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Theor Med Bioeth. 2012 Feb;33(1):97-105. doi: 10.1007/s11017-011-9204-y.

Bioethics critically reconsidered: living after foundations.

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  • 1Department of Philosophy, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251-1892, USA.


Given intractable moral pluralism, what ought one to make of the bioethics that arose in the early 1970s, grounded as it was in the false assumption that there is a common secular morality that secular bioethics ought to apply? It is as if bioethics developed without recognition of the crisis at the heart of secular morality itself. Secular moral rationality cannot of itself provide the foundations to identify a particular morality and its bioethics as canonical. One is not just confronted with intractable moral and bioethical pluralism, but with the absence of a secular ground that can show why one should act morally rather than self-interestedly. The result is not merely the deflation of much of traditional Western morality to life-style and death-style choices, but the threat of deflating to political slogans the now-dominant secular morality, including its affirmation of human autonomy, equality, social justice, and human dignity. All of this invites one critically to reconsider the meaning and force of secular bioethics.

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