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Perspectives on ethics
  1. C Parker
  1. Correspondence to:
 C Parker
 St James’s University Hospital, Clinical Sciences Building, Room 5.2, Beckett Street, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK; Elaine.hazell{at}


In his recent paper about understanding ethical issues, Boyd suggests that traditional approaches based on principles or people are understood better in terms of perspectives, especially the perspective-based approach of hermeneutics, which he uses for conversation rather than controversy. However, we find that Boyd’s undefined contrast between conversation and controversy does not point to any improvement in communication: disputes occur during conversation and controversy may be conducted in gentle tones. We agree with Boyd, that being prepared to listen and learn are excellent attitudes, but his vague attempts to establish these and similar virtues in hermeneutic theory are not plausible. Additionally, the current controversy about the use of human embryos in stem cell therapy research shows Boyd missing the opportunity to illustrate how conversation would improve understanding.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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