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Rules, practices and principles: Putting bioethical principles in their place.

Hardman, D. and Hutchinson, P., 2023. Rules, practices and principles: Putting bioethical principles in their place. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. (In Press)

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Evaluation Clinical Practice - 2023 - Hardman - Rules practices and principles Putting bioethical principles in their (1).pdf - Published Version
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DOI: 10.1111/jep.13898


Bioethics seems preoccupied with establishing, debating, promoting and sometimes debunking principles. While these tasks trade on the status of the word ‘principle’ in our ordinary language, scant attention is paid to the way principles operate in language. In this paper, we explore how principles relate to rules and practices so as to better understand their logic. We argue that principles gain their sense and power from the practices which give them sense. While general principles can be, and are, establishable in abstraction from specific practices, as they are in principlist bioethics, such principles are impotent as moral guides to action. We show that the purchase any principle has as a moral guide to action emerges from its indexical properties as a principle which has sense in a specific practice. The meaning of any principle is internal to the practice and context in which it is invoked and, therefore, principles are not kinds of master rule which dictate moral judgement in new contexts but rather chameleon-like rules which change with the contexture in which they are invoked.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:epistemology; medical ethics; philosophy of medicine
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:38802
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:24 Jul 2023 10:07
Last Modified:24 Jul 2023 10:07


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