When the universal is particular: a re-examination of the common morality using the work of Charles Taylor

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (1):141-151 (2021)
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Abstract

Beauchamp and Childress’ biomedical principlism is nearly synonymous with medical ethics for most clinicians. Their four principles are theoretically derived from the “common morality”, a universal cache of moral beliefs and claims shared by all morally serious humans. Others have challenged the viability of the common morality, but none have attempted to explain why the common morality makes intuitive sense to Western ethicists. Here I use the work of Charles Taylor to trace how events in the Western history of ideas made the common morality seem plausible and yet, ironically, underscore the cultural particularity of the so-called common morality. I conclude that the supposedly universal common morality is actually quite culturally contained. Importantly, this should give us pause about the global authority of principlism and Beauchamp and Childress’ claim to a global bioethics project.

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References found in this work

Principles of biomedical ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by James F. Childress.
Sources of the self: the making of the modern identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press.

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