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Understanding ‘Ethics’ towards ‘Bioethics’

‘Bioethics’ as derived from ‘Ethics’

In our day-to-day lives we encounter words like ‘you are right’, ‘you are wrong’, ‘that is the best’, ‘that is the worst’ plus others that you may mention. These ideas and words believe me make up our life. They add up a lot to the way we relate to each other.

Just like the African Philosopher John S Mbiti in his book ‘African Religions and Philosophy’ once said: “I am because we are and because we are therefore I am”. This seemingly explains the fact that we relate to each other and because of this fact and so does this notion of ethics derived from the Greek word “ethos” comes to play. Ethos derivative would greatly be understood as ‘custom’ and ‘character’.

Custom gives a basis of understanding to us that every person, family, village and society has a unique way of behavior accepted. This behaviour is normal in the above description. In simple terms when somebody repeats a habit daily, monthly and yearly, gets acquainted and used to it which eventually amalgamates into custom.

In many people’s saying especially historians vaguely argue that ‘not to know history is to repeat it’. In this same manner, ethicists say that ‘for one not to study any ethical concepts will be bound to repeat it’ Ethics compared to any other field.

Ethics, as a philosophical concept was first developed by Aristotle c.380 BC, to examine, investigate and provide justification to judgments in proving what I referred to in my first paragraph as ‘you’re right’ or ‘you’re wrong’. It is upon this understanding that one cannot come up with judgments that are not guided by ethics. Ethics per se is not a guide but attains this fulfillment through its principles’ eye that practically deliberates our reason. These principles are referred to because they help to solve moral dilemmas.

Principles, however, derive from certain ‘theory’ of which is general and so does any judgment implicitly base on. The simplicity is hard to notice unless one gets to know a theory from which a principle has been derived. Philosophical ideas form these theories that later on accrue to principles and so it is of importance that one gets to understand the line of thought before discussing any matters or dilemmas.

Bioethics comes to play after the above description which I will further explain. The breakdown of theory to principle follows a philosophical approach known as ‘logic’ or ‘critical thinking’. This is normally deductive or inductive in nature. The later addresses a moral dilemma from a custom or practice using a principle and credit its theory and the former uses its antinomy.

After understanding what ethics is now gives us an opportune time to dig into what is bioethics. ‘Bio’ which is greatly understood as life attributes looking at issues affecting life and deciding whether are right or wrong to behold or not. The process by which we venture into cultural, social, religious, scientific, and others using a critical eye brings ‘Bioethics’ to play.

In my next articles will be discussing how relevant bioethics can help us deliberate, solve, educate and decide on a way forward in life dilemmas.

JURUA Charles

Master of Arts in Bioethics (MABE) Finalist-UMU

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