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ERC-European Research Council (ERC)

Moral residue - epistemological ramifications, ethical implications and didactic opportunities

Tildelt: kr 11,7 mill.






2022 - 2027


Moral residue - epistemological ramifications, ethical implications and didactic opportunities

This project is a contribution to moral philosophy, to the didactics of transformative reading and to medical ethics education. It examines moral residue (MR); the distress experience common among health care practitioners as well as other moral agents of recognizing what they take to be their own failure to meet a moral requirement, despite not being fully blameworthy for that failure; and which they express through regret or anguish. Our overall aim is threefold: (1) to substantially advance the philosophical and phenomenological understanding of MR, as a concept and as an experience, by analysing situations of MR caused by moral dilemmas, and by directing attention to situations that have not been explored or are under-explored - MR caused by unavoidable normative ignorance or by impermissible emotions; (2) to empirically study the impact of literary narrative fiction (that is thematically related to MR) in altering concepts of self and others, a process we call “transformative reading”, and (3) to devise, and to empirically test the potential merits of a novel narrative method for medical ethics education that we believe can enable health care practitioners to learn how to acknowledge their inherent vulnerability to MR, and to accept that they are likely to fail morally in ways that they may not be able to avoid, without this acceptance compromising their sense of dignity as moral agents. The aims are intimately connected in that it is the philosophical research into MR which motivates and enables the didactic part of the project, and which thereby binds it together into an integrated whole. The investigation is conducted in health care because this context makes apparent the full range of contingencies in life that impose limits to the rational exercise of moral agency, and which thereby lock agents into diversified situations of MR. However, since MR is pervasive also outside of health care, we believe it will benefit other branches of applied ethics as well.


ERC-European Research Council (ERC)