Uncertain Bioethics: Moral Risk and Human Dignity, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Uncertain Bioethics

Moral Risk and Human Dignity, 1st Edition

By Stephen Napier


312 pages

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Hardback: 9780815372981
pub: 2019-08-08
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Bioethics is a field of inquiry and as such is fundamentally an epistemic discipline. Knowing how we make moral judgments can bring into relief why certain arguments on various bioethical issues appear plausible to one side and obviously false to the other. Uncertain Bioethics makes a significant and distinctive contribution to the bioethics literature by culling the insights from contemporary moral psychology to highlight the epistemic pitfalls and distorting influences on our apprehension of value. Stephen Napier also incorporates research from epistemology addressing pragmatic encroachment and the significance of peer disagreement to justify what he refers to as epistemic diffidence when one is considering harming or killing human beings. Napier extends these developments to the traditional bioethical notion of dignity and argues that beliefs subject to epistemic diffidence should not be acted upon. He proceeds to apply this framework to traditional and developing issues in bioethics including abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, decision-making for patients in a minimally conscious state, and risky research on competent human subjects.


"Stephen Napier argues with verve and subtlety for a cautious and restrained approach to acts of killing in bioethics; central to his argument is the difficulty of being sure that active interventions are permissible. This book intriguingly combines insights from a wide variety of different recent philosophical literatures to offer an important and interesting contribution to numerous current debates." Sophie-Grace Chappell is Professor of Philosophy at Open University, UK

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Part I. Foundational Matters: The Perception of Value, Persons, and Human Worth

Chapter 2. Moral Inquiry and the Apprehension of Value

Chapter 3. Epistemic Justification, Peer Disagreement, and Practical Interest

Chapter 4. Persons and Human Beings

Chapter 5. Human Dignity

Part II. Dignity as the Beginning and End of Life

Chapter 6. Abortion

Chapter 7. Human Embryonic Destructive Stem Cell Research

Chapter 8. Euthanasia

Part III. Balancing Dignity and Autonomy

Chapter 9. Decision-Making for Patients with Suppressed Consciousness

Chapter 10. Decision-Making for Patients with Apparent Competency

Chapter 11. Risky Research on Competent Adults: Justice and Autonomy

Chapter 12: Conclusion

About the Author

Stephen Napier is an associate professor of philosophy at Villanova University. His previous publications include Virtue Epistemology: Motivation and Knowledge, and he edited Persons, Moral Worth, and Embryos. His interests include epistemology, bioethics, and the metaphysics of persons.

About the Series

Routledge Annals of Bioethics

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Ethics
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy