Title

Moral Strangers, Proceduralism, and Moral Consensus

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2015

Abstract

This essay is meant to honor H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. and acknowledge the influence of his work in my wrestling with the philosophical, moral, and political predicament of Western culture. I recognize my debt to Tris in my intellectual development and in my scholarship, particularly in framing a proceduralist approach to ethics. That said, I also outline some points of divergence. While I am sympathetic with his diagnosis of the predicament of Western culture and its implications for bioethics, I raise some critical points concerning the notion of moral strangers and his approach to procedural ethics. First, I outline Tris’ diagnosis of the nature of secular morality in Western culture, which by default is procedural, and examine the concept of moral strangers. Second, I critically assess Tris’ proceduralism and argue that his framework does not take into account the possibility of overlapping frameworks between various moral communities. Hence, third, I argue for a weak form of proceduralism, which allows the establishment of moral discourse through a web of partial understandings of moral issues, in spite of moral disagreements. I conclude my essay by recognizing the significance of Tris’ criticism of mainstream bioethics and underscore the importance of his legacy for the future of the field.

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