Common morality: Comment on Beauchamp and Childress

The notion of common morality plays a prominent role in some of the most influential theories of biomedical ethics. Here, I focus on Beauchamp and Childress’s models in the fourth and fifth edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics as well as on a revision that Beauchamp proposed in a recent article. Although there are significant differences in these works that require separate analysis, all include a role for common morality as starting point and normative framework for theory construction in combination with a coherence theory of moral justification. I defend to some extent the existence and empirical significance of common morality, as delineated by Beauchamp and Childress in different versions, but criticize its normative role. It is neither convincing as a moral foundation nor well compatible with a standard coherentist justification. I suggest that the authors should give up the foundational account for a more modest account of common morality as resource of well-established moral insights and experiences, which have proved generally valid but neither sufficient nor infallible. Beauchamp’s latest proposal appears as a step in this direction; indeed, it may be the beginning of the end of his common-morality theory.
Keywords Coherence  Common morality  Principlism  Reflective equilibrium
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 12,386
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA
K. A. Wallace (2009). Common Morality and Moral Reform. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 30 (1):55-68.
Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

29 ( #65,925 of 1,140,125 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #88,260 of 1,140,125 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.