What Is Too Close, Too Far
At the November 16, 2019 Romanell Workshop on Medical Bioethics, Shane Hemmer (University of Buffalo Romanell Center - Veterans Administration), delivered an insightful and well-presented lecture on “Moral Diversity and Conscientious Objection.”
During the Q. and A. session I asked Shane the following question. An analogy is not an equivalent. What is the line of demarcation between two analogues being close enough to fall under the same laws, rules, protocols, or treatments? When are they dissimilar enough to be treated as separate and distinct?
A method often employed with treatment of analogues is as follows:
___ is to ___
Problem P is treated by solution S. In the case of military conscientious objection it is approached with a series of options to be exercised. Mr. Hemmer did a masterful job in the case of reviewing, comparing and contrasting what should be the way to handle medical conscientious objection in the same, or at least similar enough ways. The focus is to successfully and consistently address the moral concerns for all relevant parties. In this format we see how a problem is handled in one way.
To get at the question of when to use analogous solutions to problems said to be close enough for this to work another approach is recommended.
Let’s look to Pragmatism in Epistemology for a model.
Suppose there are two distinct positions on how we know what we know.
Let’s posit that in each case there is agreement on an account that satisfies both parties in the following four matters.
Consistency. In each approach there are no inconsistencies identified.
Coherence. Each model seems equally well put together so that there are no loose or sloppy ends.
Clarity. Each methodology is on a par for being accessible. Using technically defined terms, people using either are employing the same terms in the same ways. There is no saying the same thing with sufficiently different meanings to cloud or prevent communication.
Correspondence. Both ways of doing this conform to facts on the ground. Either path is harmonious with what the field accepts to be the case.
What is our epistemological tie breaker?
Pragmatism would promote whichever theory yields the greater insight into what is not known or agreed upon should be employed as a working hypothesis.
When a better one emerges put that to work. This will provide superior insight into the unknown or not agreed upon.
Let’s think through how to apply this to Dr. Hemmer’s analogue of military and medical conscientious objection.
Rather than trying to use the P over S for an approach to P1 over X1 to see if it works well enough for the analogue to hold, let’s try a more situational rather than deontological approach. Separately try to find a P over S for each format of conscientious objection. When done independently, compare and contrast the P over S for each.
Ask the following questions;
Does each approach yield an account for successfully approaching the problem in a way which deals with Consistency, Coherence, Clarity and Correspondence equally?
If so, which of the two yields more insight into what is not agreed upon and/or known?
Finally, and most important for us to address the matter of how close is close enough, and how far too far for the analogy to hold. Can we identify the border where the analogy is close enough to be helpful? In the alternative, are we able to quantify when the analogues are sufficiently distinct that we need to apply entirely separate methods in order to achieve the best moral outcome in either case?
This pathway can help us not only in medical bio ethics.
It can be useful in any area of moral philosophical, theosophical or theological ethical inquiry.
Good old American Pragmatism.
Kindly observe site CoC, TOS; and the Four B’s.
Or Be Gone!
Please feel free to contribute your thoughts on this matter.
It is heady stuff.
You can do it.
We want to hear your insights.
Peace and Abundant Blessings Always.