The Family and the Cultural Crisis of Bioethics
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract in English only.
The issue of the family has long been repressed and de-emphasized on the agenda of contemporary bioethics. In stark contrast, in his latest essay Engelhardt gives the family a central place in accounting for some profound social-political controversies in recent bioethical debates. The question therefore arises: what difference would it make to bioethics if we were to treat the family as a central and divisive issue in bioethics? This question helps us to assess the significance of Engelhardt’s essay. In this paper, I try to answer this question and also consider Engelhardt’s essay from the perspective of cultural crisis. First, I argue that by bringing the family to the fore, Engelhardt is not concerned with one new item on the agenda of bioethics, but with an overall cultural crisis originating from the libertarian/liberal construal of family prevailing in the contemporary, secular, quasi-post-modern world. Second, I show that the mainstream Western bioethics proves to be part of this crisis, rather than its cure. Therefore, the ultimate goal of Engelhardt’s essay is to examine the limit and possibility of dominant Western bioethical discourse, with a view to honestly assessing the social, financial, and moral costs involved in an increased presence of post-traditional families. Finally, following this line of thought, I suggest that an inter-cultural dialogue is the key to dealing with the crisis under discussion.
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