Imaginative Ethics -- Bringing Ethical Praxis Into Sharper Relief
Hansson, Mats G.
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal 2002; 5(1): 33-42
The empirical basis for this article is three years of experience with ethical rounds at Uppsala University Hospital. Three standard approaches of ethical reasoning are examined as potential explanations of what actually occurs during the ethical rounds. For reasons given, these are not found to be satisfying explanations. An approach called "imaginative ethics", is suggested as a more satisfactory account of this kind of ethical reasoning. The participants in the ethical rounds seem to draw on a kind of moral competence based on personal life experience and professional competence and experience. By listening to other perspectives and other experiences related to one particular patient story, the participants imagine alternative horizons of moral experience and explore a multitude of values related to clinical practice that might be at stake. In his systematic treatment of aesthetics in the Critique of Judgement, Kant made use of an operation of thought that, if applied to ethics, will enable us to be more sensitive to the particulars of each moral situation. Based on this reading of Kant, an account of imaginative ethics is developed in order to bring the ethical praxis of doctors and nurses into sharper relief. The Hebraic and the Hellenic traditions of imagination are used in order to illuminate some of the experiences of ethical rounds. In conclusion, it is argued that imaginative ethics and principle-based ethics should be seen as complementary in order to endow a moral discourse with ethical authority. Kantian ethics will do the job if it is remembered that Kant suggested only a modest, negative role of principle-based deliberation.
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