Tag: philosophy

Blog Posts (10)

August 11, 2014

What Is Philosophical Ethics Doing?

<p>In my last blog I asked the question, “What is ethics doing?” where I contrasted the armchair, academic ethics that I knew as a graduate student with the clinical ethics cases in which I am now involved in clinical ethics consultations. I alluded to the famous paper by Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009), “How medicine saved the life of ethics” by providing ethics with many practical value laden problems to address. The very process of becoming involved with applied ethics and ethical problems of practicing physicians in the healthcare system was itself as, or perhaps more, transformational for ethics than it was for medicine. Even though medicine needed a serious study of its value-laden issues, which has evolved into bioethics and clinical ethics, the very activity of doing applied ethics has evolved into a better defined field of inquiry with a clearer purpose. But what about the armchair, academic pursuits of philosophical ethics of old? Is there anything left for it to do? This is the question I will attempt to answer in this blog.</p> <p><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20.399999618530273px;"> </span></p>
July 22, 2014

What Is Ethics Doing?

<p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">I recall being a PhD candidate in philosophy in the 1970’s, I often pondered the subject matter of my graduate courses in ethics. I would ask myself, what does any of this have to do with ethics? What are we doing?</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">As our courses went from Kant to Mill to G.E. Moore to the Emotivists and others, I couldn’t help but have a sense of unreality about the content of what I was learning.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">How can we use reason to find a basis for knowing right action? What are the ways we can define right action based on a normative moral theory?</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">What is the meaning of good? Right? And obligation? Can these terms be defined within a theoretical, substantive moral framework or are they just expressions of feelings and emotions without any cognitive content? If they are more than the latter, what do they mean?</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
April 11, 2014

Does More Information Help Us Settle Factual Disputes?

<p>In my <a href="/BioethicsBlog/post.cfm/public-health-education-is-presenting-the-facts-enough">last blog</a> I alluded to the effect of an assumed point of view, particularly a set of ideological set of assumptions around which a community is organized, has on the way we interpret data about how we perceive risks and benefits and make decisions about a range of issues.  I was applying this perspective to public health perspectives such as the risks of gun ownership and forgoing vaccinations. In this blog, I will sketch out a theoretical approach for how humans process and understand information a bit more and conclude with some questions for my next blog about how to understand the obligations of those who are in the best positions to understand public health data, such as the better educated and healthcare workers.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">We often assume that most people are capable of coming to objective and fair beliefs and reasonable decisions about various empirical topics, e.g. the effects of climate change, if only we have access to valid, scientific information.  Thus, we often further assume that the goal of having more enlightened people to make more enlightened decisions about public health issues, or for that matter political issues and most other issues of public interest, is simply a matter of bringing to bear more complete and clear knowledge for people to understand. This is the assumption that Dan Kahan (a law and psychology professor from Yale Law School) and his research team calls the “More Information Hypothesis”. However recent research shows that this hypothesis is simply not true—in fact the more information people on opposite sides of an issue get, the more divided and intractable the conflict becomes. The simple fact of making more information accessible clearly does not resolve most public issues that are connected to well-established ideological and philosophical perspectives.</p> <p><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
March 2, 2014

Is there a philosophy of clinical ethics? What does a clinical ethicist do?

<p class="MsoNormal">If someone asked me: What is my philosophy of clinical ethics? I would initially be dumbstruck for an answer. In response, I would probably try to define an answer from my background in bioethics and philosophy. I would pick frameworks in philosophy that represent my approach. For example, I would be inclined to refer to pragmatism and casuistry, as frameworks that determine my clinical ethics approach. <a href="/BioethicsBlog/post.cfm/a-brain-dead-woman-and-her-fetus-calculating-rights-and-wrongs">My last blogpost</a> about Marlise Munoz, the brain dead woman in Texas is a good example of this. My philosophy as a clinical ethicist is based on the facts of the case, a subsequent calculation of rights and wrongs. The outcome of this sum guides my ethics advice about what is practically possible, conform short-handed <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/">pragmatism</a>. In responding to a case, I start with the specifics of a case and formulate answers that may be acceptable by multiple stakeholders, instead of relying on general theoretical outcomes, as a short-handed <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/theory-bioethics/#StrParCas">casuist</a>. Finally, I reason along the lines of several relevant principles, such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and dignity, and seek to apply these principles to the specifics of a case.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">However, given that the background of clinical ethicists lies over a broad spectrum, I doubt that this answer would be satisfactory.  If I hadn’t had a background in bioethics, what would I have answered to this question? Does the fact that I am an ethicist in the clinic mean that I have to frame my answers along philosophical and ethical theories? Would a social worker, an accountant or an attorney equally have a philosophy in their work? Asking myself this latter question, I think that those professions do have a professional philosophy, but that they would be less likely to phrase it in philosophical language. Instead, probably they would describe their philosophy in more layman’s terms and would narrate about their approach in the different cases they see. So how do I approach my cases as a clinical ethicist?</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
January 9, 2012

In Memoriam--Bernard Gert

We sadly note the passing of philosopher and bioethicists, Bernard “Bernie” Gert. Bernie was also a member of American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and received its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.…

June 9, 2009

Metamorphosis: The Margaret Battin Story

It’s the workaholics who are told that “your work is your life”. It’s many in academia who find that they are drawn to study the issues that afflict them or plague them or trouble them most about themselves or about the world.…

May 15, 2009

Do You Want Fries with That?

One of the oldest jokes around for those trained in philosophy includes a punch line about serving fries at insert name of favorite fast food restaurant.…

April 10, 2008

Can Plato pay the bills?

According to an article earlier this week in NYT, philosophy has become a hot major on college campuses:

Once scoffed at as a luxury major, philosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world, from the morality of the war in Iraq to the latest political scandal.

January 14, 2008

Steven Pinker on "The Moral Instinct"

Yesterday’s NYT Mag included an article by Steven Pinker about the science of morality:

… Illusions are a favorite tool of perception scientists for exposing the workings of the five senses, and of philosophers for shaking people out of the nave belief that our minds give us a transparent window onto the world (since if our eyes can be fooled by an illusion, why should we trust them at other times?).

September 12, 2007

Toward a theory of life

Seed recently posted an interesting article from Carl Zimmer about the multidisciplinary effort to develop a theory — instead of a defintion — of life:

“A science in which the most important object has no definitionthat’s absolutely unacceptable,” says [Radu Popa, geobiologist and the author of Between Probability and Necessity: Searching for the Definition and Origin of Life].

Published Articles (6)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 10 Issue 12 - Dec 2010

Rethinking Roe v. Wade: Defending the Abortion Right in the Face of Contemporary Opposition

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 9 Issue 9 - Sep 2009

Mirror Neurons and the Reenchantment of Bioethics

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 9 Issue 4 - Apr 2009

Review of Imagine What It's Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 9 Issue 4 - Apr 2009

Review of R. S. Downie and Jane Macnaughton Bioethics and the Humanities: Attitudes and Perceptions

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 8 Issue 8 - Aug 2008

Ethics, Pandemics, and the Duty to Treat

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 7 Issue 12 - Dec 2007

Clash of Definitions: Controversies About Conscience in Medicine

News (5)

May 17, 2012 9:54 am

“The Self” in the Future: Will it be Extinguished, by Neuroscience? (Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technologies)

Will “the self” survive because it can provide people with a greater sense of happiness? Or is it – perhaps along with the constructs “Free Will” and “Determinism” – doomed to the dustbin of history? Should cyborgs, avatars, and a rewired human brain be developed with a stronger or weaker sense of self? An interview with Dr. Garret Merriam, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at University of Southern Indiana.

May 10, 2012 11:30 am

Neurononsense: Why brain sciences can't explain the human condition (ABC News)

The new sciences in fact have a tendency to divide neatly into two parts. On the one hand there is an analysis of some feature of our mental or social life and an attempt to show its importance and the principles of its organisation. On the other hand, there is a set of brain scans. Every now and then there is a cry of “Eureka!” – for example, when Joshua Greene showed that dilemmas involving personal confrontation arouse different brain areas from those aroused by detached moral calculations. But since Greene gave no coherent description of the question, to which the datum was supposed to suggest an answer, the cry dwindled into silence.

April 10, 2012 11:07 pm

Check This Box: Science Is Getting Easier/Harder/Both/Neither? (Huffington Post)

A core concept of the Enlightenment was that the more that reasoning is based on experimentation the more we can learn about the world. Manipulation of variables, recommended in the 17th century by Francis Bacon, proved to be a turning point in the history of science. By uncovering previously invisible truths and giving human beings novel and effective ways to manage their environment scientific method gave the idea of progress a whole new meaning. Until then it wasn’t at all clear that civilization wasn’t in some kind of steady state, or even that we weren’t in decline from some “golden age.” But it turned out that the golden age was still ahead of us, if we were smart enough to invest in it and wise enough not to misuse the knowledge being gained.

March 10, 2012 9:35 am

Why It's OK to Let Apps Make You a Better Person (The Atlantic)

Evan Selinger considers the ramifications of using apps to improve our habits. And also whether willpower as we normally think about it even exists. #bioethics #neuroethics #brain #philosophy

March 2, 2012 4:50 pm

Abortion Article Author Receives Death Threats (Telegraph (UK))

Dr Francesca Minerva, a former Oxford University ethicist, who co-wrote a controversial article that argued killing newborn babies should be as permissible as abortion, has said she has received death threats over the paper. #philosophy #bioethics