience, the whole concept has to date been a philosophically under-theorized. This abstinence of ethics and philosophy in resilience research is lamentable because resilience as a concept as well as resilience interventions based on neurobiological findings do undoubtedly pose philosophical, social and ethical questions. In this paper, we will argue that particular notions of resilience are crossing the sometimes fine line between maintaining a person’s mental health despite the impact of severe psychological or physical adverse events and ethically more debatable discourses of enhancement. While we neither argue for or against enhancement nor re-interpret resilience research and interventions by subsuming them strategies of psychological and/or neuro-enhancement, we encourage those who see social or ethical problems with enhancement technologies should also take a closer look on resilience and the related neurobiological concepts. We will proceed in three steps. In our first step, we will describe the concept of resilience in general and its neurobiological study in particular. Here, we will point out some important differences in the way ‘resilience’ is conceptualized and how neurobiological research understands resilience. In what follows we will try to show that a one-sided concept of resilience – as it is often presented in neurobiological research on resilience – does pose social and ethical problems. Secondly, we will identify and explore the social and ethical challenges of (neurobiological) enhancement. In the last and final step of this paper, we will argue that a one-sided reading of resilience can be understood as latent form of enhancement in transition and poses ethical questions similar to those discussed in relation to other approaches to the biomedical enhancement of humans.

Keywords: bioethics, Neurosciences, Resilience, Epistemology

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1 Cultural Collisions, Ethics and HIV: On Local Values in a Globalized Medical World

Authors: Norbert W. Paul

Abstract:

In 1988, parts of the scientific community still heralded findings to support that AIDS was likely to remain largely a ‘gay disease’. The value-ladden terminology of some of the articles suggested that rectum and fragile urethra are not sufficiently robust to provide a barrier against infectious fluids, especially body fluids contaminated with HIV while the female vagina, would provide natural protection against injuries and trauma facilitating HIV-infection. Anal sexual intercourse was constituted not only as dangerous but also as unnatural practice, while penile-vaginal intercourse would follow natural design and thus be relatively safe practice minimizing the risk of HIV. Statements like the latter were not uncommon in the early times of HIV/AIDS and contributed to captious certainties and an underestimation of heterosexual risks. Pseudo-scientific discourses on the origin of HIV were linked to local and global health politics in the 1980ies. The pathways of infection were related to normative concepts like deviant, subcultural behavior, cultural otherness, and guilt used to target, tag and separate specific groups at risk from the ‘normal’ population. Controlling populations at risk became the top item on the agenda rather than controlling modes of transmission and the virus. Hence, the Thai strategy to cope with HIV/AIDS by acknowledging social and sexual practices as they were – not as they were imagined – has become a role model for successful prevention in the highly scandalized realm of sexually transmitted disease. By accepting the globalized character of local HIV-risk and projecting the risk onto populations which are neither particularly vocal groups nor vested with the means to strive for health and justice Thailand managed to culturally implement knowledge-based tools of prevention. This paper argues, that pertinent cultural collisions regarding our strategies to cope with HIV/AIDS are deeply rooted in misconceptions, misreadings and scandalizations brought about in the early history of HIV in the 1980ties. The Thai strategy is used to demonstrate how local values can be balanced against globalized health risk and used to effectuated prevention by which knowledge and norms are translated into local practices. Issues of global health and injustice will be addressed in the final part of the paper dealing with the achievability of health as a human right.

Keywords: Justice, bioethics, HIV, Global health

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