Refusal in “Bartleby, the Scrivener”: Narrative ethics and conscientious objection

Alvan A. Ikoku

Virtual Mentor. March 2013, Volume 15, Number 3: 249-256

Introduction

In 1853 Herman Melville published “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” his now most well-known piece of short fiction, which over a century and a half later we can certainly read as an illuminating dramatization of conscientious objection [1]. There are, of course, important differences between Melville’s approach to refusal and how we have come to discuss it in medical ethics. The story’s setting, for instance, is not clinical; the central exchanges are between the head of a law office and an employee who politely but insistently refuses to carry out his understood duties. [Full Text]

Conscience, values, and justice in Savulescu

Alvan A. Ikoku

Virtual Mentor. 2013 Mar 1;15(3):208-12. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2013.15.3.jdsc1-1303. PubMed PMID: 23472810

Introduction

Savulescu’s 2006 article in the British Medical Journal takes up perennially unfinished work on the nature and place of conscience, carried out against the background of contested laws shaped by states and their institutions as well as peoples and their professions. His writing on conscientious objection essentially returns to and intervenes in an extended conversation made possible by continued shifts in relations between individual citizens and loci of authority; shifts that characterized the mid-to-late decades of the twentieth century, when debates about war, civil rights, reproduction, and capital punishment made objection a vital mode of participation and engendered fields of practice and scholarship organized around the mission to decentralize decision making. [Full Text]