Bioethics and Cara Sui
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2005; 2(1): 24-33
Cara sui (care of the self) is a guiding thread in Foucault's later writings on ethics. Following Foucault in that inquiry, we are urged beyond our fairly superficial conceptions of consequences, harms, benefits, and the rights of persons, and led to examine ourselves and try to articulate the sense of life that animates ethical reasoning. The result is a nuanced understanding with links to virtue ethics and post-modern approaches to ethics and subjectivity. The approach I have articulated draws on the phenomenology of Levinas and Heidegger, the Virtue ethics of Baier, and the post-structuralist writing of Michel Foucault. The subject is seen as negotiable, embodied, provisional and able to be transformed in a way that denies essentialism about human beings, their moral status, and the idea of the good. The human being emerges as responsible because, properly, responsive to the context of discourse in which morality becomes articulated. When we import this style of thinking into bioethics we find that it reaches beyond issues of policy or right conduct and allows us to use the biomedical sciences and the clinical world to revise and interrogate our understanding of ourselves and the theoretical foundations of health care ethics.