In Search of a Whole-System Ethic

Journal of Religious Ethics 12 (2):219 - 239 (1984)
A "whole-system ethic" is an ethic which finds its theory of value and moral agency in the relational nature of reality. Such an ethic is necessarily ontological. It proposes a relational theory of value, based on the contextual existence of the agent as a being-in-the-world. Also, because primary attention is given to the relational nature of reality, such an ethic is concerned to expose the illusion of the separate self and point out the dangers of action in accord with this illusion. Drawing on insights from H. Richard Niebuhr, Edmund Husserl, and Alfred Schutz, this paper explores the experiential relations through which value occurs as meaning-event, as self-interested, and as moral. Niebuhr's model of the responsible self and his proposed "ethics of the fitting" are reinterpreted using phenomenological categories, so as to provide a possible ground for a whole-system ethic.
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