What must we mean by “community”? A processive account

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 25 (5-6):423-437 (2004)
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Abstract

The term community in ethics and bioethics traditionally has been used to designate either a specific kind of moral relationship available to rational agents or, in contrast, the context in which any sense of rational agency can even be understood. I argue that bioethics is better served when both selves and community are expressed through a more processive language that highlights the functional character of such concepts. In particular, I see the turn to processive community in bioethics as a turn towards method, contextualization, and narrative. In clinical practice, such a processive account demands that bioethics concentrate on methods of developing healthy dialogue and deeper understanding from within the problematic situation rather than trying to fix problems using ethical tools developed from outside the present situation. Community, I argue, is in and of the interactive processes of inquiry itself. Such inquiry, such communitying, requires that we engage individual patients in context; it demands more than simply gaining their permission or mere consent; it demands developing a supportive environment for participation.

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