Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quiz Jan.29

Bioethics today is about the ways our vision of issues and outcomes may be occluded, blurred, or otherwise compromised by our respective points of view or perspectives. Of course this is not unique to bioethics, all human comprehension is subject to bias by the attenuation of culture, gender, religion, ideology, experience, the absence of experience, greed, egoism, and on our list could go. It is in our nature to see what we've seen, to see what we want to see, to see through a glass darkly. Without corrected vision the people perish.

Our native tendency to frame experience incorrectly, conformable to our own pre-vision and hence occlusive of other ways of seeing and clinically intervening, is a constant challenge to the fair-minded ethicist. Bioethical philosophers across the perspectival spectrum presume to prescribe corrective frames, but inattention to the varieties of sight is a constant hazard. Here's a link to a good little essay on the subject, from esteemed bioethicist Arthur Caplan: "When Religion Trumps Medicine."

We should play with this metaphor. As a lifetime wearer of framed corrective lenses, I can attest to the temporary excitement of a new prescription, or even just a stylish new frame to house the old set of lenses. The trick is always to find frames that hold up through every season of wear, that don't grow tiresome, and that justify the expense of change. (My wife returned from Costco one day reporting that the same frames she'd found at the Eye Doc's were $100s cheaper there.) Sometimes new lenses in the old frame suffice, sometimes you just need a new look.

So, some of the perspectives we'll try to focus and reframe today: attitudes and assumptions around HIV/AIDS, especially as occluded by miseducation; violence as a public health issue; "feminist critiques" of contingently-drawn, historically-conditioned categories of masculinity and femininity, locked into patriarchal institutions and practices that discriminate against women; misogyny; marginalization; advocacy; embodiment; empowerment; relational autonomy; metaphysical dualism; care; furor therapeuticus; female genital mutilation; "Asian bioethics";  Plato's Euthyphro;  Abraham & Isaac;  Buddhism; and more.

How do you get that "new look"? I always like to suggest trying the John Rawls Original Position/Veil of Ignorance frames. Some of us can wear them.

One more indulgence, before the quiz: I enjoyed our impromptu discussion of House last time. Maybe some of us can find a few good YouTube moments, illustrative of what we were saying about how some practitioners seem driven less by the patient's best care than by their own egoism. But, getting the diagnosis and treatment right regardless of motive and ego still seems the most important thing. Doesn't it?

1. Chapter 3 begins by asking if our bioethical perspective ("vision") is skewed by _____... (a) cultural assumptions, (b) gender bias, (c) religious faith, (d) all of the above (BB 48)

2. What's the leading global cause of death among women of reproductive age? (49)

3. (T/F) The "feminist critique" says bioethics has been dominated by culturally masculine thinking. (50)

4. What ethical perspective did Nel Noddings (supported by Carol Gilligan's research) describe as the "feminine approach"? (55)

5. What's a furor therapeuticus? (56)

6. Does Campbell consider the outlawing of female genital mutilation culturally insensitive? (58)


What role do feminist bioethicists see themselves as performing, with respect to the victims of gender discrimination? What perspective do they wish to "re-assert"? and what classic (Cartesian) metaphysical/philosophical perspective do they oppose? (51-2)

What's allegedly distinctive about "Asian bioethics"? (59)

How do you think your own attitudes and assumptions about gender, religion, etc. influence your Bioethical perspective?

What do Plato's Euthyphro and the Biblical story of Abraham & Isaac suggest to you about the place of religion in addressing biotethical issues? (61-2)

What is Buddhism's bioethical relevance? (69)

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