Debate runs deep on the appropriate relationship between “empirical” and “normative” bioethics. But we should also inquire as to the initial justification for this foundational division. We argue that the normative–empirical divide is premised on a fundamental, problematically unrealistic, dichotomized understanding of the relationships between moral experience in the past and present (often investigated by “empirical bioethics”) and the kind of theory that guides futureoriented ethical thinking (often described as “normative bioethics”). We first criticize this divide and then offer a proposal for re-envisioning a nondichotomized field of bioethics. We pull from the tradition of pragmatism, which offers an alternate transactionalist account of the often dichotomized relationship between knowing and valuing (Pekarsky 1990) and orients toward openended (nonteleological) views on human flourishing, an orientation that is now well supported by contemporary psychology (Ryff 2014).


Racine Eric, Cascio Ariel. The false dichotomy between empirical and normative bioethics. AJOB Empirical Bioethics, 2020; 11(1), 5-7.


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