L'anthropocène: un défi pour l'humanisme en bioéthique?

Translated title of the contribution: The Anthropocene: A challenge to humanism in bioethics?

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In response to anthropogenic climate change, bioethics scholars have advocated a return to its roots in Van Rensselaer Potter's vision of bioethics as a discipline integrating the humanities and the sciences to support ecology. These scholars have noted that the discipline of bioethics diverged from this vision, and today its focus is on human health. This paper's ultimate argument is that these scholars do not appreciate the radicalness of their proposal and its potential to disrupt the discipline. This paper's argument unfolds in four steps. In the first step, the paper describes the environmental impact of U.S. health care and claims that contemporary bioethics is unlikely to prioritize environmental protection over patients because of its humanistic character. To emphasize this character, this part of the paper identifies two forms of health care treatment that bioethics would not deny to patients despite their environmental costs. The second step of the paper is to review the scientific fact of man-made climate change and its inauguration of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Then, the third step of this paper reflects on this fact's impact on the category of humanist understanding. The central idea in the third part of this paper is that the Anthropocene undermines the traditional dichotomy between man and nature, which is conceptually necessary for humanist philosophy. If the human is not a distinct category, then attributing preeminent value to humans is invalid, undermining the system of thought centered on humans. The final step in this paper argues that the consequence of reckoning with contemporary ecology is that it generates a demand for a new system of value–and Anthropocene ethics – that deprioritizes human good, and which would provide rebuttals to criticisms that such a system of values is misanthropic. An Anthropocene ethics may justify prioritizing environmental protection over patients’ health needs.

Translated title of the contributionThe Anthropocene: A challenge to humanism in bioethics?
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalEthics, Medicine and Public Health
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Anthropocene
  • Bioethics
  • Climate change
  • Environmental humanities
  • Health care


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