Pragmatism, Discourse Ethics and Occasional Philosophy

  • Paul B. Thompson
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 3)


Considered as philosophy conceived in response to specific problems, pragmatism is always occasional philosophy. Just as occasional poetry is written for special occasions such as celebrations, commemorations or inaugurations, occasional philosophy is created for circumstances where the audience has a special expectation that configures and shapes what will be done in advance. As I will argue below, the emphasis on problems and specific occasions is one feature that distinguishes pragmatism from other schools of 20th century philosophy. This feature of pragmatism is particularly important to bioethics, for bioethicists frequently find themselves writing and speaking to audiences primed for a particular kind of activity, and with a particular focus and orientation that shapes the philosophy to be done. Keulartz, Korthals, Schermer and Swierstra (Prologue) have provided an essay that frames the specific occasion for each of the essays that follow. They understand contemporary bioethics to involve a series of problems associated with the cumulative impact of industrial technology on global or local ecosystems and on human health.


Discourse Ethic Moral Discourse Moral Inquiry Moral Disagreement Practical Ethic 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

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  • Paul B. Thompson

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