In America, liberal political philosophy has been the dominant political influence in almost every arena of public life including bioethics. Liberal politics promotes the principle of “neutrality,” the notion that, in pluralistic societies (i.e., societies where there is widespread and deep disagreement about basic questions of morality), laws and policies should not support any particular vision of what is good. This minimalist view of morality limits or dismisses any appeal to specific religions justification when making bioethical decisions. Consequently, the suggestion of grounding ethical reflection on a particular belief system is deemed a bad idea because it favors one particular moral perspective over other perspectives. The main concern of politically liberal society is to ensure social cooperation between diverse members of a society.
This creates an inevitable demarcation between public policies and private convictions. Thus, anyone with religious convictions must maintain those principles in his or her own private sphere; public expressions of private beliefs are not welcome in the liberal society. Unfortunately, liberal political philosophy’s principle of neutrality does not provide a way to settle ethical questions. On the one hand, there is a crying need for moral direction; on the other hand, moral guidance from a religious perspective isn’t welcome. Accordingly, we have medical questions that require resolution but, by reason of political liberalism’s support of neutrality, there is no particular point of view that can become the standard in bioethical matters. The negative consequence of neutrality is an inevitable deadlock; medical ethical decisions have to be made but our laws and policies lack any defining understanding of what is good. Yet in order for a society to function, it must devise some means to achieve a common ground. It is thus a question as to how a pluralistic and polarized society should proceed in the absence of a moral consensus.
I honestly see no workable solutions to this predicament. How do you think things will unfold in the coming years?