Designer Babies Week 3 and Dr Liezl van Zyl on Virtue and Right

Designer Babies, Week 3
The Political Control of Biotechnology
Wednesday 8 September from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307

This Wednesday, 8 September, from 5-6.30pm in ib3.307 the Deakin Philosophical Society will wrap up its discussion of designer babies and biotechnology with a chapter from Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. In the chapter in question Fukuyama makes the case for regulation of gene technology. Hard copies are available on my office door, ic1.211. The chapter is also available online at

Fukuyama, F (2002), ‘The Political Control of Biotechnology’, in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Picador, New York, pp. 181-94.

Dr Liezl van Zyl
Virtue and Right: The Plight of the Non-Virtuous
Thursday 16 September from 3-4.20pm in c2.05 (ArtsEd meeting room), Burwood and videolinked to jb2.107, Waurn Ponds

Dr Liezl van Zyl, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Religious Studies at The University of Waikato, New Zealand, will give the next in our series of special presentations. Dr Van Zyl's presentation is entitled Virtue and Right: The Plight of the Non-Virtuous and will take place on Thursday 16 September from 3-4.20pm in c2.05 (ArtsEd meeting room), Burwood and videolinked to jb2.107, Waurn Ponds. Here is an abstract:

Virtue ethicists have long been under pressure to show that, despite its focus on character, it is able to provide an account of right action. In response to this, Aristotelian virtue ethicists – most notably Rosalind Hursthouse – have defined an act as right if and only if it is what a virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances. In this paper I discuss two closely related objections to this criterion, both of which relate to the actions of the non-virtuous. The first is that virtue ethics fails to provide correct action guidance and assessment in cases that involve non-virtuous agents, for in some cases a non-virtuous agent should not do what a virtuous person would characteristically do. A second objection is that virtue ethics altogether fails to provide action guidance and evaluation whenever the agent, through previous wrongdoing, finds herself in circumstances in which a virtuous person cannot be.

Dr van Zyl's aim is to defend Hursthouse’s account of right action against these objections. She will do so by first drawing attention to the different senses in which the concept ‘right action’ can be used, namely as referring to(a) the act that ought to be done and (b) a good or excellent action. Where (a) is the relevant sense of right action when seeking action guidance, (b) is relevant when assessing an action. Dr Liezl van Zyl will then argue that if we understand ‘right action’ in the second sense, then Hursthouse’s criterion does allow us to accurately assess the actions performed by non-virtuous agents. Finally, when it comes to providing action guidance, Dr Liezl van Zyl agree that the criterion is inadequate, but argue that this problem can be avoided by viewing it solely as a means of action assessment while turning to the virtue- and vice-rules (v-rules) for action guidance.

Dr van Zyl's main research interests are virtue ethics and applied ethics, and her focus is on questions that arise when trying to apply virtue ethics. She is the author of Death and Compassion: A virtue-ethical approach to euthanasia (Ashgate, 2000), as well as numerous journal articles.

Dr van Zyl's presentation is hosted by the Philosophy program in the School of International and Political Studies, the Alfred Deakin Institute and the Deakin Philosophical Society.

Kind Regards,

Dylan Nickelson,
President, Deakin Philosophical Society.

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