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Human Lives pp 128-143 | Cite as

Medicine, Virtues and Consequences

  • John Cottingham

Abstract

In an interview for a serious medical journal, a famous doctor is asked what his main career goals are. ‘To double my salary before I retire,’ he replies; ‘and to spend more time at the exclusive golf club to which I’ve just been elected.’ There is perhaps nothing terribly wrong with either of these aims, but we can well imagine the interviewer being taken aback. What he wanted to know about was the doctor’s aims as a doctor. The answers he got related to something else — personal goals, or ‘off-duty goals’ we might say, or even goals of the subject qua salary earner; but not his goals qua doctor.

Keywords

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Nicomachean Ethic Physician Assist Suicide Virtue Theory Good Doctor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    R. M. Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (London: Duckworth, 1977), ch. 9, pp. 223–39. For more on this, see J. Cottingham, ‘Race and Individual Merit’, Philosophy 55 (1980) 525–31.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Richard Momeyer, ‘Does Physician Assisted Suicide Violate the Integrity of Medicine?’, The Journal of Medicial and Philosophy 20 (1995) 13–24, p. 17.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    For an illuminating exposition of some of the basic ingredients of this traditional picture, see Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge: CUP, 1989), Parts I and II.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    In the well-known Aristotelian schema, there are four types of cause or explanation: formal, material, efficient and final. To provide the formal cause is to specify something’s essential nature — ‘what it is to be something’. The material cause specifies something’s constituents or ingredients; the efficient cause is the motive or productive agency that brings something about (‘that from which the first origin of change proceeds’); and the final cause is what something is for, or ‘that for the sake of which’ something comes about See Aristotle, Physics, Book II, ch. 3; Posterior Analytics, Book II, ch. 11; Metaphysics, Book Delta, 1013a29. For more information on these notions as used in the seventeenth century, see J. Cottingham, A Descartes Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), s.v. ‘cause’.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    For a discussion of the philosophical issues involved here, see A. Woodfield, Teleology (CUP, 1976), and C. Price, ‘Functional Explanations and Natural Norms’, Ratio 8 (1995) 143–60.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Sämtliche Werke, ed. K. Sudhoff and W. Matthiessen (Munich: Barth, 1922–5) I, 12, p. 148ff.; in Selected Writings, ed. I Jacobi (London: Routledge, 1951), p. 183. ‘Paracelsus’ (Philipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) died in 1541. His voluminous writings (some apocryphal) covered a wide variety of philosophical and medical topics and exerted considerable influence in the late Renaissance. See further B. P. Copenhaver and C. B. Schmitt, Renaissance Philosophy (Oxford: OUP, 1992), p. 306.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    For the incomprehensibility of the divine will in Descartes, see J. Cottingham, ‘The Cartesian Legacy’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Sup. Vol. LXVI (1992) 1–21.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    ‘[Ces notions générales touchant la physique] m’ont fait voir qu’il est possible à parvenir à des connaissances qui soient fort utiles à la vie, et qu’au lieu de cette philosophie spéculative, qu’on enseigne dans les écoles, on en peut trouver une pratique, par laquelle, connaissant la force et les actions du feu, de l’eau, des astres, des cieux et de tous les autres corps qui nos environnent, aussi distinctement que nous connaissons les divers métiers de nos artisans, nous les pourrions employer en même façon à tous les usages auxquels ils sont propres, et ainsi nous rendre comme maîtres et possesseurs de la nature’: Discourse on the Method (1637), part vi. See The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, ed. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch (Cambridge: CUP, 1985), Vol. I, pp. 142–3.Google Scholar
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    See I Cottingham, ‘Partiality and the Virtues’, in R. Crisp (ed.), How Should One Live? Essays on the Philosophy of Virtue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Source: THE Independent (London), 1st February 1995, p. 21.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    See P. Foot, ‘Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect’, in Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    J. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), ed. J. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (London: Methuen, 1970), ch. 8. See further G. E. M. Anscombe, ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’, Philosophy 33 (1958) 1–19, and R. A. Duff, Intention, Agency and Criminal Liability (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), ch. 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 23.
    See Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Etre et le Néant (1943), trans. H. Barnes, Being and Nothingness (London: Methuen, 1957), Part I, ch. 2.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    ‘It does not follow that the unjust man can stop being unjust and be just if he wants to — no more than a sick man can become healthy, even though (it may be) his sickness is voluntary, being the result of incontinent living and disobeying his doctors. There was a time when it was open to him not to be ill, but when he had thrown away his chance it was gone, just as when one has let go of a stone it is too late to get it back’: Nicomachean Ethics, 1114a13–19, trans. J. A. K. Thomson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, revised ed. 1978).Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    In Godwin’s famous example, if two people (a philanthropic archbishop and a chambermaid) are trapped in a burning building, and I can rescue only one, then I should rescue the one who can do more good for mankind as a whole. Given that this is the archbishop, then it is he who should be rescued; I should resolutely set aside the fact that the chambermaid happens to be my mother, for ‘What magic is in the pronoun “my” that should justify us in overturning the decisions of impartial truth?’: William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), Bk II, ch. 2.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    See J. Rawls, ‘Two Concepts of Rules’, Philosophical Review 64 (1955) 3–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David S. Oderberg and Jacqueline A. Laing 1997

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  • John Cottingham

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