In the Matter of Stories
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This essay lays out some of the many resources that a background in literary studies has to offer bioethics. After identifying four useful characteristics of stories, it briefly discusses some kinds of moral work that stories can be put to, including countering ethically undesirable stories and modeling ethically troubling situations. Stories can be invoked in our moral reasoning, compared and parsed, and used to teach moral lessons. They can help us discern which moral concepts are operative in a specific instance. Our personal identities consist of stories, which help us understand who we and other people are. Stories can also be parodied, for political or other effect. Stories can perform these moral functions only to the extent that the persons telling or invoking or parodying them are themselves morally competent. But given that competence, a scholarly grasp of literature and narrative can greatly enhance bioethical reflection.