Bradley's Acount of Ideal Morality: Self-Realization and Its Equivocations

Studia Redemptorystowskie 15:81-106 (2017)

Damian Ilodigwe
Ss Peter And Paul Major Seminary, Ibadan
Many commentators regard Ethical Studies as the most Hegelian of Bradley’s writings. The common perception is that the Fifth essay of that work, which articulates an ethics of “My Station and its Duties”, expresses Bradley’s position on the question of the nature of morality. Nonetheless when the dialectical structure of Ethical Studies is taken into account, the common perception is not only questionable, but it also emerges that, in interrogating the nature of morality, Bradley’s concern is beyond matters merely ethical, in so far as, on Bradley’s view, the question of the nature of morality inevitably implicates the larger question as to the relation of morality to religion, and of religion to philosophy. Thus in accentuating the claim of ideal morality in the Sixth Essay against the apotheosis of social morality, Bradley’s attempt is to offer a larger perspective on the being of morality itself, as it bears on the question of the nature of ultimate reality. Paradoxically, Bradley concludes by way of anti-climax that the highest viewpoint on morality is still inadequate to the matter, given that morality is inherently self-contradictory. Given the often confused environment of much of the contemporary debates on the nature of morality in which communitarianism is dualistically opposed to individualism, and ethical relativism pitched against ethical objectivism, the relevance of Bradley’s accentuation of the ideality of morality is beyond question, as it provides useful resources for thinking together personal and social morality without reducing one to the other.
Keywords F. H. Bradley  Ideal Morality  Ethical Studies  Self-Realization  Morality  Religion  Politics  Individualism  Communitarianism
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