Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

James L. Nelson

Committee Members

Nancy Goslee, Glenn Graber, John Hardwig


This dissertation argues that mainstream bioethics has failed to adequately acknowledge bodies and embodiment in practice and theory. While philosophers have generally not held “substance dualism” as such for some time, this practice of overlooking the body is probably grounded in what I label evaluative dualism, which is still ingrained in our culture. This dualism maintains a dichotomy and ranking of mind over body in addition to dichotomizing and rating other constructed pairs such as culture and nature and male and female. Such a ranking leads to, or supports discrimination against those who are most commonly associated with the body including racial and ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, those with disabilities, the elderly and even nonhuman animals, in addition to women. Disembodied theory leads to bad theory that is flawed as well as harmful to the groups listed and individuals in general. Such a theory views beings as nonspecific, decontextualized entities. While a number of areas in bioethics manifest this disembodied bias, two in particular that are explored are medical research and pregnancy. By re-embodying bioethics, the field can overcome some of the deeply entrenched biases that particularly disadvantage individuals because of their bodily association.

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