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J Med Philos. 2005 Feb;30(1):9-25.

The nature of relative subjectivity: a reflexive mode of thought.

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Department of Biomedical Ethics, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


Ethical principles including autonomy, justice and equality function in the same paradigm of thought, that is, logocentrism--an epistemological predilection that relies on the analytic power of deciphering between binary oppositions. By studying observable behavior with an analytical approach, however, one immediately limits any recognition and possible understanding of modes of thought based on separate epistemologies. This article seeks to reveal an epistemological predilection that diverges from logocentrism yet continues to function as a fundamental component of ethical behavior. The issue of cancer disclosure in Japan is used to exemplify the nature of relative subjectivity (kankeiteki-shukansei), a term I define and believe to be an epistemological predisposition fundamental to ethical behavior. Relative subjectivity denotes an epistemology quintessential to the behavior of individuals who attend to the respective tides of each particular situation, each interpersonal relationship or, in the context of clinical medicine, to the needs and values of each patient.

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