Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Why I Am Neither a Communitarian nor a Medical Ethicist

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Why I Am Neither a Communitarian nor a Medical Ethicist

Article excerpt

Stanley Hauerwas has been a consistent voice of the theological foundations of bioethics.

Too often in liberal societies appeals for community as a good in and of itself mask rather than expose exactly the conflicts we need to have in order to locate goods that we might come to share in common. In many ways the development of medical ethics as a strategy in liberal political practice has been a communitarian enterprise. The creation of a formal discipline called ethics, displayed concretely over medical practice, results in the comforting illusion that this society can sustain an intelligible practice of medicine even though we have no way of determining what purposes medicine should serve--other than the prolonging of each individual's life.

That is why, of course, I am not a communitarian. I do not want community as an end in and of itself but rather I want us to be the kind of people that can sustain, for example, practices as significant as baseball. Baseball represents the kind of shared practice I think is morally important. For good communities result from shared judgments derived from skills acquired through the training necessary to pursue certain practices--such as architecture, medicine, baseball, or writing. Different practices require different virtues.

What does all this have to do with medical ethics? I think what it helps us see, as Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out in his article "Patients as Agents," is that the problem is not community but authority. MacIntyre argues that the authority of a doctor over a patient is not simply that deriving from technical skills of the physician or surgeon, but rather derives from a whole set of beliefs and practices arising in a sense of the hierarchy of human goods. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.