This volume addresses some of the most prominent questions in contemporary bioethics and philosophy of medicine: ‘liberal’ eugenics, enhancement, the normal and the pathological, the classification of mental illness, the relation between genetics, disease and the political sphere, the experience of illness and disability, and the sense of the subject of bioethical inquiry itself. All of these issues are addressed from a “continental” perspective, drawing on a rich tradition of inquiry into these questions in the fields of phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics, French epistemology, critical theory and post-structuralism. At the same time, the contributions engage with the Anglo-American debate, resulting in a fruitful and constructive conversation that not only shows the depth and breadth of continental perspectives in bioethics and medicine, but also opens new avenues of discussion and exploration.
For decades European philosophers have offered important insights into the relation between the practices of medicine, the concept of illness, and society more broadly understood. These interventions have generally striven to be both historically nuanced and accessible to non-experts. From Georges Canguilhem’s seminal The Normal and the Pathological, Michel Foucault’s lectures on madness, sexuality, and biopolitics, Hans Jonas’s deeply thoughtful essays on the right to die, life extension, and ethics in a technological age, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s lectures on The Enigma of Health, and more recently Jürgen Habermas’s carefully nuanced interventions on the question of liberal eugenics, these thinkers have sought to engage the wider public as much as their fellow philosophers on questions of paramount importance to current bioethical and social-political debate. The essays contained here continue this tradition of engagement and accessibility. In the best practices of European philosophy, the contributions in this volume aim to engage with and stimulate a broad spectrum of readers, not just experts. In doing so the volume offers a showcase of the richness and rigor of continental perspectives on medicine and society.