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Classification and Normativity: Some Thoughts on Different Ways of Carving Up the Field of Bioethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2011


Bioethics is, as is moral philosophy in general, a field spanning a range of different philosophical approaches, normative standpoints, methods and styles of analysis, metaphysics, and ontologies. In discussing bioethics, it is often seen as useful to introduce some kind of order on the field by categorizing individual philosophers or specific arguments into a relatively small number of categories. Such categorization or classification has several functions. It may help to show the relationship between basic assumptions and specific arguments or it may be used argumentatively by arguing not against a single philosopher or her arguments but against the category to which she or they belong or are claimed to belong. In this way, whole lines of argument can be disposed of in one fell swoop and whole groups of philosophers dismissed by showing that they belong to some category that can, in some way, be discounted because it is fallacious. Or, conversely, lines of arguments and groups of philosophers can be celebrated and appropriated as support for yet new arguments.

Special Section: Methodology in Philosophical Bioethics
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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