In his recent analysis of multiculturalism, Tom Beauchamp has argued that those who implement multicultural reasoning in their arguments against common morality theories, such as his own, have failed to understand that multiculturalism is neither a form of moral pluralism nor ethical relativism but is rather a universalistic moral theory in its own right. Beauchamp’s position is indeed on the right track in that multiculturalists do not consider themselves ethical relativists. Yet, Beauchamp tends to miss the mark when he argues that multiculturalism is in effect a school of thought that endorses a form of moral universalism that is akin to his own vision of a common morality. As a supporter of multiculturalism, I would like to discuss some aspects of Beauchamp’s comments on multiculturalism and clarify what a multicultural account of public bioethics might look like. Ultimately, multiculturalism is purported as a means of managing diversity in the public arena and should not be thought of as endorsing either a version of moral relativism or a universal morality. By simultaneously refraining from the promotion of a comprehensive common moral system while it attempts to avoid a collapse into relativism, multiculturalism can serve as the ethico-political framework in which diverse moralities can be managed and in which opportunities for ethical dialogue, debate and deliberation on the prospects of common bioethical norms are made possible.
- cultural pluralism
- political philosophy
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