Exemplars, ethics, and illness narratives
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Many people report that reading first-person narratives of the experience of illness can be morally instructive or educative. But although they are ubiquitous and typically sincere, the precise nature of such educative experiences is puzzling, for those narratives typically lack the features that modern philosophers regard as constitutive of moral reason. I argue that such puzzlement should disappear, and the morally educative power of illness narratives explained, if one distinguishes two different styles of moral reasoning: an inferentialist style that generates the puzzlement and an alternative exemplarist style that offers a compelling explanation of the morally educative power of pathographic literature.
KeywordsArgumentation Havi Carel Illness Exemplarism Moral reason Narrative
I offer my thanks to Havi Carel for inspiring my interest in this topic, and to Rachel Cooper and to audiences at Bristol, Nottingham, and Oxford for their comments and encouragement.
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