Peirce's summum bonum and the ethical views of C. I. Lewis and John Dewey

I am primarily concerned here with C. I. Lewis’s suggestion in a letter to me that some admitted defects in his ethical views might be removed by appealing to Peirce’s views on the summum bonum, which Peirce identified as the evolutionary process whereby the universe becomes more and more orderly. Since Lewis held in his published writings that what is morally obligatory can never be determined by empirical facts alone, I argue that since the alleged growing orderliness of the universe must be established empirically, Lewis cannot analyze an obligatory action as one that contributes to that process without abandoning his view that obligatoriness cannot be established empirically. I also argue that if Lewis were to abandon his opposition to a naturalistic theory of obligation, appealing to Peirce’s summum bonum would not help Lewis out of what he called his predicament in ethics
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0031-8205
DOI 10.2307/2653568
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