Healthcare Ethics Committees Without Function? Locations and Forms of Ethical Speech in a ‘Society of Presents’

Bioethical Issues, Sociological Perspectives

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1438-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-501-7

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 1 January 2007


Before starting research in the field of ethics, a few common assumptions need to be cleared up. The first is so common that it needs very little space at all: Ethics is a scientific discipline. This accurately describes its location and the problems it covers in a modern, functionally differentiated society. As a branch of philosophy and a normative science, its frame of reference is initially located in a world of possible competing reasons. The basic problem is that of trying to explain good reasons – and the horizon is the sayability of ethical sentences which, even when they reflect an ethical practice, open up a scientific horizon. Ethics is therefore a science – and like every science it can only solve scientific problems (see Luhmann, 2002, pp. 79–93). Practical problems are also the scientific problems of ethics – and that is not a deficiency, but rather a consequence of the basic structures of modern society. A modern society cut loose from political, economic, legal, scientific, artistic, educational and medical problems, on the one hand, allows these disconnected spheres to relate radically to each other, while on the other hand making them logically incompatible. A modern society could not exist any other way (see Luhmann, 1998, pp. 1–21; Nassehi, 2005a). This should first be understood before venturing into research on ethics.


Nassehi, A., Saake, I. and Mayr, K. (2007), "Healthcare Ethics Committees Without Function? Locations and Forms of Ethical Speech in a ‘Society of Presents’", Katz Rothman, B., Mitchell Armstrong, E. and Tiger, R. (Ed.) Bioethical Issues, Sociological Perspectives (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 129-156.

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