Webb Keane’s Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social Histories (2016) asks how people live lives they consider ethical. He calls into question what counts in people’s categorization of a situation as ethical, and he considers the boundaries between the ethical and the moral, noting lack of consistent usage between those terms. This review essay focuses on how Keane’s arguments help articulate a fundamental contradiction between the everyday ethics that people bring to health-care situations and the institutional ethics that frames professionals’ work and discourse. Keane’s work is especially valuable in emphasizing the importance of “minor things” such as dress in how people make ethical evaluations. He emphasizes that ethical work is interactive, taking place in particular forms of talk.


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pp. 283-292
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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