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Philosophising outside of the academy
  1. Julie Tannenbaum
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julie Tannenbaum, Department of Philosophy, Pomona College, 551 N. College Avenue, Claremont, California 91711, USA; julie.tannenbaum{at}

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There is something for everyone in Frances Kamm's Bioethical Prescriptions:1 from the abstract and methodological (chapters 25–27), which will be of interest to those working in ethical theory and metaethics, to the highly applied and detailed oriented (eg, chapter 14), which will be of interest to doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.1 She tackles ethical issues arising at the beginning of life (chapters 9–13) and end of life (chapters 1–8), and discusses a wide range of concerns about enhancement (chapters 15 and 17) and resource distribution (chapters 18–23). Some chapters combine and condense previously published articles (eg, chapter 16 is a composite of five previous publications), and all the chapters have been rewritten in a way that make reference to other relevant chapters. Encountering Kamm's bioethical work in a single collection allows one to better understand how her views on disparate topics are connected; for instance, I gained a deeper appreciation of her underlying account of entitlement and harm by seeing the topic arise in the context of creation, abortion, enhancement and the non-identity problem.

In the limited space I have here, I will focus on the phenomenon of philosophers taking on roles outside of academia, which Kamm discusses in chapter 24, ‘The philosopher as insider and outsider: how to advise, compromise, and criticize’. Increasingly philosophers are providing their expertise to those outside of academia, and Kamm discusses various conflicts that can arise for …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i NIH Curriculum Supplement Series – Exploring Bioethics: Grades 9–122 was developed in part by philosophers.

  • ii Kamm herself notes that the goal of promoting the best consequences can override the norms constitutive of being a scientist (p. 528).

  • iii For example, the commissioner might be against euthanasia if it involves killing, but be permissive if it involves merely letting someone die. If a philosopher were to claim that there is no morally relevant difference between killing and letting die, as support for permitting some acts of euthanasia that are killings, the commissioner might conclude instead that no cases of euthanasia are permissible (p. 528; see also pp. 529 and 532–533 for other examples).

  • iv Perhaps this idea is what Kamm is getting at in note 11, p. 546.

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