What good is a pragmatic bioethic?

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (5 & 6):615 – 633 (2003)
Do bioethicists need yet another theoretical approach with which to frame their disagreements? Many pragmatists contend that pragmatism, unlike its liberal and utilitarian counterparts, is uniquely commendable in (a) beginning from our lived experiences and (b) locating those experiences amid our social relations. In place of an " principlism," pragmatism offers a practical "bedside-bioethic"; in lieu of "autonomy run amuk," pragmatism proposes an ethic rooted in our communal resources. To date, however, efforts to develop such a bioethic have been stymied by pragmatists' own abstract theoretical commitments, commitments that prevent them, most directly, from beginning with the lived experiences and communal resources of those who hold theological commitments. This self-imposed methodological constraint, I argue, has needlessly thwarted pragmatism's most striking methodological promise: its potential to cultivate productive debates among secular and theologically-informed participants
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