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Rethinking Autonomy

A Critique of Principlism in Biomedical Ethics

John W. Traphagan

Publication Year: 2012

Provides a critique of and alternative to the dominant paradigm used in biomedical ethics by exploring the Japanese concept of autonomy.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Chapter 1 Inventing Ethics

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pp. 1-26

This book has been brewing in my head for more than twenty years, ever since I started graduate studies at Yale Divinity School focused on religious and social ethics. Throughout my time at Yale, I was constantly nagged by the feeling that the way in which religious and biomedical ethicists approach moral reasoning at American universities is flawed. I ...

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Chapter 2 Self, Autonomy, and Body

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pp. 27-62

In this chapter, I focus on the issue of autonomy, which I view as the conceptual product and generator of the Western (particularly American) notion of the self as atomistic and ontologically isolated from other selves. It is important to keep in mind the fact that theoretical approaches to culture that set up dichotomies between individualist versus...

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Chapter 3 Autonomy and Japanese Self-Concepts

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pp. 63-78

Dôgen’s comments on the path to Enlightenment tell us much about the Japanese approach to mind and body. In many areas of activity, such as martial arts, when Japanese work to master a skill they attempt to clear the mind and be as a body, rather than attempting to exert control over the body. There is not a sense of mind over matter; quite the contrary, it ...

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Chapter 4 Autonomies, Virtue, and Social Change

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pp. 79-94

In Chapter 3, I used the word virtue, but the concept presents problems when thinking about comparative ethics. From a cross-cultural perspective, we need to ask the question: What do we mean when we talk about virtues or virtuous behavior? I am not asking if there are specific equivalent virtues when we talk about different cultural contexts, although...

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Chapter 5 Mental Health, Suicide, and Self-Centered Behavior

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pp. 95-118

In the previous chapters, I discussed Japanese concepts of self, mind, body, and family, arguing that the notion of autonomy for Japanese is not conceptualized along the lines of the Western ideal as presented in most ethics discourse. Essentially, Japanese do not really see each human as a morally autonomous locus of decision making—at least not in the ...

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Chapter 6 Emotion, Aesthetics, and Moral Action

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pp. 119-134

Throughout this book, I have explored several key points related to how Japanese conceptualize ethics and think about autonomy, and it is helpful to summarize these ideas before we move on. First, although Japanese recognize and value individuality, there is a powerful sense that humans cannot truly act autonomously. The fact of being embedded in social...

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Chapter 7 Rethinking Autonomy

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pp. 135-146

When the great earthquake and tsunami (Tôhoku Daishinsai 東北大震災) devastated the northeastern coast of Japan, many reporters in the American news media showed surprise at the response of the Japanese people living in that area. The lack of criminal activities such as looting and the general orderliness and willingness to help others seemed to impress many in the United States. Shortly after the disaster, I was interviewed ...


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pp. 147-158


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pp. 159-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438445540
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438445533

Page Count: 173
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 834143108
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rethinking Autonomy

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Subject Headings

  • Medical ethics.
  • Ethics -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Autonomy (Psychology).
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