Telos versus Praxis in Bioethics

Tod S. Chambers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The authors of "A Conceptual Model for the Translation of Bioethics Research and Scholarship" argue that bioethics must respond to institutional pressures by demonstrating that it is having an impact in the world. Any impact, the authors observe, must be "informed" by the goals of the discipline of bioethics. The concept of bioethics as a discipline is central to their argument. They begin by citing an essay that Daniel Callahan wrote in the first issue of Hastings Center Studies. Callahan argued in this 1973 piece that bioethics had yet to attain the status of a discipline, and he lauded the freedom of being able to define a new discipline. Callahan's essay shares with Mathews and colleague's a peculiarity: neither ever defines what it means to refer to something as a "discipline." To define a discipline does mean attending to the intended end product of scholarly activity, so I concur with Mathews et al.'s focus on outcomes. But I am concerned that in their argument they confusingly entangle their understanding of an academic discipline's internal goals, its telos, with its potential to have an impact on the external world, its praxis. The confusion that this can bring exposes what I believe is a profound problem within bioethics, the discipline's peculiar and at times intellectually hazardous relationship with its institutional hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-42
Number of pages2
JournalThe Hastings Center Report
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


Dive into the research topics of 'Telos versus Praxis in Bioethics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this