The “Four Principles” at 40: What is Their Role in Introductory Bioethics Classes?

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This is the text of a paper (along with appendixes) delivered at the 2019 annual meeting of the Minnesota Philosophical Society on Oct 26 in Cambridge, MN. Beauchamp and Childress’s “Four Principles” (or “Principlism”) approach to bioethics has become something of a standard not only in bioethics classrooms and journals, but also within medicine itself. In this teaching-focused workshop, I’ll be doing the following: (1) Introducing the basics of the “Four Principles” approach, with a special focus on its relation to the common morality and the importance to weighing and balancing of competing norms. (2) Comparing and contrasting this to other potential approaches, such as those provided by virtue ethics, act utilitarianism, casuistry, and competing versions of principles-based ethics. (3) Considering the ways in which the principles-based approach can best be implemented for lower-level, introductory bioethics classes, where the average student may have little background knowledge in either philosophy or medicine. I’ll be presenting sample activities, case studies, and lesson plans. There will be considerable time reserved for discussion at the end, so that participants can exchange ideas relating to the teaching of both bioethics and other varieties of applied ethics.
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Archival date: 2019-11-03
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