Casuistry: Ruled by Cases

Tom Tomlinson

in Methods in Medical Ethics

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780195161243
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950317 | DOI:
Casuistry: Ruled by Cases

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After rejecting several mistaken understandings of what “casuistry” denotes, I focus on a key defining feature– its reliance on analogy as a form of reasoning—and discuss arguments to be made on behalf of the method. Extended discussion follows of key problems with casuistry. First is the need to select which set of paradigm cases to use, for in any situation of real ethical difficulty there will be multiple sets of cases pulling in different directions. Second, even when dealing with a single type of paradigm case, casuistry proves no more capable than principles at justifying a judgment about a contended case without relying on intuition or moral convention. Finally, casuistry’s reliance on paradigm cases encourages a moral conservatism making it difficult to challenge the paradigms themselves. Despite these problems, the chapter concludes with discussion of several important purposes that can be served by a casuistical approach.

Keywords: bioethics; medical ethics; moral reasoning; moral judgment; casuistry; paradigm cases; analogy; Jonson and Toulmin

Chapter.  9446 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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