Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 709–722

Devotion, Diversity, and Reasoning: Religion and Medical Ethics

Original Research


Most modern ethicists and ethics textbooks assert that religion holds little or no place in ethics, including fields of professional ethics like medical ethics. This assertion, of course, implicitly refers to ethical reasoning, but there is much more to the ethical life and the practice of ethics—especially professional ethics—than reasoning. It is no surprise that teachers of practical ethics, myself included, often focus on reasoning to the exclusion of other aspects of the ethical life. Especially for those with a philosophical background, reasoning is the most patent and pedagogically controllable aspect of the ethical life—and the most easily testable. And whereas there may be powerful reasons for the limitation of religion in this aspect of ethics, there are other aspects of the ethical life in which recognition of religious belief may arguably be more relevant and possibly even necessary. I divide the ethical life into three areas—personal morality, interpersonal morality, and rational morality—each of which I explore in terms of its relationship to religion, normatively characterized by the qualities of devotion, diversity, and reasoning, respectively.


Bioethics Medical ethics Religion Secular 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Administration, Division of Graduate Nursing, College of Nursing and Health ProfessionsDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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