Common morality versus specified principlism: Reply to Richardson

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25 (3):308 – 322 (2000)
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Abstract

In his article 'Specifying, balancing and interpreting bioethical principles' (Richardson, 2000), Henry Richardson claims that the two dominant theories in bioethics - principlism, put forward by Beauchamp and Childress in Principles of Bioethics , and common morality, put forward by Gert, Culver and Clouser in Bioethics: A Return to Fundamentals - are deficient because they employ balancing rather than specification to resolve disputes between principles or rules. We show that, contrary to Richardson's claim, the major problem with principlism, either the original version, or the specified principlism of Richardson, is that it conceives of morality as being composed of free-standing principles, rather than as common morality conceives it, as being a complete public system, composed of rules, ideals, morally relevant features, and a procedure for determining when a rule can be justifiably violated.

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