Metaphysics and Ethics: Levinas, Clarke, and Maritain


Abstract
For Emmanuel Levinas the foundation of the moral “ought” is an important question. He is skeptical, however, about using human reason or any sort of metaphysics to ground ethics. Instead he resorts to the human face as to what motivates a person to act ethically toward another person. Levinas argues that it is the nature of the human face to oblige anyone to act in an ethical way. In short, the human face commands one to be ethical. I will argue that the metaphysics of being according to W. Norris Clarke and Jacques Maritain provide a corrective to Levinas’s metaphysical skepticism. Using Clarke’s metaphysics of person as the fullest expression of what it means to be, I maintain that what shines forth in the human face is the very depths of the human person. What grounds the ethical “ought” is the person. The human face is only the surface through which a deeper reality resonates. In this way, I argue for a metaphysical foundation for ethics.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0019-0365
DOI ipq201050435
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