Preface to the Second Edition

AuthorDavid Koepsell
ProfessionAuthor, philosopher, attorney, and educator whose recent research focuses on the nexus of science, technology, ethics, and public policy
Preface to the Second Edition
A lot has happened in nearly every respect since I first decided to try to
delve into philosophical issues of gene patenting nearly a decade ago. I have
learned much, the world has changed, and I have changed. I would very
much like to think I have played a role in that change, though chances are
things would have changed in almost exactly the same way without my
small contribution. When the first edition came out, patenting genes was
still a regular part of biotech, and only months after the first edition
appeared did a surprising and now‐landmark lawsuit alter that significantly.
Little did I realize the nature of the forces that would be involved in what I
had originally assumed was no more than an academic exercise, but which
became a matter of weighty and heated public debate and finally judicial
I first became interested in the subject of gene patents when I began
reading up on the topic my future wife was researching: pharmacogenom-
ics. To grasp what she did, I first needed to study the science, and in so
doing, I also studied the history of that science. Along the way I read about
the Human Genome Project and learned about the practice of gene
patenting that it spawned. Having had some experience and interest in
general issues of the philosophy of intellectual property (see my 1997 Ph.D.
thesis turned 2000 book, The Ontology of Cyberspace), my ears perked up
when I first read about the notion of patenting genes. So I dived into the
research and thinking, in my ordinary style of philosophical work. Although
I sometimes teach ethics, my primary field is ontology, and it is from an
ontological approach that I start with everything in philosophy. Thus
Ibegan to try to get a grip on the nature of the existence of the underlying
objects, some of which are “brute facts” (molecules exist, with or without
social institutions or intentionality), and some of which are social objects
(like laws, rights, and other parts of “social reality,” existing only because of

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