Monological versus dialogical consciousness – two epistemological views on the use of theory in clinical ethical practice

Bioethics 25 (7):361-369 (2011)
In this article, we argue that a critical examination of epistemological and anthropological presuppositions might lead to a more fruitful use of theory in clinical-ethical practice. We differentiate between two views of conceptualizing ethics, referring to Charles Taylors' two epistemological models: ‘monological’ versus ‘dialogical consciousness’. We show that the conception of ethics in the model of ‘dialogical consciousness’ is radically different from the classical understanding of ethics in the model of ‘monological consciousness’. To reach accountable moral judgments, ethics cannot be conceptualized as an individual enterprise, but has to be seen as a practical endeavor embedded in social interactions within which moral understandings are being negotiated. This view has specific implications for the nature and the role of ethical theory. Theory is not created in the individual mind of the ethicist; the use of theory is part of a joint learning process and embedded in a cultural context and social history. Theory is based upon practice, and serves practical purposes. Thus, clinical ethics support is both practical and theoretical
Keywords epistemology of ethics  clinical ethics  ethics experts  dialogical ethics  hermeneutics  clinical ethics support service  theory
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01912.x
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