Ethics of the Body

From Basic Bioethics

Ethics of the Body

Postconventional Challenges

Edited by Margrit Shildrick and Roxanne Mykitiuk





The provocative contention of the postmodernist and feminist essays in Ethics of the Body is that conventional bioethics is out of touch, despite its growing profile. It is out of touch with an ongoing phenomenological sense of bodies themselves; with the impact of postmodernist theory as it problematizes the certainties of binary thinking; and with a postmodern culture in which bioscientific developments force us to question what is meant by the notion of the human self. The authors demonstrate that the conventional normative framework of bioethics is called into question by issues as wide ranging as genetic manipulation, disability, high-tech prosthetics, and intersexuality. The essays show how both the theory and practice of bioethics can benefit from postmodernism's characteristic fluidity and multiplicity, as well as from the insights of a reconceived feminist bioethics. They address issues in philosophy, law, bioscientific research, psychiatry, cultural studies, and feminism from a "postconventional" perspective that looks beyond the familiar ideas of the body, proposing not a bioethics about the body but a radical ethics of the body.

After exploring notions of difference in both feminist and postmodernist terms, the book considers specific issues—including HIV, addiction, borderline personality disorder, and cancer—that challenge the principles of conventional bioethics. The focus then turns to questions raised by biotechnology: one essay rethinks the traditional feminist ethics of care in the context of new reproductive technology, while others tackle genetic and genomic issues. Finally, the book looks at embodiment and some specifically anomalous forms of being-in-the-body, including a consideration of intersex infants and children that draws on feminist, postructuralist, and queer theory.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262195232 300 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262693202 300 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Margrit Shildrick

Margrit Shildrick is Senior Research Visiting Fellow at WERRC, University College Dublin.

Roxanne Mykitiuk

Roxanne Mykitiuk is Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, Toronto.


  • A remarkable group of essays that use postmodern thought to deconstruct conventional bioethics, biomedicine, and biotechnology. Shildrick and Mykitiuk succeed in convincing readers that for all its difficulties, postmodern thought is probably best suited to confront humanity's growing awareness of human difference. This book will be a significant contribution to bioethics.

    Rosemarie Tong

    Department of Philosophy and Center for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  • This is an exciting and challenging collection of essays. They ought to convince even the most skeptical bioethicist that postmodernist bioethics can produce radical illuminations and reflective theorizing regarding the diversity and fluidity of human emobodiment that marks the 21st century. The lucid introduction and the compelling range of essays offers critical and substantive insights into the bioethical dilemmas and choices we face as embodied individuals, as human community, and as a species whose future is uncertain.

    Kathryn Pauly Morgan

    Professor of Philosophy, Women's Studies, and Bioethics, University of Toronto

  • Rather than merely applying established concepts of ethics to biomedical problems, Ethics of the Body puts the field of ethics itself in question. These essays demonstrate how the challenges and crises posed by advances in biomedicine require nothing less than new concepts of moral agency and responsibility beyond the conventional models of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue. Drawing on diverse resources phenomenology, Derrida's thought of différance, Foucault's critique of power, and Irigaray's radical feminism the contributors inaugurate a critical reconfiguring of the ethical subject, while at the same time they offer concrete and original approaches to particular moral problems in medicine and biotechnology. Anyone working in ethics or bioethics needs to confront the conceptual and practical challenges posed by this volume.

    Mary C. Rawlinson

    Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University