Nanotechnology, bioethics and the techno-scientific revolution: Philosophical and ethical assessment of nanotechnology and its applications in medicine
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AbstractThis study draws on analyses on a number of levels. First, it clarifies certain concepts often used loosely in the literature pertaining to nanotechnology. In particular, it focuses on the concept of "revolution" in order to determine whether nanotechnology is a revolution in the making or simply an evolution of scientific and technological development. I then examine the context in which nanotechnology has developed (i.e., postmodernity) and consider how the new scientific culture within the postmodern context ties the production of knowledge to the three key elements of what John Ziman calls post-academic science (i.e., transdisciplinarity; the marketability of knowledge; and the norm of utility). However, the context of postmodernity challenges the resolution of technopolitical controversies due to competing rationalities (modes of explanation) and moralities. To this end, I develop a procedural integrated approach that takes into account the consequences of postmodernity for moral theorizing and our understanding of science and technology. Other attempts have been proposed as integrated model in the field of medical ethics, i.e., principlism. However, this work shows why principlism fails as an integrated model and favors an integrated model based on H. T. Engelhardt, Jr. and Kevin Wm. Wildes' procedural ethics. Finally, I examine further philosophical and ethical implications of nanotechnology in the biomedical sciences. I argue that in order to prevent the absence of more robust reflections that characterizes bioethical reflections in contemporary debates, it is essential to create the conditions for moral substantial reflections (better integration of "trans-epistemic values" at the core of scientific research and technological development). This requires building bridges across disciplines within the natural sciences as well as between the natural sciences (nanotechnology) and the humanities social sciences. Subsequently, I raise some suggestive ethical and philosophical questions concerning the impact of these new technologies on the practice of medicine but also in relation to the use of humanized technologies that could transform our understanding of what it means to be a human being and our conception of the human body.