Genes and Society

Lisa Gannett

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780195182057
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Genes and Society

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  • Social and Political Philosophy



This article emphasizes various ways in which the connection of relationships has been framed conceptually over the course of Western philosophy by Plato, Aristotle, and more recently by contemporary philosophers of science. This discussion cites examples with the help of cases taken from contemporary genetics that have significant social ramifications: eugenics, the Human Genome Project, the tractability of genes, behavioral genetics, pharmacogenetics, and the development of “ethnic drugs.” There are continuities between the eugenics of the past and the human genetics of today. Theoretical knowledge in genetics provides justification for practical interventions directed at the level of the genome. Recent research in genomics and the development of “ethnic drugs” provides a case study for analyzing the ways in which theoretical and practical considerations intersect and moral and social values are implicated in molecular biology. The goal is to begin to develop an improved conceptual framework for understanding genes and society.

Keywords: philosophy; science; eugenics; genes; genetics; genome; research; practical; biology

Article.  13104 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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