The Place of Philosophy in Bioethics Today

Am J Bioeth. 2022 Dec;22(12):10-21. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2021.1940355. Epub 2021 Jun 30.


In some views, philosophy's glory days in bioethics are over. While philosophers were especially important in the early days of the field, so the argument goes, the majority of the work in bioethics today involves the "simple" application of existing philosophical principles or concepts, as well as empirical work in bioethics. Here, we address this view head on and ask: What is the role of philosophy in bioethics today? This paper has three specific aims: (1) to respond to skeptics and make the case that philosophy and philosophers still have a very important and meaningful role to play in contemporary bioethics, (2) to discuss some of the current challenges to the meaningful integration of philosophy and bioethics, and (3) to make suggestions for what needs to happen in order for the two fields to stay richly connected. We outline how bioethics center directors, funders, and philosopher bioethicists can help.

Keywords: Neuroethics; philosophy.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Ethicists
  • Humans
  • Philosophy