Case method and casuistry: The problem of bias

Case methods of reasoning are persuasive, but we need to address problems of bias in order to use them to reach morally justifiable conclusions. A bias is an unwarranted inclination or a special perspective that disposes us to mistaken or one-sided judgments. The potential for bias arises at each stage of a case method of reasoning including in describing, framing, selecting and comparing of cases and paradigms. A problem of bias occurs because to identify the relevant features for such purposes, we must use general views about what is relevant; but some of our general views are biased, both in the sense of being unwarranted inclinations and in the sense that they are one of many viable perspectives. This reliance upon general views to determine relevancy creates additional difficulties for defenders who maintain that case methods of moral reasoning are not only useful, but more basic, reliable or prior to other forms of moral reasoning. If we cannot identify the case's relevant features and issues independently of our general views or biases, we need further explanation about why a case method or casuistry should be viewed as prior to or more basic or reliable than other forms of moral reasoning. Problems of bias also arise for other methods of reasoning. In medical science, case reviews are regarded as an unreliable way to form generalizations, and methods such as clinical trials are used to address bias.
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