Ethical Idealism: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Function of Ideals [Book Review]

Idealistic Studies 22 (3):258-260 (1992)

This is an eminently sensible book with a clear and strightforwardly argued thesis, that to pursue ideals impossible to achieve in practice is not always irrational, but is often useful and productive of good results. Professor Rescher maintains that, while “must” in practical matters certainly implies “can,” “ought” does not; so that “cannot,” while it excuses failure, does not abrogate obligation to try. This, he claims disposes of many theoretical problems about moral dilemmas, which certainly may arise with respect to what one should do, but which cannot exist with respect to what, in the given circumstances, one must do. To decide what the latter obligation is, is indeed difficult and complicated. It involves priorities unattainable in the prevailing conditions, for others considered more important. But once the priorities have been settled, what must be done is unequivocal and further conflict of duties is precluded. A moral code, says Rescher, is intended as a guide to conduct, which it could not be if it were specific in every detail. Rules must therefore be general, and particular situations require their modification in order to ensure the best results. This leaves room for, and requires, casuistry the balancing and harmonizing of potentially conflicting demands to achieve the best possible in the circumstances.
Keywords Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 0046-8541
DOI idstudies199222352
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