Sunday, October 03, 2010

Teaching Applied Ethics

I have a piece in the latest Journal of Medical Ethics (36:10) on teaching applied ethics. Abstract here, full text (subscription required) here.

This is my first publication under my University of Stirling affiliation, although they did get my email address wrong (that was partly my fault - I'd told them what I expected it to be, though I did then notify them that it wasn't as expected for some reason). I'm not sure whether I can legitimately count it as a 'research publication' or not though, since while it draws on discipline-specific expertise it's really a piece about teaching. Also it's published in their 'controversy' section, since it's a continuation of a debate between Rob Lawlor and David Benatar.

For those interested, the debate between Lawlor and Benatar focused on whether or not it was helpful to teach moral theories as part of applied ethics courses (particularly to medical students). The debate between them, as is often the case, seemed to reach an impasse, since both wanted to make weak claims while accusing the other of stronger ones (that is, Lawlor didn't say we should never teach moral theories).

My contribution is to suggest that, rather than focusing on whether - or how much - we teach moral theories (which may in any case be out of the instructor's control), we should focus on how we go about doing it. Specifically, I suggest that rather than starting with a theory-driven approach, we begin by examining particular issues and work from there towards theory-building.

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