Nicolae Morar’s research interests lie at the intersection of biology, ecology, and bioethics (especially biomedical, genethics, environmental, and research ethics). At the University of Oregon, he is an assistant professor of philosophy and environmental studies. His work looks at how various conceptual analyses in philosophy of biology and ecology influence and transforms debates in bioethics, and in ethics broadly construed. His collaborative research has provided a critical assessment of the normative role of biodiversity in environmental ethics debates. Morar has several on-going projects concerning the role of biology and genetics in applied ethics, as well as the role emotions (especially, disgust) play in normative debates in our society. He is particularly interested in how new microbiological conceptions of human organisms and current biotechnologies are altering traditional conceptions of human nature.
Areas of Expertise (4)
Media Appearances (1)
Philosophy professor talks clinical ethics in UO Today interview
Around the O online
The latest episode of “UO Today” features a conversation with Nicolae Morar, a UO professor of philosophy and environmental studies, and John Holmes, the director of ethics for PeaceHealth Oregon and a UO instructor in philosophy...
This article takes the following two assumptions for granted: first, that gifts influence physicians and, second, that the influences gifts have on physicians may be harmful for patients. These assumptions are common in the applied ethics literature, and they prompt an obvious practical question, namely, what is the best way to mitigate the negative effects? We examine the negative effects of gift giving in depth, considering how the influence occurs, and we assert that the ethical debate surrounding gift-giving practices must be reoriented. Our main claim is that the failure of recent policies addressing gift giving can be traced to a misunderstanding of what psychological mechanisms are most likely to underpin physicians' biased behavior as a result of interaction with the medical industry. The problem with gift giving is largely not a matter of malicious or consciously self-interested behavior, but of well-intentioned actions on the part of physicians that are nonetheless perniciously infected by the presence of the medical industry. Substantiating this claim will involve elaboration on two points. First, we will retrace the history of policies regarding gift giving between the medical profession and the medical industry and highlight how most policies assume a rationalistic view of moral agency. Reliance on this view of agency is best illustrated by past attempts to address gift giving in terms of conflicts of interest. Second, we will introduce and motivate an alternate view of moral agency emerging from recent literature in social psychology on implicit social cognition. We will show that proper consideration of implicit social cognition paints a picture of human psychology at odds with the rationalistic model assumed in discussions of COIs. With these two pieces on the table we will be able to show that, without fully appreciating the social-psychological mechanisms (both cognitive and affective) of implicit cognition, policy-makers are likely to overlook significant aspects of how gifts influence doctors.
Recent advancements in social psychology, behavioral economics, and even microbial biology have provided a new impetus for numerous philosophers and bioethicists to reassess some of the central concepts that inform their worldviews and value systems.
The outcome of such reevaluations is especially important when it directly relates to medical practices and to fundamental concepts that shape the ethical conditions for a robust doctor-patient relationship. In this sense, Blumenthal-Barby’s article not only inscribes itself in the process of a bioethical reexamination coming from the cognitive sciences and behavioral economics (Morar & Washington, forthcoming), but also, given the cumulative effect of the view of the mind that emerges, it adds a significant contribution to this urgent and much needed dialogue. We certainly recognize the tremendous benefits of such an interdisciplinary approach to bioethics and we would like to use this opportunity to open a productive discussion about how to frame the relationship between the social sciences and bioethics.
The nature and role of the patient in biomedicine comprise issues central to bioethical inquiry. Given its developmental history grounded firmly in a backlash against 20th-century cases of egregious human subjects abuse, contemporary medical bioethics has come to rely on a fundamental assumption: the unit of care (and the unit of value) is the autonomous self-directing patient. In this article we examine first the structure of the feminist social critique of autonomy. Then we show that a parallel argument can be made against relational autonomy as well, demonstrating how this second concept of autonomy fails to take sufficiently into account an array of biological determinants, particularly those from microbial biology. Finally, in light of this biological critique, we question whether or to what extent any relevant and meaningful view of autonomy can be recovered in the contemporary landscape of bioethics.
A quarter of a century ago, a group of scientists and conservationists introduced ‘biodiversity’ as a media buzzword with the explicit intent of galvanizing public and political support for environmental causes. As David Takacs summarizes this on the basis of his interviews with many of those involved, ‘Scientists who love the natural world forged the term biodiversity as a weapon to be wielded’ in battles over biological resources...
The view we defend is that in virtue of its nature, disgust is not fit to do any moral or social work whatsoever, and that there are no defensible uses for disgust in legal or political institutions. We first describe our favoured empirical theory of the nature of disgust. Turning from descriptive to normative issues, we address the best arguments in favour of granting disgust the power to justify certain judgements, and to serve as a social tool, respectively. Daniel Kahan advances a pair of theses that suggest disgust is indispensable (Moral Indispensability Thesis), and so has an important part to play in the functioning of a just, well-ordered society (Conservation Thesis). We develop responses and show how they rebut the arguments given in support of each thesis. We conclude that any society free of social disgust would be more just, reasonable and compassionate.