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What does solidarity do for bioethics?
  1. Avery Kolers
  1. Philosophy, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Avery Kolers, Philosophy, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA; akolers{at}


Bioethical work on solidarity has yielded an array of divergent conceptions. But what do these accounts add to normative bioethics? What is solidarity’s distinctive social normative role? Prainsack and Buyx suggest that solidarity be understood as the ‘putty’ of justice. I argue here that the putty metaphor is deeply insightful and—when spelled out in detail—successfully explicates solidarity’s social normative function. Unfortunately, Prainsack and Buyx’s own account cannot play this role. I propose instead that the putty metaphor supports a conception of solidarity as equity. This proposal enables us to answer whether and when we should act in solidarity, and with whom, while also capturing the putty metaphor and hence answering a basic question: what is solidarity for?

  • ethics
  • political philosophy

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  • Contributors AK is the sole author of and contributor to this article, and is the guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

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