Registration now open: Particularism in Bioethics, Professional Ethics and Medicine. Manchester Metropolitan University 19 June 2014

Workshop Theme

Traditionally conceived, the core of medical ethics consists of impartial and universal ethical principles, e.g., non-maleficence and respect for autonomy. These principles are supposed to apply to all moral agents.  But patients, health care professionals and clinical settings differ in many and in crucial respects. One problem of the principled approach is to how to account for the ways in which impartial and universal principles are supposed to be sensitive contextual parameters such individual attitudes, cultural aspects and situational differences.

Moral particularism is a philosophical tradition that is well equipped to make sense of how health care can be personalised in a context sensitive way. According to particularists, moral thought and judgement neither need nor should be principle-based but rather requires the exercise of discernment in a case-by-case basis. It is high time to move this theoretical debate into a wider, more practical context.

After long having been neglected, the possibility of applied moral particularism is once again being given serious consideration. For instance, there has been a strong emphasis on partiality and the development of personal relationships in the field of bioethics and professional ethics. Elsewhere in clinical medicine, there has been a renewed interest in the methodology of narrative medicine, personalized (or precision) models of medicine and value based practice. Nationally in the UK, in view of the Francis Report and the Secretary of State for Health’s initial response to the crisis in the Mid-Staffordshire Trust, the language of discernment, compassion, engagement and context which drives and motivates the distinctive particularist approach is becoming increasingly important as a focus for debates over the moral and vocational nature of health care and nursing ethics.

In light of these developments, the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Research at Manchester Metropolitan University is convening a networking workshop on the topic of Particularist Bioethics, where ‘Bioethics’ is being understood broadly so as to include normative ethics, medical and nursing ethics, narrative medicine and cognitive science.

The central questions to which the conference will be addressed include:

(i)    Are there good reasons for thinking that applied moral particularism is possible as a bio-ethical theory? Is this limited to any particular methodology in bio-ethical research?

(ii)  Is the appeal to particularism a recovery of medical and health care ethics’ moral compass, or a symptom of the undermining of the moral foundations of health care provision?

(iii) Can the language of narrative explanation better capture the moral problems confronted by medical professionals, or might it obfuscate and distract us from more subtle and demanding issues in cost-benefit analysis?

(iv) Is there an inevitable tension between particularist approaches and the need for universally applicable standards of efficient and effective care? Should adequate health care policy aim at reconciliation?

The workshop will bring together emerging and established scholars who have made notable contributions to the reception of normative moral particularism in applied philosophy and the health care profession, and Postgraduate Research Students working in the field.

The workshop also serves as a start-up research networking event to establish a transnational Research Consortium Particularism in Bioethics, Professional Ethics and Medicine comprising MMU (UK), Uppsala University (Sweden), University of Oslo and Diakonhjemmet University College (Norway) and Tilburg University (The Netherlands).The planned outcome of the proposed initial one-day networking workshop is a special Open Call for Papers edition of the Journal of Applied Philosophy.



Dr Anna Bergqvist, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Dr Emma Bullock, King’s College London.

Professor Steven D. Edwards, Swansea University.

Dr Ulrik Kihlbom, Uppsala University.

Professor Per Nortvedt, University of Oslo.

Dr Anne Raustøl, Diakonhjemmet University College.

Dr Benedict Smith, Durham University.

Professor Alan Thomas, Tilburg University.


Conference Support

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Society of Applied Philosophy, the Mind Association and the Manchester Metropolitan University Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Research.


Workshop Registration

Attendance is free and open for all. Registration by email to Dr Anna Bergqvist.

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