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Thursday, March 3, 2016

A sociological analysis of ethical expertise: The case of bioethics

Nathan Emmerich
Sage Open
Published 22 June 2015
DOI: 10.1177/2158244015590445


This article outlines a theoretical and conceptual account for the analysis of contemporary ethical or “bioethical” expertise. The substantive focus is on the academic discipline of bioethics—understood as a “practical” or “applied” ethics—and its relationship to medicine and medical ethics. I draw intellectual inspiration from the sociology of science and make use of research into the idea of “expertise” per se. In so doing, I am attempting to move the debate beyond the limitations placed upon it by philosophical or meta-ethical analysis and develop a perspective than can be used to address the sociological reality of (bio)ethical expertise. To do so, I offer the terms ethos and eidos to provide a basic conceptual framework for the sociological analysis of “morality” and “ethics.” I then turn to an exegesis of Collins and Evans’s account of ubiquitous, contributory, and interactional expertise and situate these topics in relation to academic bioethics and medical practice. My account suggests a particular understanding of the kinds of relationships that “bioethics” should seek to foster with the social fields it endeavors to not only comment on but also influence.

The article is here.