Ph.D. (ANU)

Senior Lecturer
Centre for Human Bioethics
Faculty of Arts
Monash University

Tel.: +61 3 9905 3244
Fax.: +61 3 9905 3279
Room: W915
Email: robert.sparrow@arts.monash.edu.au

Areas of Research

At the highest level of description my research interests are applied ethics and political philosophy; I am interested in philosophical arguments with real-world implications. More specifically, I am working in or have worked in: political philosophy, bioethics, environmental ethics, media ethics; just war theory; and the ethics of science and technology. My current and past research projects (with a list of relevant publications) are set out in more detail below, roughly in order of their relative importance in my current research activity. Copies of most of my published papers are available on request.

New reproductive technologies

A large proportion of my philosophical work in bioethics concerns the ethics of new reproductive technologies and especially their implications for our ideas about normal human bodies and the importance of genetic relatedness.

My publications in this area include:

‘Liberalism and Eugenics’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2010) Online First. DOI:  10.1080/00048402.2010.484464.

‘Saviour embryos? Preimplantation genetic diagnosis as a therapeutic technology’ (co-authored with David Cram), Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2010) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2009.12.015.

‘Therapeutic Cloning and Reproductive Liberty’. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy Vol. 33 (2009), pp. 1-17.

‘Is it ‘every man’s right to have babies if he wants them’?  Male pregnancy and the limits of reproductive liberty’. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Vol 18, No 3 (2008), pp.  275–299.

‘Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics’. Genomics, Society and Policy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2007), pp. 43-59.

‘Cloning, Parenthood, and Genetic Relatedness’, Bioethics, Vol. 20. No. 6. (2006), pp. 308-318.

‘”Trust us… We’re Doctors”: Science, media, and ethics in the Hwang stem cell controversy’, Journal of Communication Research, Volume 43, Number 1 (2006), pp. 5-24.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and the ‘disability critique’

My other main the area of research in bioethics concerns the ethics of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and the ‘disability’ or ‘expressivist’ critique of the use of this technology to prevent the birth of children with disabilities.

My publications in this area include:

‘Liberalism and Eugenics’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2010) Online First. DOI:  10.1080/00048402.2010.484464.

‘A not-so-new eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on human enhancement’, Hastings Center Report (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 5/03/2010].

‘Implants and Ethnocide: Learning from the cochlear implant controversy’, Disability and Society, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 21/11/2009]

‘Genes, identity, and the expressivist critique’. In Loane Skene and Janna Thompson (eds), The Sorting Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 111-132.

‘Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics’. Genomics, Society and Policy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2007), pp. 43-59.

‘Better off Deaf?’, Res Publica, Vol. 11. No 1. (2002), pp.11-16.

Human enhancement

It is practically impossible to work in contemporary bioethics without becoming concerned about the prospects for, and ethics, of human enhancement. In particular, I am interested in the possible use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for non-therapeutic purposes. My liberal intuitions make me suspicious about state regulation in this area but my communitarian leanings cause me to worry about the extent it is possible to embrace these technologies without radically changing what it means to be human.

My publications in this area include:

‘Should human beings have sex? Sexual Dimorphism and Human Enhancement’, American Journal of Bioethics (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 10/03/2010]

‘A not-so-new eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on human enhancement’, Hastings Center Report (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 5/03/2010]

‘Better than men? Sex and the therapy/enhancement distinction’, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2 (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 11/12/2009]

‘Is it ‘every man’s right to have babies if he wants them’?  Male pregnancy and the limits of reproductive liberty’. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Vol 18, No 3 (2008), pp.  275–299.

‘Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics’. Genomics, Society and Policy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2007), pp. 43-59.

Cochlear implants and Deaf Culture

I have written on the ‘cochlear implant controversy’ and on the ethics of the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to choose to have a deaf child. My research in this area is informed by my philosophical commitments in the liberal-communitarian debate and also my interest in the disability critique of prenatal screening.

My publications in this area include:

‘Implants and Ethnocide: Learning from the cochlear implant controversy’, Disability and Society, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2010) [forthcoming, accepted 21/11/2009]

‘Defending Deaf Culture: The Case of Cochlear Implants’, The Journal of Political Philosophy , Vol. 13. No. 2 (2005), pp. 135-152.

‘Better off Deaf?’, Res Publica, Vol. 11. No 1. (2002), pp.11-16.

‘Culture and Choice: Two Models of Culture in the Cochlear Implant Debate’, Proceedings of the 2nd Victorian State Deaf Conference, ‘Different Views… One vision’, May the 4th and 5th, Melbourne, Victorian Council of Deaf People, (2002), pp 51-72.

Military ethics and Just war theory

Along with Dr Jessica Wolfendale and Professor Tony Coady (both from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne division), I am investigating how current and future developments in military technology may affect the military’s core ethical commitments, the character of individual warfighters, and traditional applications of just war theory. The Australian Research Council granted our research team $440,000 to conduct this project from 2007-2009. I have previously done work on the foundations and moral significance of the combatant/non-combatant distinction in just war theory.

My publications in this area include:

‘Predators or Plowshares? Time to Consider Arms Control of Robotic Weapons’. IEEE Technology and Society, Vol. 28, No 1(2009), pp. 25-29.

‘Building a Better WarBot : Ethical issues in the design of unmanned systems for military applications’. Science and Engineering Ethics (2009) Online First, Dec 2,  DOI 10.1007/s11948-008-9107-0.

‘Killer Robots’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 24, No. 1 (2007), pp. 62-77 (This paper is being republished in Igor Primoratz and Tony Coady (eds.), Military Ethics. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing (forthcoming) 2008, Chapter 28.)

”Hands up who wants to die?’: Primoratz on responsibility and civilian immunity in wartime’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 8. No. 3 (2005), pp. 299-319.

Robotics and artificial intelligence

I have a major research project underway on the ethical issues associated with robotics, including military robotics, robotic companions, and robots in aged care. Roughly speaking I am pursuing two avenues of investigation in this research. Firstly, I am interested in the ethical issues which might arise if we took some of the more outre pronouncements of roboticists and futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec seriously; doing so also offers an excellent opportunity to test out intuitions (for instance, about the nature of persons) which are important in other philosophical debates. Secondly, I am interested in doing serious work in applied ethics in relation to the application of real or near term robots in various roles. My work on the ‘Good Soldiers and Ethical Soldiers’ grant is largely concerned with real-world military robotics. You can learn some of my conclusions by reading an interview with me, here:

http://www.irf.ac.at/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=291&Itemid=1

My publications in this area include:

‘Predators or Plowshares? Time to Consider Arms Control of Robotic Weapons’. IEEE Technology and Society, Vol. 28, No 1(2009), pp. 25-29.

‘Building a Better WarBot : Ethical issues in the design of unmanned systems for military applications’. Science and Engineering Ethics (2009) Online First, Dec 2,  DOI 10.1007/s11948-008-9107-0.

‘Killer Robots’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 24, No. 1 (2007), pp. 62-77 (This paper is being republished in Igor Primoratz and Tony Coady (eds.), Military Ethics. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing (forthcoming) 2008, Chapter 28.)

‘In the hands of machines? The future of aged care’ (co-authored with Linda Sparrow), Minds and Machines, Vol. 16 (2006), pp. 141-161. (Available electronically at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11023-006-9030-6 )

‘Androids’ in Mitcham, Carl (ed.) 2005. Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

‘Robots’ in Mitcham, Carl (ed.) 2005. Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

‘The Turing Triage Test’, Ethics and Information Technology, Vol 6. No. 4 (2004), pp. 203-213.

‘The March of the Robot Dogs’, Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 4. No. 4 (2002), pp. 305-318.

‘Artificial Intelligences, Embodiment and the “Turing Triage Test” in Ruth F. Chadwick, Lucas Introna and Antonio Marturano, (ed.), Proceedings of the Computer Ethics: Philosophical Enquiry 2001 Conference: IT and the Body, 14-16 December, Lancaster University, Lancaster, U.K., (2001), pp. 222-235.

The ethics of nanotechnology

I am working in debates about the ethics of nanotechnology both because of the possible implications and impacts of nanotechnology and also because these debates offer a unique opportunity to discuss how a democratic society should make decisions about science and technology policy.

My publications in this area include:

‘The social impacts of nanotechnology: an ethical and political analysis’. The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol. 6, No 1 (2009), pp. 13-23.

‘Talkin’ ‘bout a (nanotechnological) revolution’. IEEE Technology and Society, Vol. 27, No. 2 (2008), pp. 37-43.

‘Negotiating the Nanodivides’, in Graeme Hodge and Diana Bowman (eds), New Global Frontiers in Regulation: The Age of Nanotechnology, Edward Elgar, (forthcoming) 2007.

‘Revolutionary and familiar, inevitable and precarious: Rhetorical contradictions in enthusiasm for nanotechnology’, NanoEthics, Volume 1, Number 1 (2007), pp. 57-68. (Available electronically at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11569-007-0008-5 )

‘Hypocrisy about nanotechnology is a worrying sign’, Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project, http://nano.foe.org.au/, 2007.

Open borders and the politics of exclusion

Debates about the boundaries of the political community and the right of communities to exclude others are some of the most politically urgent and also philosophically difficult debates in contemporary politics. The demand for ‘open borders’ and the free movement of peoples is one that anyone with liberal or egalitarian intuitions must take extremely seriously. Yet the ideals of national self–determination, land rights, bio-regionalism, democracy, federalism, and self government, all seem to presuppose that a distinction can be made between the inside and the outside of a social group or geographical region; in some form or other, they require borders. My current work in political philosophy for the most part involves trying to resolve, or at least negotiate, this apparent tension.

My publications in this area include:

‘For the Union makes us strong: Anarchism and Patriotism’, in Alexander Pavlovic and Igor Primoratz (eds), Patriotism: Political and Philosophical Perspectives, (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate 2008), pp. 201-217.

‘”Barbarians at the gates”: The moral costs of political community’, in Igor Primoratz (ed.), Politics and Morality, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 170-188.

‘Borders, States, Freedom and Justice’, Arena Magazine, No. 66 (August-September, 2003), pp. 25-31.

‘Response to Critics’, Arena Magazine, No. 67 (October-November, 2003), p. 35.

The political philosophy of anarchism

I have long-standing interest in the political philosophy of anarchism. While it is not currently a major focus of my research I continue to publish on it occasionally, especially in so far as anarchist political philosophy can illuminate issues in my other areas of research.

My publications in this area include:

‘For the Union makes us strong: Anarchism and Patriotism’, in Alexander Pavlovic and Igor Primoratz (eds), Patriotism: Political and Philosophical Perspectives, (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate 2008), pp. 201-217.

‘Anarchism since 1992′, in Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit and Thomas Pogge (ed.), Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd edn, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 282-284.

Organ Transplants and Xenotransplantation

I am interested in the ethics of organ donation and salvage from patients at various stages in the dying process. I am also interested in xenotransplantation and especially the issues of international justice raised by the risk of xenozoonosis which may be involved in xenotransplantation.

My publications in this area include:

‘Xenotransplantation, consent, and international justice’. Developing World Bioethics, Vol. 9, No. 3: 119-27 (December 2010).

‘Not Dead Yet: Controlled Non-Heart Beating Organ Donation, Consent, and the Dead Donor Rule’ (co-authored with D. Gardiner). Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics Vol. 19, No. 1: 17-26 (January 2010).

‘Right of the Living Dead? Consent to experimental surgery in the event of cortical death’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 32 (2006), pp. 601-605.

Historical injustice

Debates about historical injustice and our obligations to past generations are fascinating in part because contemporary analytic philosophy has so few resources to explain our intuitions (and indeed social practice) in this area. This is a topic I would like to work on more.

My publications in this area include:

‘History and Collective Responsibility’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 78. No. 3 (September 2000), pp. 346-359.

Media Ethics

I developed and taught a media ethics course at the University of Wollongong and have a continuing interest in the politics of communication and the ethics of representation.

My publications in this area include:

‘Censorship and Freedom of Speech’, in Healy, J. (ed), Censorship and Free Speech, Issues in Society Series, Vol. 207 (The Spinney Press, Thirroul, NSW, 2004), pp. 1-4.

‘”Trust us… We’re Doctors’: Science, media, and ethics in the Hwang stem cell controversy’, Journal of Communication Research, Volume 43, Number 1 (2006), pp. 5-24

‘Talking Sense About Political Correctness’, Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 73. (2002), pp. 119-133.

‘The Competition of Ideas: Market or Garden?’ (Co-authored with Robert E. Goodin), Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 4. No. 2. (Summer 2001), pp. 45-58.

The liberal-communitarian debate

My doctoral studies at the Australian National University, with Professor Robert Goodin, were concerned with the liberal communitarian debate. I haven’t revisited this material recently but I maintain an interest in it and am currently supervising students in the area.

My publications in this area include:

‘Talking Sense About Political Correctness’, Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 73. (2002), pp. 119-133.

‘Culture and Choice: Two Models of Culture in the Cochlear Implant Debate’, Proceedings of the 2nd Victorian State Deaf Conference, ‘Different Views, One vision’, May the 4th and 5th, Melbourne, Victorian Council of Deaf People, (2002), pp 51-72.

‘Liberal Freedoms and Cultural Goods’, Proceedings of the 2002 Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics Conference, Brisbane, Australia.

‘The Competition of Ideas: Market or Garden?’ (Co-authored with Robert E. Goodin), Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 4. No. 2. (Summer 2001), pp. 45-58.

Environmental ethics

I’m interested in environmental ethics, especially the ethics of genetic modification, the ethics of our treatment of complex in organic systems, and also applications of virtue ethical arguments to environmental issues.

My publications in this area include:

‘The case for regulating intragenic GMOs’ (co-authored with Wendy Russell), Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2008), pp. 153-181.

‘The Ethics of Terraforming’, Environmental Ethics, Vol. 21. No.3 (Fall 1999), pp. 227-245.