Looking for the Missing link Between Bio and Ethics

  • Antoine Boudreau LeBlanc Université de Montréal https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4273-0111
  • Cécile Aenishaenslin Département de pathologie et microbiologie, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8594-4945
  • Bryn Williams-Jones Programmes de bioéthique; Département de médecine sociale et préventive, École de santé publique de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6771-3919
Keywords: Van Rensselaer Potter, Aldo Leopold, global bioethics, environmental ethics, biology
Language(s): French


Van Rensselaer Potter (1911-2001), the biologist who coined the term “bioethics” in North American scholarship, considers that “real bioethics falls in the context of the ideals of [...] Aldo Leopold”, a forester, philosopher and poet who marked the 20th century. Associating Leopold with Potter has the effect of placing bioethics in the family of environmental ethics, which differentiates it from the conventional sense held in medicine and research since the Belmont Report (1979), a declaration that has driven the institutionalization of bioethics in North America. However, dividing bioethics into the “medical” and “environmental” is reductionist. Instead, Potter coins the idea of a global bioethics that addresses issues at their interface, including “land, wildlife, overpopulation, consumption, etc.” This article aims to start a new analysis of Potter’s thinking, drawing on the legacy of Aldo Leopold in biology. A synthesis of this Potterian vision is proposed to consider his work as a coherent whole that integrates into the great debates that transcend 20th and 21st centuries. This Potterian vision appears as a collective and prospective wisdom in the form of a science of survival and Bioethical creed. Going beyond environmental ethics, this association with Leopold offers a model of complexity that is indistinguishable from the context in which it is embedded, improving the ways in which we intervene in practice in an ever-changing world through an adaptive governance and the wisdom of responsibility.

How to Cite
Boudreau LeBlanc A, Aenishaenslin C, Williams-Jones B. Looking for the Missing link Between Bio and Ethics. Can. J. Bioeth. 2022;5:103-18. https://doi.org/10.7202/1087208ar.