Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Oltre l’individualismo Relazioni e relazionalità per ripensare l'identità


Contemporary bioethics is caught in the Scylla of political liberalism that presupposes a concept of a sovereign and independent individual, thereby more and more promoting a “consumer patient” in the realm of medicine, and the Charybdis of communitarian ethics, here spelled out as care ethics, arguing for the acknowledgment of embeddedness and interdependence and interpreting care as a right and a responsibility. Both approaches, I argue, fall short to provide moral criteria that define the scope or limits of the rights and responsibilities, and they both lack a comprehensive understanding of the moral agency. I argue that the concept of vulnerable agency can better deal with the interdependence of human beings, without losing ethics’ normative claim to respect a person’s freedom. The paper proposes, first, a normative approach, a qualified universalism. This concept is based on human rights which need context-sensitive, concretizing interpretations. Second, the capability to respond responsibly constitutes the moral self as moral agent who is obliged by the plea of someone else to respond. While only normative ethics can determine how to respond, responsibility still must be anchored in the response to the other. I conclude that both the normative and the hermeneutic dimension of ethics are needed to discern the dialectic between passivity (vulnerability) and activity (agency) in the inter-action between care-giver and patient.

Publisher Name

Urbaniana University Press




Author Posting. © Urbaniana University Press 2017. This article is posted here by permission of Urbaniana University Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Oltre l’individualismo Relazioni e relazionalità per ripensare l'identità, 2017,

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.