The Hastings Center Report
Article first published online: 5 FEB 2016
History's judgment on the success of bioethics will not depend solely on the conceptual creativity and innovation in the field at the level of ethical and political theory, but this intellectual work is not insignificant. One important new development is what I shall refer to as the relational turn in bioethics. This development represents a renewed emphasis on the ideographic approach, which interprets the meaning of right and wrong in human actions as they are inscribed in social and cultural practices and in structures of lived meaning and interdependence; in an ideographic approach, the task of bioethics is to bring practice into theory, not the other way around.
The relational turn in bioethics may profoundly affect the critical questions that the field asks and the ethical guidance it offers society, politics, and policy. The relational turn provides a way of correcting the excessive atomism of many individualistic perspectives that have been, and continue to be, influential in bioethics. Nonetheless, I would argue that most of the work reflecting the relational turn remains distinctively liberal in its respect for the ethical significance of the human individual. It moves away from individualism, but not from the value of individuality.In this review essay, I shall focus on how the relational turn has manifested itself in work on core concepts in bioethics, especially liberty and autonomy. Following a general review, I conclude with a brief consideration of two important recent books in this area: Jennifer Nedelsky's Law's Relations and Rachel Haliburton's Autonomy and the Situated Self.
The article is here.