A synthetic approach to bioethical inquiry

M. A. Carter

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    4 Scopus citations


    This paper attempts to sort out some of the current tensions and ambiguities inherent in the field of bioethics as it continues to mature. In particular it focuses on the question of the methodological relevance of theory or ethical principles to the domain of clinical ethics. I offer an approach to reasoning about moral conflict that combines the insights of contemporary moral theorists, the philosophy of American pragmatism, and the skills of rhetorical deliberation. This synthetic approach locates a proper role for moral theory in the practice of clinical ethics, thus linking abstract philosophical ideas about morality, humanity, suffering, and health to specific deeds, actions, and decisions in the concrete lives of particular individuals. The aim of this synthetic approach of bioethical inquiry is a rapprochement between theoretical knowledge in moral philosophy and the contextualized, relational, and practical understanding of what morality demands of us in our daily lives. I argue for a conception of bioethical inquiry that takes morality to be a study of certain practical, socially embedded concerns about matters of right and wrong, good and evil, as well as a study of the moral theories by which these actual concerns can be explored and critically evaluated.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)217-234
    Number of pages18
    JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 2000


    • Bioethics
    • Ethical theory
    • Pragmatism
    • Rhetoric

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


    Dive into the research topics of 'A synthetic approach to bioethical inquiry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this