Personal integrity is still respected, but it has a Victorian quality, and is less valued in our dissembling age. Might this be a fundamental mistake? Could integrity be a basis for morality in a relative world, or is being true to oneself an anachronism?
The Panel: award-winning novelist Joanna Kavenna, philosopher and Closure theorist Hilary Lawson, and UCL neuroscientist Parashkev Nachev debate the limits of integrity.
Following the arrest of Rabbi Rosenbaum, Brooklyn’s black-market organ broker, there’s been a fresh round of kidney-selling debate on the Internet and in the news. (Kidneys even made the fake news, in a John Hodgman segment on the Daily Show. People care about kidneys!)
At bottom, the case for a market in kidneys is simple: it’s my kidney. Why shouldn’t I be permitted to sell it?
I’ve been interested to note a common theme among those who worry about kidney markets. Says Jon Stewart in the Daily Show clip, “doesn’t that just turn poor people into living organ farms for the rich?” Says publius at Obsidian Wings, “I’m just not sure I want market logic– which is necessarily coercive on some more than others– to intrude into the realm of body parts, or selling children.” Says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, “Would this would be a global market? My discomfort with the idea is doubled or tripled at the idea of luring the poor in Bangladesh or Liberia into donating kidneys.”
The concern with exposing the poor to the depredations of a kidney market interests me in part because it is reminiscent of an argument commonly made by feminists opposed to prostitution: the labor market for sex work is more coercive to the poor than it is toward the rich, which makes problematic the apparent consent of a prostitute exchanging sex for money. (Catharine MacKinnon makes a version of this argument in “Prostitution and Civil Rights.”)
I take it that worries about markets in kidneys and sex are instances of a general unwillingness to expose bodily integrity to market forces. I wonder, though, if it’s so easy to draw a principled distinction between bodily integrity and other kinds of personal integrity. Is there a good reason to be much more worried about the cost to well-being of losing a kidney than about the cost of years spent in mind-numbingly repetitive assembly-line work?
By George Rainbolt, Georgia State University
Stuart Cink won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry last Sunday, his first major championship. However, the new highpoint in the 36 year-old Cink’s professional golf career came at the expense of Tom Watson’s happiness and the happiness of (nearly all) golf fans world-wide who desperately wanted to see Watson do the impossible: win golf’s most storied major at the not-so-tender age of 59, eleven years older than any previous major winner. Continue reading “Golf, Happiness, and Morality”