Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Macneill, P.
Balancing bioethics by sensing the aesthetic
(2017) Bioethics, 31 (8), pp. 631-643.

DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12390

Abstract
This article is critical of “bioethics” as it is widely understood and taught, noting in particular an emphasis given to philosophical justification, reason and rationality. It is proposed that “balancing” bioethics be achieved by giving greater weight to practice and the aesthetic: Defined in terms of sensory perception, emotion and feeling. Each of those three elements is elaborated as a noncognitive capacity and, when taken together, comprise aesthetic sensitivity and responsiveness. This is to recognise the aesthetic as a productive element in bioethics as practice. Contributions from the philosophy of art and aesthetics are drawn into the discussion to bring depth to an understanding of “the aesthetic”. This approach is buttressed by philosophers – including Foucault and 18th century German philosophers (in particular Kant) – who recognized a link between ethics and aesthetics. The article aims to give substance to a claim that bioethics necessarily comprises a cognitive component, relating to reason, and a non-cognitive component that draws on aesthetic sensibility and relates to practice. A number of advantages of bioethics, understood to explicitly acknowledge the aesthetic, are proffered. Having defined bioethics in conventional terms, there is discussion of the extent to which other approaches to bioethics (including casuistry, virtue ethics, and narrative ethics) recognize aesthetic sensitivity in their practice. It is apparent that they do so to varying extents although not always explicitly. By examining this aspect of applied ethics, the paper aims to draw attention to aesthetic sensitivity and responsiveness as integral to ethical and effective health care. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Author Keywords
Aesthetics; Bioethics; Emotion; Feeling; Medical humanities; Reason

Index Keywords
attention, bioethics, casuistry, human, human experiment, medical humanities, narrative, perception, sensibility

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