ERAN P. KLEIN AND JENNIFER K. WALTER
If critical self-reflection is a mark of maturity, bioetliics as a field seems to be coming of age. As Albert R. Jonsen notes in his recent history, bioetliics-while not emerging de novo-\\us only “born” as a disti~ict discipline over tlic last several decades (Jonsen 1998). Set against tlic long 1iisto1-y of pliilosopliy and tlieologp proper (out of \\rliicli, arguably, bioetliics arose), bioetliics as a field is indeed young. Yet the diversity and depth of ideas tliat li;i\le emerged during its short lifetime are impressive. The rapid social changes wrought 191 modern niedicine have rccluircd tliat bioetliics be precocious beyond its years. Unlike fields witli longer histories, the accelerated development of bioetliics lias left little time for reflection on the shape of the field itself. This is beginning to change.
In recent years, interest in bioetliics as a field lias largely come from two directions. Tlie first lias been a liistorical interest in the origins of bioethics-tlic events, people, social nio\leiiients, and technological advancements present at the start of the field. Tlie second has been an interest in tlie purpose and potential of bioethics as a field-What role can or should national comniissions play? What are bioetliics programs training people for? Arc there bioetliics “experts”? How diverse is hioetliics in terms of race, class, religion, and ideology? Put simply, tliere are two cluestions tliat motivate interest in bioetliics as a field: From wlicrc did bioetliics collie and liere re is it going?
The essays collccted in this volume are premised on the notion tliat these two threads are interwoven: one cannot understand wlicrc bioctliics is going as a field \vitliout understanding liow it arrived where it is today, nor can one talk intelligibly about the 1iisto1-y of bioetliics \vitliout a sense of how it understands itself today and projects itself into tlie fiiture. This volume finds seminal works in bioetliics to be a particularly iisef~ilr esource for exploring tlie connection between tlie past and filture of tlic field. Insofir as seminal works have had a role in establisliing the field of bioetliics, they have historical importance. Insofar as they continue to shape the nature and scope of debate in conteniporanr bioetliics, they arc inextricably bound witli its fi~ture.S eniinal works provide a uniclue window, into understanding the field of bioetliics.