Full disclosure

Do individuals have a right for their medical records to remain private after death, or can public interest prevail? Do their family members have a right to privacy? Your great grandmother had a lobotomy. You don’t know this because your family buried this bit of your family’s history. Is it morally permitted for a writer to mention your great grandmother by name in a book he is writing about the history of lobotomy? Jack El-Hai, the author of a book about lobotomy, claims it is.

Lying to Nazis

Nazis, lies, and videotape. Is it morally permitted to lie to Nazis today to obtain information for the historical record about the Holocaust? “Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah consists in large part of an extensive interview with former SS-Unterscharfuhrer Franz Suchomel who worked at the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps. Lanzmann told him that the interview will be taped but the tape will not be released for thirty years due to the sensitivity of its content. In addition Lanzmann filmed the interview with a secret camera secreted in a briefcase.”

The problem with moral psychology

You can’t learn about morality from brain scans. Thomas Nagel’s review of Joshua Greene’s Moral Tribes. Many interesting issues in the review: human rights v. the greatest happiness of the greatest number, trolleyology, moral instinct, and others.

Nagel says of Greene: “Greene wants to persuade us that moral psychology is more fundamental than moral philosophy. Most moral philosophies, he maintains, are misguided attempts to interpret our moral intuitions in particular cases as apprehensions of the truth about how we ought to live and what we ought to do, with the aim of discovering the underlying principles that determine that truth. In fact, Greene believes, all our intuitions are just manifestations of the operation of our dual-process brains, functioning either instinctively or more reflectively. He endorses one moral position, utilitarianism, not as the truth (he professes to be agnostic on whether there is such a thing as moral truth) but rather as a method of evaluation that we can all understand, and that holds out hope of providing a common currency of value less divisive than the morality of individual rights and communal obligations. ‘None of us is truly impartial, but everyone feels the pull of impartiality as a moral ideal.'”

Nagel isn’t so sure and explains why.