Today modern bioethics raises ancient questions for humankind and fills them with a special sense of urgency. Sergio Belardinelli's analysis starts from this basic observation, successfully integrating reflections on 'classical' bioethical issues like suffering and death (chapter 3) or medically assisted reproduction (chapter 4) with those that touch upon more recent issues like the meaning of values or of the separation of state and religion (chapter 1), multiculturalism (chapter 5) or even more so the environment, which has forcefully made its way back to the centre of the debate in the philosophy of nature. Bioethics' public character can thus be seen, and not be something limited to the medical-scientific field or reduced to a debate among experts. We can see instead that it is a challenge for everyone and every field in the human experience. A relational assumption on which every bioethical discourse can be based thus becomes necessary. Unless we dare to mess up nature and nurture so that they can go beyond their reductionist tendencies, or dare to tear down the barriers that separate the sciences of nature from the sciences of the spirit, each bioethical discourse will be confined to its own specialised turf or, worse, to the restricted field of political-cultural propaganda.
We can sup up a few of the key points in the author's proposal. In terms of values and the separation of state and religion, Belardinelli's reflections, still rooted in liberal ideas, propose an updated redefinition of freedom that starts from a relational logic that overcomes polarisations of convenience.
On more traditional bioethical issues, the author's focus on death and suffering on the one hand and reproduction and the family on the other highlights a radical paradox—the technologisation of the human experience leads "to a kind of 're-enchantment' of the world (p.73)" by the same technology that claims to free as well as disenchant human beings, making them masters of their own destiny. What is instead urgent is for human beings' real experience to be restored, phenomenologically and realistically understood, in terms of the dialogic of gift.
On multiculturalism he clearly challenges Westerners to define their interaction with others by first coming to terms with their own roots, rather than by forgetting them.
Even though the development of Western universality has been nourished by Christianity's Good News, the newness of the Words of Jesus Christ can always be at home in other cultures. This means that whilst the West could not come into being without Christianity, Christianity both transcends and embodies every historical situation and cannot thus be reduced to its Western form.
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