Ethics and Hermeneutics: An Investigation Into Critical Reflection

Dissertation, Mcmaster University (Canada) (1995)

The central problems investigated in this thesis concern the theory and practice of critical ethical reflection from the standpoint of hermeneutical philosophy. The overriding questions addressed in the thesis are, does hermeneutical philosophy leave us with an attenuated conception of, or diminished capacity for, ethical critique, as certain of its critics maintain? How is critical reflection possible in lieu of foundations and formal decision procedures, and what philosophical resources are at its disposal? More fundamentally, what is involved in the practice of critical reflection? In arguing that such reflection is best viewed as a mode of hermeneutic discourse, questions arise concerning the role served by moral imagination in the practice of critique. It also raises questions concerning the role, if any, which ethical theory serves in informing a critique of human practices. Does critical reflection require the assistance of an ethical theory? If, as I contend, it does, then what method of theorizing is consistent with the principles of hermeneutics? Finally, how does hermeneutical philosophy view the relation between theory and practice in moral philosophy?
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