A Modest Proposal: Methodological Pragmatism for Bioethics

  • Andrew Light
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 3)


The last ten years has witnessed a growth in work at the intersection of pragmatism and applied ethics. In environmental ethics, the field in which I carry out most of my own research, pragmatism has grown from a sometimes explicit but largely unstated background in the work of a few figures such as Anthony Weston (1992) and Bryan Norton (1987, but especially 1991), to a critical mass large enough to sustain an edited collection (Light and Katz, 1996), to the recent publication of an issue of the leading journal in the field dominated by contributions focusing on pragmatism (Environmental Ethics, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring 2001 - three of the four features and discussion papers in the issue are on pragmatism). While the last bit of evidence could have been a self-conscious attempt by the editor of the journal to group related papers in the same issue (which would have been a departure from his common editorial policy), I think it fair to say that ten years ago there wouldn’t have been three papers published in the same year in this journal on pragmatism, let alone in one issue. In bioethics too there has been a similar growth in work in this area. While this volume is proof in and of itself, Glenn McGee’s book on pragmatism and genetics (1997) and his edited collection, Pragmatic Bioethics (1999a), also count as strong evidence of a surge in interest.


Public Debate Environmental Ethic Applied Ethic Deliberative Democracy Reflective Equilibrium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arras, J.D. (1998). “A case approach”, in: H. Kuhse and P. Singer (eds.), A companion to bioethics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, p. 106–116.Google Scholar
  2. Boyle, J. (1998). “An absolute rule approach”, in: H. Kuhse and P. Singer (eds.), A companion to bioethics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, p. 72–79.Google Scholar
  3. Callicott, J.B. (1990). “The case against moral pluralism”, in: Environmental Ethics 12: 163–174.Google Scholar
  4. Callicott, J.B. (1996). “On Norton and the failure of monistic inherentism”, in: Environmental Ethics 18: 219–221.Google Scholar
  5. Callicott, J.B. (1997). “Fallacious fallacies and nonsolutions: comment on Kristin Shrader Frechette’s `Ecological risk assessment and ecosystem health: fallacies and solutions”’, in: Ecosystem Health 3: 133–135.Google Scholar
  6. Childress, J., et al. (1997). “Cloning Human Beings: Responding to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission’s Report”, in: Hastings Center Report 27: 6–22.Google Scholar
  7. Childress, J. (1998). “A principle-based approach”, in: H. Kuhse and P. Singer (eds.), A companion to Bioethics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, p. 61–71.Google Scholar
  8. De-Shalit, A. (2000). The environment between theory and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donnelley, S., et al. (1994). “The brave new world of animal biotechnology”, in: Hastings Center Report (Special Supplement).Google Scholar
  10. Fins, J.J., et al. (1997). “Clinical pragmatism: a method of moral problem solving”, in: Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 7: 129–145.Google Scholar
  11. Gutmann, A. and D. Thompson (1997). “Deliberating about bioethics”, in: Hastings Center Report 27: 38–41.Google Scholar
  12. Hayward, T. (1997). “Anthropocentrism: a misunderstood problem”, in: Environmental Values 6: 49–63.Google Scholar
  13. Hare, R.M. (1997). Sorting out ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hickman, L. (1999). “Green pragmatism: reals without realism, ideals without idealism”, in: Research in Philosophy and Technology 18: 39–56.Google Scholar
  15. Kempton, W., et al. (1997). Environmental values in American culture. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kuhse, H. and P. Singer (eds.) (1998). A Companion to Bioethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Lewontin, R. (2001). “Genes in the food!”, in: The New York Review of Books 48: 10, 81–84.Google Scholar
  18. Light, A. and E. Katz (eds.) (1996). Environmental pragmatism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Light, A. (2001). “Taking environmental ethics public”, in: D. Schmidtz and E. Willott (eds.), Environmental ethics: What really matters? What really works? Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Light, A. (2002). “Contemporary environmental ethics: from metaethics to public philosophy”, in:Metaphilosophy 33 (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  21. McGee, G. (1997). The perfect baby: a pragmatic approach to genetics. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  22. McGee, G. (ed.) (1999a). Pragmatic Bioethics. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  23. McGee, G. (1999b).“Pragmatic method and bioethics”, in: G. McGee (ed.), Pragmatic Bioethics, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, p. 18–29.Google Scholar
  24. Minteer, B. and R. Manning (1999). “Pragmatism in environmental ethics: democracy, pluralism, and the management of nature”, in: Environmental Ethics 21: 191–207.Google Scholar
  25. Moreno, J.D. (1999). `Bioethics is a naturalism“, in: G. McGee (ed.), Pragmatic Bioethics, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, p. 5–17.Google Scholar
  26. Norton, B.G. (1984). “Environmental ethics and weak anthropocentrism”, in: Environmental Ethics 6: 131–148.Google Scholar
  27. Norton, B.G. (1987). Why preserve natural variety? Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Norton, B.G. (1991). Toward unity among environmentalists. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Norton, B.G. (1997). “Convergence and contextualism”, in: Environmental Ethics 19: 87–100.Google Scholar
  30. Rosenthal, S.B. and R.A. Buchholz (1996). “How pragmatism is an environmental ethic”, in: A. Light and E. Katz (eds.), Environmental Pragmatism. London: Routledge, p. 38–49.Google Scholar
  31. Thompson, P. (1997). “Food biotechnology’s challenge to cultural integrity and individual consent”, in: Hastings Center Report 27: 34–38.Google Scholar
  32. Varner, G. (1998). In nature’s interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Weston, A. (1992). “Before environmental ethics”, in: Environmental Ethics 14: 321–338.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Light

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations