What is BioXphi?

Experimental Philosophical Bioethics (bioXphi) aims to be a distinctive field that will use traditional research methods of experimental philosophy and the empirical social and psychological sciences to investigate key premises in the arguments of various positions in theoretical bioethics. Though bioethicists have occasionally drawn on empirical data to supplement arguments and normative bioethical analysis, bioXphi by contrast seeks to uniquely probe the intuitions of patients and possible stakeholders in order to extrapolate—and make explicit wherever possible—the underlying cognitive and psychological processes that inform their responses. In this way, a major purpose of bioXphi is to make bioethical theorizing increasingly responsive to empirical insights in the formulation of clinical practice, institutional policy, and ongoing theoretical debate.

As an interdisciplinary line of research, bioXphi can be thought of as advancing at least two types of inquiry: descriptive questions about the psychology and mechanism of bioethical decision-making, and prescriptive questions that constitute the core of bioethics.

  1. bioXphi as descriptive cognitive science: Understanding how and why we evaluate bioethical issues the way we do, characterizing the cognitive processes that form the basis for bioethical views as a purely descriptive matter: e.g., What are the mid-level principles that generate our intuitions about various bioethical scenarios?

  2. bioXphi as informing prescriptive debates: Learning about people’s bioethical views through empirical and experimental methods in order to generate bioethical prescription: i.e., How can we help address specific bioethical challenges by learning about people’s use of bioethical concepts?

Position statement coming soon!

Check back after the conference for our collective position statement, to be featured in AJOB: Empirical Bioethics.