The Relation of Medical Practice, Medical Knowledge, and Norms in Bioethics

Within bioethics and practical moral philosophy there is an ongoing reflection of how to assess medical and scientific facts since its beginnings. However, there is a new trend in bioethics stressing the importance of socio-empirical data for moral reasoning and moral argumentation. This new professional development is sometimes internationally labelled as “empirical ethics”. Hence, we have to clarify how norms as well as a theoretically and empirically described practice are related to each other – from an ethical-normative and sociological point of view. Until today, we are missing systematic overviews with regard to different methods and various theories.


Therefore, the aim of the workshop was the interdisciplinary exchange between ethicists, philosophers, social scientists and physicians on various normative and prescriptive conditions of the relationship between applied bioethics and empirical studies. Furthermore, we want to re-consider the concept of empirical ethics and take into account results of social science studies of 'bioethics'.
To pursue the overall interdisciplinary interest in the interplay between ethics and social science in the field of life science technologies, the workshop discussed three main lines of questions:

  • What different meanings of "empirical study / empirical findings" are used in different bioethical approaches - and what methodological status do empirical findings have for bioethical argumentation?

  • What understandings of “norm” and “ethical reflection” are used in sociological and cultural studies of science and medicine?

  • What different meta-ethical and theoretical relationships between norms and practice have to be considered?