Cultivating the Moral Imagination

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The moral imagination is a type of moral competence, moral disposition, or moral intelligence that can be cultivated and that leads to an expanded vision of whom the moral agent has a moral duty to. The moral imagination is essential in the lifework of the clinician and it is a type of moral excellence that the moral agent strives for but has not yet attained. The moral imagination leads us to consider what it might be like to be the Other, whether or not the Other is in any particular type of distress. In this way the moral imagination leads us to participate genuinely in deliberative democracies. From the moral imagination flows the individual identifiable virtues: empathy, compassion, witnessing, courage, and love. In medical terms, these virtues are the signs and symptoms that the moral imagination is alive in the moral agent and these virtues ought to be cultivated. Cultivating the moral imagination can be accomplished through the use of examples of moral exemplars and the use of stories of various kinds. Pathographies, the illness stories of persons, can be particularly valuable in the cultivation of the moral imagination of clinicians. I use several pathographies about patients with locked-in syndrome to argue for the use of pathographies in general, and in the moral education of clinicians. Interprofessional education, when students learn with, about, and from each other, is used to deliver ethics education. I argue that narratives can be used effectively to enhance current efforts in ethics-oriented interprofessional education and to develop the humanistic clinician.

Moral imagination, moral development, virtues, narratives, pathography, interprofessional education