Thesis ID: CBB001567618

Land-Grant Ideology, the Wisconsin Idea, and the Foundations of Van Rensselaer Potter's Bioethics (2014)


Doris, Margaret E. (Author)

Wegter-McNelly, KIrk
Jacobsen, David
Hill, Robert
Boston University
Jacobsen, David
Hill, Robert
Sheppard, Phillis
Sheppard, Phillis

Publication Date: 2014
Edition Details: Advisor: Wegter-McNelly, KIrk; Committee Members: Jacobsen, David, Hill, Robert, Sheppard, Phillis.
Physical Details: 534 pp.
Language: English

In this dissertation I argue that properly situating Van Rensselaer Potter's bioethics makes it newly available to those seeking an alternative conceptual framework for global bioethics discourse. Locating Potter in the heretofore unappreciated context of the land-grant college ideology (evinced by those institutions established by the 1862 federal Morrill Act with a charge to democratize higher education and apply knowledge in the best interests of the public) and the Wisconsin Idea (a still-extant Progressive-era policy of applying university research to social legislation) not only illuminates its distinctive features but renders transparent its previously opaque epistemic culture. I outline how American bioethics as it is commonly understood took form at Georgetown University in the early 1970s with a mandate to consider the impact of new medical technologies on society, particularly in relation to reproductive and human fetal tissue research. This work yielded a vision that became known as principlism, the now-dominant form of Western bioethical discourse. I look at the various criticisms of principlism, as well as the inability of its critics to discard the principles framework. I then contrast principlism with the distinctly different understanding of bioethics that was offered in 1970 by Van Rensselaer Potter when he coined the word "bioethics." I discuss how, when Potter first began to speak of bioethics, he envisioned a "bridge to the future, " a union of science and the humanities that would foster cross-disciplinary thinking in anticipation of, and in the hope of averting, a worsening ecological crisis and its resultant negative impact on human health and well-being. The response to threats posed by technology - "dangerous knowledge " - was not to limit knowledge, but to respond with more knowledge, with the kind of contextual and moral vision that only transdisciplinary knowledge could provide. While Potter originally envisioned this work as a specific obligation of scientists, he gradually came to understand it as a social activity, a shift in communal perceptions and obligations. Finally, I suggest that Potter's bioethics has tremendous potential for redeeming bioethics and offers an alternative vision that is truly redemptive.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-A 75/10(E), Apr 2015. Proquest Document ID: 1552973128.

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Authors & Contributors
Glenna, Leland L.
Williams, Melvin D.
Bernhardt, Hannelore
Williams, Nicola H.
Nunn, Ernest K.
Collins, David J.
Social Studies of Science
Science and Education
Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning and Policy
Dahlemer Archivgespräche
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Edwin Mellen Press
Monash University
Peter Lang
Canadian Scholars' Press
Leiden University Press
Böhlau Verlag
Universities and colleges
Science education and teaching
Land grant universities
Mach, Ernst
Pugh, Evan
United States
Maryland (U.S.)
20th century, late
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
University of Toronto
United States. Dept. of Agriculture
University of St. Andrews
University of Tokyo
Bologna. Università

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