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Title: A vindication of moral law as the foundation of ethics
Author: Haezrahi-Brisker, Pepita
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1951
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Abstract:
Any enquiry into Ethics must presuppose at least three very important and possibly awkward assumptions, awkward from the point of view of the methodological and even metaphysical problems raised. It must presuppose that it enquires into something, that what it enquires into has a certain definite and circumscribed meaning of its own and that this meaning though not necessarily definable in exact terms is describable and communicable. The first assumption expanded postulates that in the course of our general experience we come upon certain particulars which may be termed moral experience. That is, some judgments (which at least at first blush and prior to any further analysis which might reduce them to other categories) appear to be specifically moral are in fact and habitually pronounced by men. The prototype of these judgments are propositions of the type: "this is good", "this is right", "this is bad", "this is wrong". The second assumption demands that these propositions are not meaningless, that in pronouncing "this is right", "this is good" men do refer to and try to imply something. The exact nature of this something and its degree of reality and objectivity are not defined by the assumption. The third assumption demands that such judgments besides referring to something be communicable. That is, that one man may understand in the most general way what another man wishes to signify when pronouncing "this is good", "this is right", whether he agree to it or not, whether he take this judgment to imply the same principles, and whatever his justification of or opposition to such judgments may be. In spite of these qualifications it might appear that too much has been assumed to begin with, since, when more fully expounded, the three presuppositions may be seen to comprise the whole of Ethics: determine its subject matter, define its laws and provide the grounds of its validity. On the other hand it seems to me that no Ethical enquiry would be possible at all unless these three assumptions were made. For if there were nothing for us to examine, we would not come up against moral judgments at all; if they defined nothing, we should not know that they were moral judgments; and if their reference were not understood at least in a general way and in principle by other men, how could we talk about them at all, let alone enquire into their nature? So that these three suppositions appear to form a sort of irreducible minimum of hypothesis which any enquiry into ethics has to assume in order to be possible at all. Again, though these three suppositions are made and used without proof, some subsequent discussion on their meaning and implication may possibly be of help in clarifying their nature, the extent of their import and the manner of their validity. It may also furnish us with some reasons and grounds for their vindication in retrospect. I shall try not to make use of any other unproved assumption beyond these three and what may be directly inferred from them as a basis for the argument in this paper. Should any other fundamental and additional assumption have been employed, it was used unconsciously and the validity of the argument will be affected accordingly.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.703688  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics
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