Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post: Impractical ethics

Written by Constantin Vica

Postdoctoral Fellow, Romanian Academy Iasi Branch

Research Center in Applied Ethics, University of Bucharest

This post is not, as one might expect, about that part of ethics which is not concerned about practical issues, e.g. meta-ethics. Neither is it about moral philosophical endeavors which are incomprehensible, highly conceptual and without any adherence to real people’s lives. And, more than that, it is not about how impractical a philosophy/ethics diploma is for finding a job.

One month ago Peter Singer, the leading ethicist and philosopher, was ‘disinvited’ from a philosophy festival in Cologne. It wasn’t the first time such a thing happened and perhaps Peter Singer wasn’t too impressed by the incident. Despite all of these things, the fact has a not-so-nice implication: “you, the practical ethicist, are not welcome to our city!” Of course, Peter Singer is not the first philosopher ‘disinvited’ (horribile dictu) by an ‘honorable’ audience; the history of philosophy and free thinking has an extensive collection of undesirable individuals expelled, exiled, and even killed by furious or ignorant citizens and stubborn elites. But, one might wonder, what is different this time?

The core idea of practical ethics is to provide sound arguments and tools for moral assessments in practical matters ranging from abortion, euthanasia and gene editing to future care-robots. Practical ethics is a real companion, not like the skeptical, ironical, or cynical art of philosophical mesmerization (which has, nevertheless, its virtues, although it antagonizes people without philosophical training). It is a companion which asks that reasonable and sensible argumentation be developed in time, alongside a sense of equilibrium, an attempt for disenchantment and de-tabooization (but not an odd effort for cultural de-identification), etc.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.