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Conscientious objection: unmasking the impartial spectator


Hoping to bring some objectivity to the debate, Ben-Moshe has argued that conscientious objection in medicine should be accommodated based on its concordance with the ‘impartial spectator’, a metaphor for conscience drawn from the writings of Adam Smith. This response finds fault with this account on two fronts: first, that its claim to objectivity is unsubstantiated; second, that it implicitly relies on moral absolutes, despite claiming that conscience is a social construct, thereby calling its coherence and claims into question. Briefly, a traditional account of conscience is then described, before ending with a related thesis for future discussion.

  • conscientious objection
  • abortion
  • philosophical ethics

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