There has recently been a pattern of papers (and I am not going to identify which ones) which I take as being slightly embarrassing to academic bioethicists because they portray us in a less than flattering light because of the naive mistakes they seem to make, or the outlandish poorly argued claims they make. I have noted a trend for these to have come from relatively new, consequentialist bioethicists and being the helpful sort that I am, the aim of this blog post therefore is to help consequentialist bioethicists from falling into these pitfalls.
So you are a consequentialist, well we all have our crosses to bear, and contrary to the thinking of some, being a consequentialist doesn’t necessarily make you a bad bioethicist, afterall some of my best friends and admired colleagues are consequentialists…
And more seriously there are some great bioethicists such as Peter Singer, John Harris and Angus Dawson who are consequentialists and serve, for the most part, as great models for how to do bioethics well. From looking carefully at their body of work you can deduce these useful rules of thumb for optimising the quality (and thus utility) of your academic work.
1. Be careful not to claim more than you can show
One clear sign of a good consequentialist bioethicist is that they are very careful to make sure that their claims, perturbing though they might be, follow directly from the argument they are making and do not go beyond that argument, even if their inclination is to make a stronger claim.