Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 81–90

Towards an empirical ethics in care: relations with technologies in health care

Scientific Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s11019-014-9582-9

Cite this article as:
Pols, J. Med Health Care and Philos (2015) 18: 81. doi:10.1007/s11019-014-9582-9


This paper describes the approach of empirical ethics, a form of ethics that integrates non-positivist ethnographic empirical research and philosophy. Empirical ethics as it is discussed here builds on the ‘empirical turn’ in epistemology. It radicalizes the relational approach that care ethics introduced to think about care between people by drawing in relations between people and technologies as things people relate to. Empirical ethics studies care practices by analysing their intra-normativity, or the ways of living together the actors within these practices strive for or bring about as good practices. Different from care ethics, what care is and if it is good is not defined beforehand. A care practice may be contested by comparing it to alternative practices with different notions of good care. By contrasting practices as different ways of living together that are normatively oriented, suggestions for the best possible care may be argued for. Whether these suggestions will actually be put to practice is, however, again a relational question; new actors need to re-localize suggestions, to make them work in new practices and fit them in with local intra-normativities with their particular routines, material infrastructures, know-how and strivings.


Empirical ethics Care ethics Intra-normativity Ethnography Telecare 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Medical Ethics, Department of General PracticeAcademic Medical CentreAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Sociology AnthropologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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