The Methods of Bioethics: An Essay in Meta-Bioethics

ISBN : 9780199603756

John McMillan
208 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Dec 2018
Issues in Biomedical Ethics
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This is the first book in bioethics that explains how it is that you actually go about doing good bioethics. Bioethics has made a mistake about its methods, and this has led not only to too much theorizing, but also fragmentation within bioethics. The unhelpful disputes between those who think bioethics needs to be more philosophical, more sociological, more clinical, or more empirical, continue. While each of these claims will have some point, they obscure what should be common to all instances of bioethics. Moreover, they provide another phantom that can lead newcomers to bioethics down blind alleyways stalked by bristling sociologists and philosophers. The method common to all bioethics is bringing moral reason to bear upon ethical issues, and it is more accurate and productive to clarify what this involves than to stake out a methodological patch that shows why one discipline is the most important. This book develops an account of the nature of bioethics and then explains how a number of methodological spectres have obstructed bioethics becoming what it should. In the final part, it explains how moral reason can be brought to bear upon practical issues via an 'empirical, Socratic' approach.


1 How to find your footing in bioethics
Part I: Bioethics
2 What is bioethics?
3 Good bioethics
Part II: The spectres of bioethics
4 Four spectres of bioethics
5 The fact value spectre
Part III: The methods of bioethics
6 Empirical, Socratic bioethics
7 What is an ethical argument?
8 Speculative argument and bioethics
9 Drawing distinctions: defining, reclaiming and analysing moral concepts
10 Drawing distinctions: novel, sublime and slippery moral concepts
11 What it is to reason about ethics

About the author: 

John McMillan is a professor in the Bioethics Centre, Division of Health Sciences, at the University of Otago.

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