An anthropological exploration of contemporary bioethics: The varieties of common sense

Leigh Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Patients and physicians can inhabit distinctive social worlds where they are guided by diverse understandings of moral practice. Despite the contemporary presence of multiple moral traditions, religious communities and ethnic backgrounds, two of the major methodological approaches in bioethics, casuistry and principlism, rely upon the notion of a common morality. However, the heterogeneity of ethnic, moral, and religious traditions raises questions concerning the singularity of common sense. Indeed, it might be more appropriate to consider plural traditions of moral reasoning. This poses a considerable challenge for bioethicists because the existence plural moral traditioons can lead to difficulties regarding 'closure' in moral reasoning. The topics of truth-telling, informed consent, euthanasia, and brain death and organ transplantation reveal the presence of different understandings of common sense. With regard to these subjects, plural accounts of 'commonsense' moral reasoning exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-133
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropology
  • Bioethics
  • Casuistry
  • Diversity
  • Pluralism
  • Principlism


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