Ethics and Reality

3213 Words13 Pages
Ethics and Reality One of the most pervasive problems in theoretical ethics has been the attempt to reconcile the good for the individual with the good for all. It is a problem which appears in contemporary discussions (like those initiated by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue) as a debate between emotivism and rationalism, and in more traditional debates between relativism and absolutism. I believe that a vital cause of this difficulty arises from a failure to ground ethics in metaphysics. It is crucial, it seems to me, to begin with "the way the world is" before we begin to speculate about the way it ought to be. And, the most significant "way the world is" for ethics is that it is individuals in community. This paper attempts to develop an ethical theory based solidly on Whitehead’s metaphysics, and to address precisely the problem of the relation between the good for the individual and the common good, in such a way as to be sympathetic to both. One of the most pervasive problems in theoretical ethics has been the attempt to reconcile the good for the individual with the good for all. It is a problem which appears in contemporary discussions (like those initiated by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue) as a debate between emotivism and rationalism, and in more traditional debates between relativism and absolutism. I believe that a vital cause of this difficulty arises from a failure to ground ethics in metaphysics. It is crucial, it seems to me, to begin with "the way the world is" before we begin to speculate about the way it ought to be. The most significant "way the world is" for ethics, is that it is individuals in community, and this is the cosmology promoted by Whitehead. In Process and Reality, Whitehead outl... ... middle of paper ... ... an action is performed, it has a determined relevance for future actions and entities so we have to make sure that our actions are the right ones. That is to say, not just any action, is an ethical action. An ethical action requires Goodness. By performing an action which can be described as good, my individual good action is linked with all good actions. It has been defined by the notion of Goodness, and contributes to the definition of Goodness. We have, then, a reciprocal relation between the good for the individual and the common good grounded in Whiteheadian metaphysics. Bibliography Sylvan, R. and Bennett, D., The Greening of Ethics, Cambridge, U.K.: The White Horse Press, 1994. PR Whitehead, A.N., Process and Reality, New York & London: Macmillan, 1978 edn.. RM Whitehead, A.N., Religion in the Making, N.Y.: New American Library, 1974 edn..
Open Document