A Cultural Giant

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Pinni B building auditorium 1096, address: Kanslerinrinne 1

Heikki Saxen

Doctoral defence of MA Heikki Saxén

A Cultural Giant: An interpretation of bioethics in light of its intellectual and cultural history

The field of science of the dissertation is History.

The opponent is professor Juha Räikkä (University of Turku). Professor Pertti Haapala acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

Bioethics’ past, current meanings and future possibilities

The field of bioethics was established in the United States during the sixties and early seventies. The field addresses the ethical challenges of life sciences—-the science of living organisms, from plants to humans—-and tries to incorporate various perspectives in doing this. It mostly came into being as a radical challenge to the medical profession and its age-old tradition of ethics, which were seen as exclusivist and elitist. A lot has changed since the early days. Today, bioethics is a broad and somewhat established field in its country of origin and in many places throughout the world.

However, despite its past successes, bioethics now appears to be undergoing a middle age crisis in which people in the field, along with others, are asking perplexing questions about its meaning, essence, and even its reason for being. Bioethics has clearly arrived at some kind of turning point. The outcome of this debate will have a significant impact on determining the future of the field, so the stakes are high. The study seeks to offer fresh answers to the ongoing debate about the nature of bioethics by exploring bioethics’ past and current state from the perspective of intellectual and cultural history.

Eventually, the study argues that bioethics could, and should, be seen as a “cultural giant,” an important part of at least Western culture--a cultural force that could help, for its part, to renew political and social institutions according to present needs. Besides this, bioethics is also argued to have an intrinsic cultural value, in other words, bioethics should not only be judged by its merits; rather, it should be accepted as a matter of fact of the current cultural landscape.

Moreover, to assist bioethics to move forward, the study sketches a few more precise suggestions of how this could be done. Particular emphasis is placed on developing a genuinely new kind of body of thought to support this endeavor. To this end, preliminarily, the study coins a new term, “organic bioethics,” to help in better conceptualizing and embracing the nature of the field and its best qualities.

The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2308, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1812, Tampere University Press 2017.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail: verkkokauppa@juvenesprint.fi.

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