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Title: Communication and community : a Thomistic rationality
Author: Ramsay, H. W. J.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1991
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Abstract:
My thesis is a description of the structure of rationality and morality. It does not argue for one conception of rationality against others, but argues that all conceptions of rationality are the result of participation in a basic sort of activity - theoretical activity - which I understand as the fundamental exercise of reason. It is in terms of this, deeper, activity of reason that all individual conceptions of rationality can be explained, even though rational behaviour is explained not in terms of it, but of the individual conception of rationality of the agent. Consequently, I oppose only conceptions of rationality which are 'absolutist': which imply that rational behaviour can only be behaviour justified by their principles, and never behaviour justified by the principles of conceptions of rationality arrived at through different exercises of theoretical activity. Since rationality is participation in forms of theoretical activity concerning principles by those whose principles they are, the basis of rationality is the shared life in which principles are learned and the kinds of intellectual activity in which they are confirmed and/or revised. These features are also the basis of morality: communication concerning concrete situations within particular communities. Morality differs from rationality because the sort of communication it involves is not a means to establishing principles, but the end of this. Morality has a goal, then, which has two aspects: an understanding component, ethics, and an experiential component, love. Chapter 1 analyses Aristotle's Final Good and concept of dialectic. I explain how rational behaviour can be both based on first principles directed to a determinate end and pursued through involvement with community, political, norms. The determinate good is dependent upon contingently structured, shared norms. Chapter 2 analyses Aquinas's Natural Law and the structure of practical reason and of the Summa. This indicates how the precepts of Natural Law are compatible with, and require participation in, intellectual enquiries in which current orthodoxy is questioned. These non-absolute readings of Aristotle and Aquinas are balanced in Chapter 3 by the deficiencies of the absolutist Natural Law of William Blackstone and John Finnis. The criticism of rational rationality is continued in Chapter 4 with an account of the defects of Kant's practical rationality with respect to the concepts of interest and freedom, and in Chapter 5 which surveys utilitarianism and other contemporary moral philosophy. This leads to my own account of morality as social practice and its relation to ethics in terms of understanding and experience. Chapter 6 defends my view of rationality against contemporary functionalist and agent-centred alternatives. Chapter 7 defines the terms in which communication and community have been explained, explains the relation of morality to rationality, and describes the structure of practical reasoning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.660905  DOI: Not available
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