The Place of Philosophy in Bioethics Today

Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, Sean Aas, Dan Brudney, Jessica Flanigan, S. Matthew Liao, Alex London, Wayne Sumner, Julian Savulescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In some views, philosophy’s glory days in bioethics are over. While philosophers were especially important in the early days of the field, so the argument goes, the majority of the work in bioethics today involves the “simple” application of existing philosophical principles or concepts, as well as empirical work in bioethics. Here, we address this view head on and ask: What is the role of philosophy in bioethics today? This paper has three specific aims: (1) to respond to skeptics and make the case that philosophy and philosophers still have a very important and meaningful role to play in contemporary bioethics, (2) to discuss some of the current challenges to the meaningful integration of philosophy and bioethics, and (3) to make suggestions for what needs to happen in order for the two fields to stay richly connected. We outline how bioethics center directors, funders, and philosopher bioethicists can help.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2022


  • Neuroethics
  • philosophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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