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This paper has two objectives. On the one hand, it attempts to bridge the gap between works in moral and political philosophy, which rarely treat real moral reasoning in context, and research in sociology, political sciences or discourse analysis, which elude the content of such reasoning. On the other hand, the case studied, taken from a consensus conference, a Swiss "Publiforum" on genetic technology and nutrition, has the advantage of bringing together various experts in ethics and ordinary citizens, convened in new forms of institutionalization, known in Europe as Participatory Technological Assessment (PTA). This paper proposes a new method of evaluating the sociology of ethics that targets the restitution of third party judgments in context, by trying to get the most from moral philosophy resources and to clarify them, while respecting sociological requirements, notably their concern for externalization and objectivation. This text discusses several difficulties specific to this type of research at the interface of sociology and philosophy. This paper analyzes in detail several positions exhibited by reference persons) and the way citizens use them to discuss their recommendations in a cumulative report transmitted to the Swiss Parliament, and distributed more widely in the community. The closing discussion questions the Rawlsian and Habermasian procedural solutions, which resort to fair cooperation between free and equal individuals or to the law, leading to an epistemic abstinence or an underestimation of the capacity of an individual to produce a rational justification for his/her moral judgment.


Bernard Reber
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