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Topic: Conceptual Research
April 11, 2013 | Posted By Wayne Shelton, PhD

Much of the history of philosophy, including the history of philosophical ethics, can be summarized as the quest for a basis in an objective, rational truth. My sense is that many ethicists, both philosophers and non-philosophers, today have not let go of this quest entirely. The purpose of this short blog to is sketch briefly the philosophical landscape of our tradition and what I think is the proper response to it in terms of how we should view ethics.

Early Greek philosophers, such as Thales, Democritus, Parmenides and Heraclitus were seeking an understanding of the natural phenomena independent from traditional mythology. Their goal was to find an explanation that accounted for both diversity and change in nature, but also the unity and continuity. A basic question became, what is the ultimate source or the most basic element of the universe that helps us understand the universe, as well as what we know and how we should live? Plato, through his dialogues using Socrates as his mouthpiece, postulated that ultimate Truth or Good is to be found in the Forms, which were in a separate, higher realm from everyday human experience. For Plato, what we come to know in the realm of earthly experience is always an approximation of their ultimate counterparts in the Forms. Of course a special realm of truth requires a special understanding, which not surprisingly he believed was accessible only to the Philosopher King, whose understanding was oriented to such a level.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

March 21, 2013 | Posted By Zubin Master, PhD

Last month I wrote a blog arguing that bioethicists should pay closer attention to the responsible conduct of bioethics research. Just to recap, the responsible conduct of research (RCR), also known as research integrity, has to a large extent focused on the natural and applied sciences and very little attention has been devoted to interdisciplinary areas of research i.e., bioethics. RCR can be described as a set of norms and practices that aim to ensure integrity in the conduct of research and focus on various aspects including fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, authorship and publication ethics, peer review, good mentoring, data management, and other areas. There has been little research on research integrity done as it relates to bioethics and I pointed to a few studies on authorship and publication ethics that have been published. This month, I would like to raise a question I have been thinking about for some time and an area of research integrity in bioethics I wish to write about in the not too distant future. The question I would like to address is what is conceptual bioethics research? Perhaps a better way to phrase this question might be to ask, what is good conceptual bioethics research or even what might not be considered conceptual bioethics research?

It is really difficult to find anything on the term “conceptual research” and coming from a biomedical science background, I had never heard of this form of research until I transitioned into bioethics. Somewhat equivalent terms are theoretical research, or thought experiments. All research involves the systematic study to develop and increase knowledge. This could mean confirming previous results, challenging theories, and testing the validity of theories, practices or instruments. In a paper co-authored with Dr. David Resnik, we defined research as “a systematic investigation that attempts to advance human knowledge or wisdom. Though research is often associated with scientific inquiry, we do not limit the concept in this way. Research may include scientific studies as well as other scholarly activities, such as philosophical or legal analysis, literature interpretation, theological reflection, historiography, journalism, etc.”

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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