Wednesday, 16 May 2018
CSU, Wagga Wagga
"Conscientious Objections, Immutability, and Neuro-Interventions"
Typically, when someone requests an exemption from compliance with the law or some other applicable rule of conduct, we expect them to cite their reasons, and depending on the strength of those reasons we decide if they have a valid case for non-compliance. For instance, when a physician is granted an exemption from having to perform an operation because in their opinion it would endanger the patient's life, the validity of their case rests on the strength of their reasons. However, with conscientious objections all that seems to matter is pedigree - whether the objection's source truly is the person's conscience - and it seems irrelevant what reasons (if any) support their conscience's dictates. For instance, when a physician is granted an exemption on conscientious grounds from having to perform an abortion - e.g. because her faith forbids it - this only tells us that her faith forbids it, not why it does. Why is that, though? Why does citing one's conscience exempt one from having to cite the reasons that support its dictates? I will argue that the special status afforded to conscientious objections stems from the fact that in light of the person's actual beliefs, desires, and values (1) it would be unreasonable to expect them to comply with the demands of the applicable rule, law, or standard, or (2) to expect them to change their beliefs, desires, or values so much that it would become reasonable to expect them to comply with those demands.