Origins of Bioethics and Normative Ethics

Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 99)

Medical ethics has a long and rich tradition (Cantrell, 1997; Jonsen, 2000). “Physicians, occupying a special place in society, have always faced ethical challenges,” observes Robert Cantrell, “and many of them have studied ethics and strived to develop ethical standards and to live by them” (1997, p. 447). As medicine developed over the centuries, so did the complexity of the ethical issues associated with its knowledge and practice.

In this chapter the rise of bioethics is reconstructed first, followed by a discussion of the various normative ethical theories as they relate to medical practice. Normative ethics is a twentieth century notion, which under went considerable develop during the century. For example, G.E. Moore (1873-1958) positioned normative ethics between casuistry and metaethics and focused on the question of the kinds of the good rather than on questions of the particular good or on the meaning of the good (Solomon, 2004). Today, normative ethics is more expansive in scope. For example, it involves “substantive proposals concerning how to act, how to live, or what kind of person to be” (Kagan, 1998, p. 2).

Keywords

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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

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