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Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2007 Mar;17(1):55-64.

History and theory in "applied ethics".

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  • Kennedy Institute Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA.


Robert Baker and Laurence McCullough argue that the "applied ethics model" is deficient and in need of a replacement model. However, they supply no clear meaning to "applied ethics" and miss most of what is important in the literature on methodology that treats this question. The Baker-McCullough account of medical and applied ethics is a straw man that has had no influence in these fields or in philosophical ethics. The authors are also on shaky historical grounds in dealing with two problems: (1) the historical source of the notion of "practical ethics" and (2) the historical source of and the assimilation of the term "autonomy" into applied philosophy and professional ethics. They mistakenly hold (1) that the expression "practical ethics" was first used in a publication by Thomas Percival and (2) that Kant is the primary historical source of the notion of autonomy as that notion is used in contemporary applied ethics.

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