The limited relevance of analytical ethics to the problems of bioethics

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 15 (2):143-159 (1990)
Philosophical ethics comprises metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. These have characteristically received analytic treatment by twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy. But there has been disagreement over their interrelationship to one another and the relationship of analytical ethics to substantive morality – the making of moral judgments. I contend that the expertise philosophers have in either theoretical or applied ethics does not equip them to make sounder moral judgments on the problems of bioethics than nonphilosophers. One cannot "apply" theories like Kantianism or consequentialism to get solutions to practical moral problems unless one knows which theory is correct, and that is a metaethical question over which there is no consensus. On the other hand, to presume to be able to reach solutions through neutral analysis of problems is unavoidably to beg controversial theoretical issues in the process. Thus, while analytical ethics can play an important clarificatory role in bioethics, it can neither provide, nor substitute for, moral wisdom. Keywords: abortion, applied ethics, bioethics, metaethics, normative ethics CiteULike Connotea What's this?
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/15.2.143
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