Chapter

Putting Principles in Context

Tom Tomlinson

in Methods in Medical Ethics

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780195161243
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950317 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161243.003.0003
Putting Principles in Context

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This chapter continues the discussion of principles, but not as they are used within monistic, foundationalist systems like those of Singer and Englehardt. Instead, I examine their use in pluralistic models which appear to offer the flexibility needed to avoid the defects attributed to principles, while preserving a central role for them in justification. Beauchamp and Childress' highly influential model is used as the starting point for examining the methods of balancing, specification and reflective equilibrium that they advocate. Using examples from their work and others’, I demonstrate how difficult it is to articulate a method for justifying balancing judgments. Since it turns out that specification and reflective equilibrium require the use of balancing judgments, Beauchamp and Childress have not provided a complete account of moral justification. This sets the question for the chapters that follow: how can methods not based in principles help us make progress?

Keywords: bioethics; medical ethics; moral reasoning; moral judgment; balancing; specification; reflective equilibrium; coherence; Beauchamp and Childress

Chapter.  11539 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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