Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Henk ten Have

Language Politics

  • M. Patrão Neves
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_262-1


Language politics is playing an increasingly important role in bioethics, both in a positive sense, which has recently been possible to attribute to it, and in the negative sense, which, since the sophists, traditionally belongs to it.

In the positive sense, language politics proceeds through the re-appreciation of concepts, promoting its accuracy, contributing to a better understanding of the situation, and facilitating the most adequate ethical decision. In the negative sense, language politics proceeds through the redefinition of concepts, reshaping reality following specific interests and leading to the adoption of certain practices accordingly. In this perspective, language politics affects the soundness and integrity of the ethical reflection and the objectivity and credibility of the decisions taken. Briefly, it affects the legitimacy of bioethics’ arguments and deliberations.

This entry describes the context that gives way to language politics, within the triangulation of thought, reality, and language, defines how it can take place, and reviews some paradigmatic examples of language politics in bioethics, both good and bad.

The way language politics can work and the impact it can have are presented through examples selected from different biomedical areas.


Bioethics Thought Reality Language Reflection Decision making Biological life and personal life Killing and letting die Action and omission Ordinary and extraordinary treatment Passive euthanasia and active euthanasia Pre-embryo and embryo Therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning 
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Further Readings

  1. Chadwick, R., Callahan, D., & Singer, P. (2012). Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2nd edition, San Diego, Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Ferrer Colomer, M., & Pastor, L. M. (2012). The preembryo’s short lifetime. The history of a word. Cuadernos de Bioética, 23(79), 677–694.Google Scholar
  3. Folscheid, D., Feuillet-Le Mintier, B., & Mattei, J.-F. (1997). Philosophie, éthique et droit de la medicine. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  4. Kass, L. R. (2002). Human cloning and human dignity, The report of the President’s Council on Bioethics. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  5. Oderberg, D. (2000). Applied ethics, a non-consequentialist approach. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Pence, G. E. (1990). Classic cases in medical ethics. Account of the cases that have shaped medical ethics, with philosophical, legal, and historical backgrounds. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  7. Reich, W. (1995). Encyclopedia of Bioethics. New York: MacmillanGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioethics Research Centre, Bioethics InstituteCatholic University of PortugalPortoPortugal