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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 44, 1998

Theoretical Ethics

Alison Roberts Miculan
Pages 150-155

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.

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