Audience and Authority: The Story in Front of the Story
Journal of Clinical Ethics. 1996 Winter; 7(4): 355-361.
For all of the talk of "The Good" in the field of bioethics, there is probably too little talk about the simple acts of goodness that ought to be at the heart of the genuine moral gesture of providing care for the stranger. Ethicists are analysts, critics, outsiders by right and by design -- observers of the good. But little attention has been paid to whether this good act is something that the ethicist is ultimately responsible for doing, as well as observing. Between the gesture of ethics consultation, and the analysis of the ethical question, lies the case itself, or rather, the case that we are shown in the telling, which gives us our bearings for the work of, first, descriptive ethics, and finally, normative ethics. At stake in the discussion that follows is how to delineate the authority of the listeners -- at what point in the narrative frame does the moral action of a case demand the radical change in course that bioethics can provide?
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