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Principles of biomedical ethics symposium
Specification and other methods for determining morally relevant facts
  1. Oliver Rauprich
  1. Correspondence to Dr Oliver Rauprich, Institute for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Ruhr-University Bochum, Markstrasse 258a, D-44799 Bochum, Germany; oliver.rauprich{at}


Specification is an integral part of Tom L Beauchamp and James F Childress' principlist approach to biomedical ethics. At the same time, the authors give much space conceding to critics that the method has significant limits. Although their pointing to limitations is not unreasonable as such, the emphasis Beauchamp and Childress put on them does not serve countering the critics' view that specification is insufficient for its intended purpose in applied ethics. This paper defends specification against Carson Strong's critique, showing that his casuistic approach shares strong structural and functional similarities with specification. It concludes with the more general point that specification or some closely related method for determining morally relevant facts of concrete cases and issues is indispensable for any account of applied ethics. Beauchamp and Childress should endorse and defend specification more vigorously than they appear to do.

  • applied and professional ethics
  • casuistry
  • philosophical ethics
  • principlism
  • specification

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  • Funding German Research Foundation (DFG) (RA 1372/1).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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