Perseverations on a critical theme

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 18 (5):491-502 (1993)
Abstract
In response to my earlier critique of recent attempts to rebut principlism as an ethical approach, Green, Gert, and Clouser (GG&C) have in turn offered their own critique of my appraisal. This essay identifies eight major criticisms GG&C raise in their response and offers a rejoinder to each. Among them, three are especially important: (1) that the label of ‘deductivism’ fails to capture GG&C's ethical method and should be replaced by ‘descriptivism’; (2) that pluralistic accounts, including principlism, fail to offer any systematic way to resolve moral conflicts; and (3) that appeals to broader ‘moral’ principles beyond the moral rules are deceiving, since apparent differences in ‘moral’ judgment invariably involve disagreement about empirical facts rather than further moral considerations. In response to (1), I defend my earlier label by emphasizing the stipulated and invariant status of the moral rules GG&C invoke, even as I question the adequacy of their putative ‘descriptivism’. In response to (2), I suggest the plausibility of pluralist approaches and reiterate the modified just-war criteria that Beauchamp and Childress invoke in situations when principles conflict. In response to (3), I suggest that a ‘descriptivism’ worthy of the name must systematically accommodate the appeal to moral principles that remains central to metaethical and normative discussions. Keywords: deductivism, descriptivism, inruitionism, pluralism, principlism, publicity, specification of norms CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
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