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Margaret Welch

A CRITICAL REALIST ASSESSMENT OF THE MORAL REALISM DEBATE: OBJECTIVITY AS AUTHENTIC SUBJECTIVITY AND THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF BERNARD LONERGAN (ETHICS)


LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
PHD
1998
WESTLEY, RICHARD
DAI-A 59/06, p. 2066, Dec 1998
169
PHILOSOPHY (0422)

The contemporary flurry of activity in applied ethics operates without foundations. Philosophers are increasingly called upon to suggest substantive resolutions to morally charged situations, and to recommend courses of action that are right or wrong, or at least better or worse, than some alternatives. Neither the noncognitivist metaethics, nor the recent waning of its influence, have yielded a plausible justification for the nature and foundations of the knowledge that the current activity in applied ethics, by implication, purports to have. The varieties of moral realism are theories which address several core foundational issues in ethics such as moral epistemology, moral objectivity, and justification of moral judgments. Moral realist theories are typically developed in order to attempt to provide a clear account of moral knowledge and its justification. However, such theories are notoriously fraught with difficulties. This dissertation examines representative arguments for and against moral realism found in the Anglo-american tradition. Naturalist and non-naturalist moral realist theories are the subjects of this discussion. I argue that the entire debate, for and against, moral realism has presupposed what I call a perceptual model of knowledge and show how this has driven the parties in the debate to their respective conclusions. I discuss how this model results in conceptions of objectivity that, problematically, discount the place of subjectivity in morality, as well as how the model issues from an underdeveloped epistemology. The purpose of these discussions is to show how an alternative approach to those issues, drawn from the work of Bernard Lonergan, can reframe the presuppositions in a way that is fecund for the intellectual integrity of moral thought and moral practice. Specifically, I propose that the arguments of David Brink, Jonathan Jacobs, Simon Blackburn, David Hume, and G. E. Moore originate from a failure to advert to the performative structure of human knowing as discernible from data of consciousness. This misstep drives them, in their respective ways, to a search for given reasons, analytic or synthetic, which justify moral conclusions. I argue that Lonergan's account of cognitional structure, and his epistemology, yield an understanding of objectivity in which avoids a problematic search for giv


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