Abstract

This paper attempts to defend pragmatic approaches to bioethics against detractors, showing how particular critics have failed or succeeded. The paper divides bioethics from a pragmatic point of view into three groups. The first group is called “bioethical pragmatism” that will be represented by two book-chapters from the anthology, Pragmatic Bioethics. The second group is called “clinical pragmatism” championed by Fins, Baccetta, and Miller. Finally, a third group, which has roots in the legal tradition, has been called “freestanding pragmatism” and is portrayed by Grey, Posner, and Wolf. Each group has been criticized in journal articles, and, in turn, this paper critiques some of the (mis)understandings put forth by Tollefsen, Jansen, and Arras about the capabilities and status of pragmatism in bioethical discussions. Finally, it concludes with cautionary notes about pragmatic bioethics in hopes that pragmatists will learn from their own insights about the human condition and the discipline of bioethics.

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