23. The Bases of Ethics, edited by William Sweet. ISBN 0-87462-622-6. ©2000. Paperbound. Index. 250 pp. $25

“To ask after ’the basEs of ethics’ rather than the basIs or the foundation of ethics may suggest that one has already taken a position on the issue of foundations in ethics. For, some would point out, surely there can be only one basis for ethics, not the ’many’ implied by the word-’bases.’ Others might say that such a term supposes that there are bases or foundations to be had and that, if there is one thing that post-modern thought has brought to our attention, it is that there are no bases or foundations at all. But the virtue of such a theme and title for this volume is that it allows interlocutors from different philosophical traditions a degree of latitude in addressing the topic of whether one can speak of a foundation or basis or bases in ethics and, if one can, in identifying what this might be.

“The essays in this collection draw their inspiration from a wide range of sources—from classical and medieval authors and from the phenomenological, analytic, idealistic, Thomist and feminist schools—and focus on resolving questions that the challenges of subjectivism, skepticism and post-modernism have raised. We must be attentive to history, to the historical character, not only of particular ethical theories, but of ethical standards and ethical practice. We must also be attentive to the culture in which ethical standards and ethical theories arise, and to the conditions which attend their origin. And we must also be attentive to who it is that proposes ethical standards and beliefs.

“These essays reflect a wide range of attempts to explain and elucidate what one might mean by the notion of ’bases’ in ethics. And, despite the many problems that the authors note, there is still confidence that there can be moral knowledge, that we can know the conditions for moral practices and for ethical theory, and that there are at least some bases for ethics in general. The importance of talking about a basis or bases of ethics is not, then, merely the ghost of outdated epistemologies or ontologies.” — From the Editor’s Introduction


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