“Ethics wars”: Reflections on the Antagonism between Bioethicists and Social Science Observers of Biomedicine1

Human Studies 29 (2):203-227 (2006)
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Social scientists often lament the fact that philosophically trained ethicists pay limited attention to the insights they generate. This paper presents an overview of tendencies in sociological and anthropological studies of morality, ethics and bioethics, and suggests that a lack in philosophical interest might be related to a tendency among social scientists to employ either a deficit model (social science perspectives accommodate the sense of context that philosophical ethics lacks), a replacement model (social scientists have finally found the “right way” of doing ethics), or a dismissal model (ethics should be abandoned all together as a misconstrued veil of power). Increased awareness of differences in styles of reasoning and objects of research interest might help to overcome the hostility, and an anthropological project is presented as an invitation to a dialogue informed by awareness of such differences.



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