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Durham e-Theses
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The transcendental foundation of ethics

Davies, Kin (1983) The transcendental foundation of ethics. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis presents a transcendental argument to establish the existence of objectively necessary and categorical moral principles. The strategy followed might be called Analytic-Hegelian. It traces the necessary conditions of the possibility of the concepts at the heart of our philosophical endeavours, thereby reversing the line of development of the primary formation of concepts; and culminates in a self-recognition of the subject as a being for whom certain moral principles objectively and categorically hold. Chapter One shows that refutations of radical empiricism which take the concept of experience for granted, fail. Chapter Two examines the concept of experience required for empiricism to be possible. Chapter Three, investigating the necessary conditions of the possibility of this concept (rather than of experience itself), shows that empiricist scepticism is possible only if there exists an objective reality populated by items independent of experience. Empiricist scepticism is incoherent. Chapter Four deals with beginning philosophy. Some possible starting- points are considered, before discussing the concept of thought required for critical philosophy to be possible. The necessary conditions of the possibility of this concept include the existence of the external world, and (Chapter Five) of thinking, speaking subjects. The relationship between thought and language is elucidated. Chapter Six shows that the grasp of the thinking subject requires the subject to be engaged in communication, and to be a subject for whom communication is a value. Chapter Seven shows that the principle of maintaining communication is necessarily presupposed as an objectively necessary and categorical moral principle by anyone who questions it. It is thus unchallengeable. It serves, furthermore, as the foundation for a substantive non-relativistic ethics, with universal application. The transcendental foundation of ethics has been established.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1983
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 09:23

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