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Grant number like: FB-50117-04

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David D. DeGrazia
George Washington University (Washington, DC 20052-0001)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 6/30/2004

Human Identity and Bioethics

Human identity and Bioethics will demonstrate the power of personal identity theory to illuminate practical issues in bioethics as these issues bring philosophical theory to life. In doing so, the project will expand the reach of fruitful interdisciplinary work in the humanities. Regarding what philosophers call "numerical identity"--where the task is to identify criteria for an individual's continuing to exist over time--I will argue against the dominant psychological approach in favor of a biological approach. I will also offer a frqmework for understanding what I call "narrative identity"--which involves an individual's self-conception--and the closely related phenomenon of self-creation, the deliberate shaping of one's own characteristics or life direction. Equipped with this two-part account of our identity, the project will then explore several issues in bioethics for which considerations of identity prove especially salient: the definition of human death; the authority of advance directives in cases of severe dementia; the use of enhancement technologies (e.g., genetic enhancements, cosmetic surgery); as well as prenatal genetic therapy and certain types of reproductive choices. (I would like the project to be considered for joint funding from NEH and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.)