Bioethics Blogs

Clinical Ethics Consultation As Practical Philosophy

As a philosopher who works in a large health science center
where the scientific method and perspective reign supreme, it is common to hear
comments about the abstract and ideal nature of philosophy. As though those who
think about human problems from a philosophical perspective do so from an abstract,
insular perspective with little or no practical impact. Though I hear such
dismissive comments about philosophy less often than I used to, say 20 or more
years ago, I sense there is still a commonly held view that those who think
from a philosophical perspective as not well oriented to practical affairs. And
with some justification do people have this view of philosophy.


As I have written in previous blogs, philosophy has long and
even proud part of its tradition for being, well, useless. If we assume that
the basis of philosophical truth and wisdom lay in some ultimate, objective
form that only those who think in certain ways can grasp, then knowledge
becomes privileged to the philosophical few as an end it itself. This type of
Platonic philosophical truth quickly divides the here and now inferior world
from the more exclusive understandings of reality. Because of this basic
influence of Platonic philosophy, much of the history of philosophy in the
Western tradition has been focused on the search for a rational, objective
basis of truth, value, and reality. Not surprisingly, the goal has not been
reached. But the quest continued through most of last century and philosophical
got its more or less justified reputation for being an insulated, esoteric, and
detached form of intellectual activity.

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.