implication of wanting public policy in a liberal democracy to be justified as far as possible by shared reasons that all could accept as reasonable.


I shall emphasize only two general points in conclusion. The first is that the process of public moral discourse in which an ethics commission engages is not fundamentally different in its nature from the moral reasoning in which individual members of the society engage in public and private contexts. The second point is that while the process of public moral discourse, even properly carried out, does not guarantee the truth or correctness of the conclusions it yields, it can provide us with a warrant for accepting them as a justified basis for public policy.



While some people make a distinction, although usually not a clear one, between "ethics" and "morality," I shall use them interchangeably in this paper.


D. Rothman, Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making. New York: Basic Books (1991); Henry Beecher, "Ethics and Clinical Research," New England Journal of Medicine 74 (1966) 1354-1360.


President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (1983).


Brock, D.W. "Voluntary Active Euthanasia," Hastings Center Report 22 (March-April 1992) 10-22, and reprinted in Dan W. Brock, Life and Death: Philosophical Essays in Biomedical Ethics. Cambridge University Press (1993).


Rawls,J. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Foundationalists differ on how this privileged truth status can be secured for some moral judgments, as well as on what the privileged status is, e.g., contingent or necessary truth. Intuitionists like H. A. Prichard and W. D. Ross both held that some moral statements are necessary truths, although they disagreed about whether the moral statements that had this privileged truth status were concrete, all-things-considered moral judgments about particular actions, or general principles specifying moral duties such as to keep promises and not to deceive, which could be overridden in some particular circumstances.


Jonsen, A.R. and S. Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. To what extent Jonsen and Toulmin are examples of what I call Particularists is unclear. They do endorse a "stronger claim-namely that moral knowledge is essentially particular so that sound resolutions of moral problems must always be rooted in a concrete understanding of specific cases and circumstances .... The stronger account sees the primary locus of moral understanding as lying in the recognition of paradigmatic examples of good and evil, right and wrong." p. 330 (Italics in original) This suggests that they do accept the epistemic aspect of what I call Particularism that moral truth or knowledge is to be found at the level of particular cases, their "paradigmatic examples." It may be that their account of the actual process of moral reasoning, which is centrally a matter of fitting specific actual cases to the paradigmatic examples, does make room for general principles in the manner of reflective equilibrium discussed below, although I am unsure of this. But it is unlike Rawlsian reflective equilibrium in giving judgments about particular

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