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Global bioethics is a challenging prospect that raises controversial concerns and international ethical debates. This entry examines to what extent hermeneutics may be relevant to face the challenges raised by this prospect. The entry sketches in the ﬁrst part a short historical review of philosophical hermeneutics and its offshoots and in the second part reviews and discusses ﬁrstly the main arguments stressing its relevance to bioethics, especially clinical and medical ethics, and secondly the limits this philosophical approach faces when it attempts to come to grips with the challenges raised by the global bioethics prospect. A review of a possible overcoming of these challenges by merging hermeneutics with the critical theory in a “reconstructive” ethics approach is presented as an expanded hermeneutics perspective relevant to a global bioethics endeavor.
Hermeneutics is broadly deﬁned as the interpretation of texts and symbols. The word, ﬁrst coined in the early seventieth century by Johann Konrad Dannhauser (1603–1666), has a long history, as long as the history of philosophy. The concept has been the source of many controversies and debates.
A brief review of its history, especially in the European context, shows that various meanings have been given to the word since its Greek origin. Starting with Aristotle’s classical root in his Peri hermeneias which appears in the Organon, the concept went through a theological turn with the inﬂuence of both Jewish and Christian traditions. Hermeneutics and the interpretation of texts were embraced by biblical scholars. This narrow meaning of hermeneutics moved then to a wider sense and extended to the humanities and what we call today as human and social sciences with the contributions of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) and Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). Moving toward philosophical debates in the mid-twentieth century, philosophical hermeneutics went through a new path when it merged with Husserl’s phenomenology giving birth to phenomenological hermeneutics, culminating in the works of Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and more recently Paul Ricoeur. The philosophical move was either ontologically (in the works of Heidegger and Gadamer) or more epistemologically and ethically oriented (in the work of Ricoeur). These critical versions of hermeneutics took as their subject matter language in context and texts, which gave rise to controversies and debates in the realms of contemporary sciences of language and of critical theory, particularly in the work of Jurgen Habermas. These controversies will be reviewed.
Against this background, the relevance of hermeneutics to biomedical ethics and global bioethics will be discussed, and the contemporary debates on this issue will be reviewed by calling upon the works of Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Marc Ferry, with an emphasis laid on their understanding of the notion of practical wisdom, a possible point of convergence, as they see it, between hermeneutics and critical theory.
To conclude, the signiﬁcance of philosophical hermeneutics for biomedical ethics and especially for clinical ethics will be stressed in this entry. However, the challenges raised by the global bioethics prospect seem much more difﬁcult to face if hermeneutics remains oriented toward past history and tradition as means of scaffolding group strong identities. A “reconstructive” ethics approach propounded by Jean-Marc Ferry will be presented as a possible way to expand hermeneutics in order to come to grips with the challenges raised by the global bioethics prospect.
History And Development: Background Of The Issue And Clarification Of The Concept
The word hermeneutics has its root in the Greek verb hermeneuein, which means to interpret. Theword hermeneutics can be traced back to the riseof Greek philosophy, more speciﬁcally to Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and to Hermios, who interprets the words of the Oracle of Delphi from whom Socrates claimed authority. Hermeneuein conveys the idea of bringing into word what did not yet come to language.
We can also trace back another source of the word, the Hebraic and biblical tradition. In this tradition, Scriptures call for interpretation. In the post-Hellenic era, the understanding of hermeneutics became a method of interpreting the bible. The melding of these two classical sources characterized hermeneutics until later on as an essential theological enterprise, conceived narrowly as the interpretation of sacred texts, seeking the revelation of the meaning of the word of God.
From the time of the Reformation and following, hermeneutics is ampliﬁed until the rise of the scientiﬁc era. By that time, what counts as truth relies on the scientiﬁc mode of thinking. It means that what is considered as true is universal, belonging to logical and empirical approaches, in part inﬂuenced by tendencies which themselves take root in later Greek philosophy. By the nineteenth century, the scientiﬁc approach of truth comes to the fore with respect to the biblical view of the world. The theological sense of hermeneutics had to come to grips with the universal mode of the thinking of science. It is by that time that the contemporary sense of hermeneutics begins to take its shape, in the wake of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey.
For Schleiermacher, answering this challenge means transforming biblical hermeneutics into a general hermeneutics, a philosophical science of understanding of any kind of textual and historical interpretation (Ihde 1998, p. 12). Following Schleiermacher, Dilthey considered that the task of hermeneutics is to determine what is characteristic about humanistic and historical knowledge. He defended the idea that hermeneutics could be a possible basis upon which knowledge of human and historical aspects could be built. In his view, hermeneutics was the path to ﬁnd a way to differentiate the human sciences from the natural sciences (Bernstein 1983, p. 112–113). Thus, the nineteenth century debates between “understanding” characterizing human sciences methodology and “explanation” characterizing the natural sciences approach.
In the twentieth century, in the wake of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, Martin Heidegger moved in his masterwork Being and Time hermeneutics to a fundamental claim: the ontological signiﬁcance of hermeneutics as well as its universality. What does this mean?
Despite their critique of the positivistic propensity of the Kantian theory of knowledge, Dilthey and Husserl did not free their approaches from the distinction of subject and object. In contrast, Heidegger opposed that, before being an object and a subject, both notions are bound together by a basic relation of both belonging to the same world. Hence, for Heidegger, human being is neither a subject nor an object, but an existent thrown in the middle of the world among other things. The signiﬁcance of human being, according to him, is its capacity to make sense of things, starting from its own sense of being. Hence, understanding is a central feature of human existence. In this view, understanding is no longer conceived as a characteristic method of human sciences but rather as a mode or constituent element of being-in-the-world (Bernstein 1983, p. 113–114). Being is Dasein, as Heidegger conceives it, which means being there. Understanding is Dasein’s primordial structure; it is its very nature (Heidegger 1995, p. 32). Accordingly, hermeneutics is its central mode of existence. Understanding is, in Heidegger’s mind, an ontological character of
Dasein. As he explores the various modes of Being, he states that Dasein is itself a historical Being and that temporality is the Being of its Being-in-the-world. Temporality frames the horizon of meaning of Being, which reveals the projective character of understanding. In Heidegger’s view, this character reﬂects the Being of Dasein as “concern,” a ﬁgure of “care” (Sorge). Care is essentially and speciﬁcally understood, in Heidegger’s view, as “concern” toward the presentness of Being itself, a Being that is exposed to the sense of being a mortal creature. Care is hence the basic state of Dasein because “death moves us to show concern about our life” (Hoffman 2006, p. 228).
So far, as understanding begins with selfunderstanding, it means that Dasein and the world are forming a circle – the hermeneutic circle – which is the primordial structure of human existence. This means that to understand ourselves, we have to call upon “fore-structures which are drawn from our own prior selfunderstanding” (Caputo 1987, p. 78). So, we cannot avoid some circularity in understanding; it is Dasein’s condition. It is not an obstacle to objectivity, points out Caputo, “the network of hermeneutic-fore structures is the very condition under which objective understanding is possible” (Caputo 1987, p. 79). Against this background, Heidegger gives the hermeneutic circle – previously construed by Dilthey in an epistemological sense – an ontological character. “We must endeavour to leap into the ‘circle’, primordially and wholly, writes Heidegger, so that even at the start of the analysis of Dasein we make sure that we have a full view of Dasein’s circular Being” (Heidegger 1995, p. 363). Avoiding the hermeneutic circle would be a failure claims Heidegger: “To deny the circle, to make a secret of it, or even to want to overcome it, means ﬁnally to reinforce this failure” (ibidem).
This fundamental aspect of Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein is dealt by Hans-Georg Gadamer in terms of an emphasis given to the hermeneutic circle, which raises attention to the fundamental historicity of Being, which involves establishing connections between the preconceptions of understanding and the tradition (Thompson 1981, p. 40). For Gadamer, tradition is central because it is the source of the “prejudices” which make understanding possible. The meanings which underlie understanding stem from the tradition to which one belongs. Thus, understanding is conceived by Gadamer as an open “fusion of horizons.” The conscious task of this fusion, says Gadamer, is the task of the “effective-historical consciousness.” Accordingly, the accomplishment of the fusion of understanding occurs in language, namely, it is by means of language that tradition is transmitted, in Gadamer’s view. Through language, the truth of being can be disclosed, for tradition is for him essentially linguistic (Thompson 1981, p. 41).
Hence, for Heidegger and Gadamer, language is a way of Being-in-the-world, although each understands it in a slightly different manner: contrary to Heidegger, for Gadamer, understanding is essentially dialogical in the sense that subject and object bear their reality only by means of their mutual interaction (Duque Estrada 1997 p. 29).
This move of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics was extended by Paul Ricoeur in a further move to stress the relevance of language for the hermeneutic philosophical stance: if for Heidegger and Gadamer, “man is language,” for Ricoeur, language is however not a self-transparent mirror of Being; it is the locus where existence is interpreted, a process itself hermeneutic, an ongoing and permanent interpretation. In this sense, Ricoeur’s speciﬁc concept of “hermeneutics of suspicion” – which represents in his view the other face of hermeneutic phenomenology, as exempliﬁed in Marx, Nietzsche, or Freud’s lines of thought – characterizes the idea that the subject cannot know simply; it knows itself in terms of its world and its otherness (Ihde 1998, p. 20). In the perspective elaborated by Ricoeur, “language is conceived as a medium in which aspects of being are expressed and disclosed. The linguistic realm is therefore the ﬁrst but the not the ﬁnal point of inquiry” (Thompson 1981, p. 3). For Ricoeur, language is then a “medium of objectivation” and hermeneutics is assigned to “unfold the dimensions of being which are expressed in, and disclosed by, the semantic structure of symbols and texts.” (Thompson 1981, p. 214). In Ricoeur’s understanding, action may also be viewed as a text, so that hermeneutical discourse may turn its attention to human action.
Hence, Ricoeur’s conception of hermeneutics paves the way to an understanding of the relationship between narrativity, hermeneutics, and practical ethics (van Tongeren 1994).
Ethical Dimensions: Significance For Biomedical And Global Ethics And Its Limits
Significance For Biomedical Ethics
Gadamer’s and Ricoeur’s conceptions of hermeneutics open up a better understanding of the signiﬁcance of hermeneutics for medical ethics.
According to Gadamer’s approach, we belong to a tradition before tradition belongs to us: what we are, regardless of whether we are explicitly aware of it, is always being inﬂuenced by tradition and culture, leaving traces and sedimentations. The task of effective-historical consciousness is to bring to awareness this historical afﬁnity that inﬂuences what we consider as good and how we achieve an interplay with others (Benaroyo 2000, p. 229). Gadamer suggests moreover that the event of understanding is more appropriately described in terms of dialogue between the interpreter and what the interpreter seeks to understand. This dialogue presupposes, no matter how different the other’s world view, that there exist some shared history and values – at least that common basis can be created – that can provide a point of departure for further understanding. For Gadamer, the type of judgment and reasoning exhibited in hermeneutical understanding is a form of practical wisdom, a form of phronesis, namely, a moral judgment in situation (Gadamer 1975, p. 278–293). Phronesis is according to Gadamer the framework after which hermeneutics is molded (Caputo 1987, p. 110). On this view, hermeneutics is appropriate to praxis: it involves always a mediation between the universal and the particular, and it requires deliberation and choice. In this sense, hermeneutics is practical philosophy in which the act of application that characterizes the hermeneutic act is not a blank method of speciﬁcation of a universal in the particular but a “creative appropriation” (Caputo 1987, p. 110). Against this background, Gadamer’s conception of hermeneutics has been considered as particularly well appropriate to build the groundwork on which the healing act lies and bears therefore a signiﬁcant relevance to clinical ethics (Benaroyo 2000, p. 231).
In a more indirect way, Ricoeur propounds a distinctive and in some sense radical version of hermeneutic phenomenology, quite independently from Gadamer’s line of thought. In his early work, Ricoeur focuses his attention on the relationship between the phenomenology of the experience of time and the epistemology of the narrative function, which may open up the way toward a better understanding of the existing relationship between the sick person’s vulnerability and the importance of paying attention to the narrative phenomenon during the development of a plan of care which will best answer to his suffering. In his book Oneself as Another, Ricoeur thoroughly unfolds his conception of hermeneutics, which lays the foundations for his “critical” understanding of phronesis: in Ricoeur’s view, moral judgment in situation should essentially be framed through a deliberative process including all relevant stakeholders (Ricoeur 1992, p. 290).
In the realm of medical ethics, Ricoeur’s approach highlights the manner in which a relevant moral judgment in situation is formed and to what extent practical wisdom is suited to this endeavor by means of an exploration of the diverse types of narratives that are called up in the act of caring (Ricoeur 2000). He extensively examined “critical” phronesis in the context of a reactualization of Aristotelian ethics (Benaroyo 2011, pp. 240–241). According to Ricoeur, three steps characterize the construction of prudential judgment: (1) the teleological moment which clariﬁes the nature of the ethical aim and, in particular, the restoration of the patient’s ability-to-be in a project of care based on trust; (2) the deontological moment, which embraces the set of precepts regulating good conduct in medical intervention, such as the requirement for informed consent and the requirement for equity in the provision of health care; and ﬁnally (3) the actual moment of practical wisdom, which is completed, at the end of a deliberation within a group consisting of the different actors involved in the care of the patient (the family, the medical team, and the patient), with the development of a medical decision adapted to the individual and his circumstances. According to Ricoeur, the objective is, on the whole, to bring into the heart of all medical acts an ethical and clinical reﬂection established by the main actors responsible for the act of care.
Thus interpreted, the practice of the virtue of prudence anchored in Ricoeur’s thought unfolds according to the three following moments, which also reﬂect three speciﬁc linguistic moments:
- The moment of social mediation, which Ricoeur refers to as the teleological moment and whose ethical core is the trust-based pact of care aiming at overcoming the initial dissymmetry of the patient-doctor encounter. On the linguistic level, this is the moment of therapeutic alliance characterized by an interpersonal pact between the doctor and the patient.
- The moment of implementation of the technical means appropriate for the patient’s disease, which Ricoeur refers to as the deontological moment. This is the linguistic level usually accompanying technical procedures.
- The moment of personalized restoration of the patient’s autonomy, which Ricoeur refers to as the critical practical wisdom moment, when the affection of his ability-to-be is on the way to being reestablished according to ethical modes developed following a deliberation led by the different actors involved in the care of the patient. This is the linguistic level which resorts to dialogue, reﬂection, and interdisciplinary discussion structuring an ethical deliberation at the conclusion of which the most appropriate perspective of action is adopted and accepted there and then by the medical team as a whole.
Accordingly, a hermeneutic approach may help to unfold, in Ricoeur’s view, the ethical scope of the relationship of care by integrating in the decision-making process the epistemological, anthropological, legal, historical, and sociopolitical registers that shape it (Benaroyo 2011). In this approach, health-care providers can be sensitive to the various contexts within which the clinical situation unfolds, as well as to the normative stances that provide the ethico-legal framework of the story. Mediated by a deliberative process, and implemented by means of critical practical wisdom, a hermeneutic perspective helps interpret and disclose what is morally meaningful for all actors – who are viewed as moral agents – in the process of forming a singular moral judgment oriented toward helping and healing.
Thus, according to Ricoeur’s view, the attention drawn to the linguistic moments of care open up the way on the one hand to an exploration of the narrative structure of the experiences and discourses of the patients, their family circle, and health professionals. On the other hand, they open up the way to the professionals’ awareness of the importance of creating – in an atmosphere of common belongingness – the plan of care’s “emplotment” which enables the sick person to become the actor in the recovery of his narrative identity that has been altered by illness (Benaroyo 2011, p. 243). Understood in hermeneutic terms, the narrative approach does not only consist of inscribing the illness into the historical continuity of the patient’s life but also of exploring in a trustful dialogue how the plan of care invokes a transformation of the temporality that the patient will have to experience in the future (Benaroyo 2011, p. 238).
In the wake of Ricoeur’s understanding of “critical” practical wisdom, the attention drawn to the narrative mapping of the various registers of clinical action marks then the path of an ethics of responsibility – drawing its sources from an ethics of hospitality and responsiveness – which revitalizes the links between ethics and medicine that have been devitalized by the rise of bioethics (Benaroyo 2011, p. 243).
As Jean Grondin suggests, Ricoeur’s thought strongly supports the claim that ethics and hermeneutics are intimately tied: hermeneutics without ethics is empty and ethics without hermeneutics is blind (Grondin 2006, p. 92).
The genuine signiﬁcance of ethics is thus preserved from the danger of today’s mainstream conception of ethics, driven by the applied ethics model scaffolding bioethics according to which a priori universal moral principles are applied to concrete cases. As van Tongeren points out: “the danger is that ethical reﬂection on problems might become hemmed in by the same framework which initially caused the problems, that is ethics might become a technique for problems posed by techniques, it might be carried on as a supplementary technique” (van Tongeren 1994, p. 200). In van Tongeren’s view, ethics should also focus on “matters of which we must ﬁrst obtain moral experiential knowledge” (van Tongeren 1994, p. 201). In this view, ethics is, in van Tongeren’s words, conceived as “the hermeneutics of moral experience” (van Tongeren 1994, p. 199). In the realm of clinical ethics, this ethical stance does not set up rules to solve problems in a narrow and speciﬁc proﬁle but unfolds a comprehensive understanding including the normative stances – legal, social, cultural, and political – that frame moral experience, in order to throw light on the relevant registers of care adapted to the singular situation when a moral judgment is formed and to hopefully prevent problems from coming into being (Benaroyo 2011 pp. 242–243; van Tongeren 1994, p. 214).
Significance For Global Bioethics
If the contribution of contemporary critical hermeneutics shows evidence that it may bear significance to medical ethics, it seems more challenging in respect of its potential relevance to global bioethics.
According to Darryl Gunson, global bioethics may be understood along three possible ways (Gunson 2010, pp. 1–2). The ﬁrst is oriented toward globalizing “the concerns that bioethicists have,” namely, to promote “global justice, public health and resource allocation, particularly in areas of the globe where they have been neglected.” Second, it may be understood as a “global ﬁeld of inquiry where one might expect a certain amount of global convergence and integration regarding problems discussed, articles cited, books and, possibly, patterns of institutional links.” Both orientations have not yet occurred as Gunson notes. The third way, which is the way most usually considered as the more relevant, is “the claim that there is, or should be, one global set of norms, principles and values, to be applied to bioethical situations” (Gunson 2010, p. 2) that have – or should have – gained global acknowledgment. UNESCO declarations on bioethics and human rights might be considered as paradigmatic of this way. However, Gunson observes that there is an absence of an actual global consensus on the content of a universal framework for bioethical judgment.
Although all of these interpretations of global bioethics have attracted many criticisms, the prospect is still alive and continues to drive much attention and exert a powerful inﬂuence. It is nonetheless plagued with the spectrum of moral relativism on the one side and criticized on the other side, for the danger of new colonialism, driven by the morality of Western ideologies. The fundamental difﬁculty lies in answering the question of how to “establish the principles (and their meaning) that are to constitute the global ethical framework?” asks Gunson (Gunson 2010, p. 9). He adds: “how to establish some prior understanding and agreement about the norms for establishing them? How to agree on the legitimate means for achieving this goal?” (Gunson 2010, p. 9). And more basically, he asks: can a rational justiﬁcation be achieved, or not? And will a global bioethics be the “imposition of the moral views of the most powerful on the less powerful” (Gunson 2010, p. 10)? And ﬁnally, to focus on our ﬁeld of inquiry: what could be the contribution of contemporary hermeneutics to these challenges?
According to Gunson, although contemporary hermeneutics, even in its radical versions such as that of Ricoeur, paves the way to mutual understanding and strives to build common belongingness beyond the experience of otherness, no matter how foreign the other’s world view, the challenge lies in the attempt to ﬁnd some shared history or common basis – or at least the possibility to create it – that can provide a point of departure for further understanding based on the principle for the other as both same and different. This principle is based on the recognition that otherness’ difference is morally relevant, should be listened to, deserves respect, and leads to reciprocal recognition.
Kristin Zeiler defends, in a compelling way, this prospect (Zeiler 2009) by taking seriously the concrete other instead of the universal and abstract other. However, it has its limits when extended to situations when faced with others whose moral views and values totally differ from our own in a way that may not lead to a “fusion of horizons.” As Gunson notes, in these situations, hermeneutics “will do little to assuage sceptical doubts that cultural differences can be overcome” (Gunson 2010, p. 11).
Jurgen Habermas’ critical social science theory may help, Gunson suggests, to the extent that it attempts to do just this. As he criticizes Gadamer’s interpretive model of social science, Habermas claims that this model is appropriate to cultural sciences but not to social science. For him, social science theory is not veriﬁed by a hermeneutical approach, because “both the <technical> interest in control and the <practical> interest in understanding are properly subordinate to an <emancipatory> interest in liberation” (Dryzek 1995, p. 99). In Habermas’ view, critical social science should rather strive to take its roots in a theory of communicative action. This theory is useful in evaluating social practices by means of a discourse ethics approach that aims at resolving rationally moral disagreements in order to communicatively and rationally achieve agreement (as opposed to a forced or manipulated one).
Discourse ethics, in the sense Habermas understands, has precisely attempted to face analogous challenges in the realm of bioethics. Gunson stresses this approach as the more relevant at the level of global bioethics. However, the limits of rational consensus come into being when universal reason meets strong identity claims, as, for example, identities drawing on powerful sources such as ethnicity, race, language, geography, or religious beliefs, leading to misrecognition of others (Gunson 2010, p. 21 and 33). As Gunson points out, the project of global bioethics rests on the “credentials of a thin proceduralism (which is) coextensive with the basic values of the liberal west” (Gunson 2010, p. 31), namely, a procedural approach that reduces the deliberative procedure
to a rational debate with no discussions of substantive contents, particularly of conceptions of the good, and no favoring one conception of the good over another.
One of the possible conditions for overcoming this challenge might be the acceptance of groups who are not aligned with the norms of proceduralism to make an identity redeﬁnition, especially in situations of weak identity claims, in which individual or group identity is expressed in a “language of interests” and may move toward compromise on their core values and principles (Gunson 2010, p. 23 and 34).
Another possible condition could be to appeal to an expanded and prospective conception of hermeneutics. As group identity is mediated by language, myths, and symbols, hermeneutical philosophy should focus nowadays not only on restorative moment of narrative but also on future worlds, as Ihde interestingly suggests (Ihde 1998, pp. 24–25): “Hermeneutically oriented philosophy (.. .) must deal with the prospective possibilities of a technological civilization in which language no longer is discourse on the model of the face to face (.. .) It must also turn to the ‘possible worlds’ of the future. Such an exploration in a radical sense, of the imaginative hopes and possibilities of humankind – and particularly those becoming horizontal in technological society – is called for as a prospect for hermeneutics. (.. .) In short, the prospective hermeneutics is one which looks at ‘texts’ across possible futures made available in technological culture” (Ihde 1998, p. 25). This expansive possibility of hermeneutics, already begun by Ricoeur, may develop in a prospect including an analysis of “scientiﬁc products and technological artifacts” and explore how they shape group identities.
Hence, facing the challenges raised by the languages of identity may open up the horizon of a new task for hermeneutics, namely, exploring underlying shared conceptions of solidarity and mutual recognition and examining to what extent this endeavor might articulate with “thick” proceduralism, which embodies substantive and normative conceptions of the good, and their ethical roots and traditions could ﬁnd a space where they could be discussed (Gunson 2010, p. 30).
Even though this attempt may be a source of confrontation of “strong” identities, tackling this challenge seems to be the essential condition under which a relevant ethics of global bioethics could unfold.
Jean-Marc Ferry’s “reconstructive ethics” project is oriented precisely toward this prospect (Ferry 1996). The “reconstructive principle” seeks to recollect historically signiﬁcant cultural, political, and spiritual events that could strengthen personal or collective identities as they face other identities. According to this principle, a group identity may be built by recollecting parts of the other’s identity, so that a common space, even if very fragile, may be created and recognized as such (Ferry 1996, p. 32). Human global experiences of injustice, of irredeemable events, of loss of transcendence, or of a new sense of selfhood in contemporary technological culture – in other words, events that bear great signiﬁcance for collective memory – may lay the foundations for such common space of mutual recognition, beyond the signiﬁcance of personal narratives (Ferry 1996, p. 36).
The challenge of global bioethics is to ﬁnd the relevant conditions to establish universal norms that might be considered as just for all societies without relying on a speciﬁc conception of the good prevailing in one historical example of what is – or was – seen as a good society. By trying to face this challenge, contemporary hermeneutics faces itself the challenge of creating the conditions for mutual understanding when cultural differences cannot be overcome, to the extent that they are constitutive of group identities that defy the possibility of “fusion of horizons.” The move beyond critical hermeneutics toward Habermas’ discourse ethics seems to be a relevant attempt to respond to the challenge raised by the global bioethics project. However, as the substantive content of proceduralism is itself rooted in Western liberal values, the game seems already rigged, as Gunson rightly notes (Gunson 2010, p. 30). The basic challenge seems then to be in the interplay of a universal moral framework governed by norms of rationality and a group identity in its endeavor toward recognition.
Global bioethics must face these issues. Ferry’s work offers an interesting approach that may build the groundwork that could help to face this fundamental ethical challenge intimately tied to the global bioethics project.
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