Repository | Book | Chapter

A transcendental argument for agreement as the sole sufficient basis of a philosophical ethic

George Khushf

pp. 87-144

Any controversy to be resolved by agreement (without force) can be extended into a meta-controversy about whether permission or agreement has been obtained (force is used). If a requirement for agreement is extended from an abstract ideal to actual agreement, and if the actual agreement concerns the meta-controversy as well as the controversy, an agent's resolve to act in ways that involve agreement can imply a host of very strong constraints on action. This can significantly alter the implications of a transcendental argument that demonstrates agreement is the sole sufficient basis for an ethic that can be used by people who do not share robust commitments regarding the right and good. H. Tristram Engelhardt has advanced such a transcendental argument to ground his minimal ethic for moral strangers. An inversion from a minimal to a maximal ethic can arise because of an additional ambiguity regarding the moral standpoint. When an actual agent takes up the moral stance, that agent resolves to act in such a way that contingent, subjective grounds of action (Kant's "maxim") are consistent with the requirement for permission/agreement that governs agent interactions. The requirement for agreement functions as a constraint relative to which contingent aspects of agency must be taken as indifferent and subject to reconstruction. If the agreements and permissions must be mutually acknowledged, external agents can withhold recognition of all reasons for action that are not mutually recognized as reasons. Engelhardt's requirement for a mutually recognized, common basis of ethics can be extended to the whole set of conditions that make an agreement into a mutually recognized agreement. To avoid this interpretation, Engelhardt needs to explicitly make deference to other agents with inaccessible reasons for action into a constitutive moment of the moral standpoint. He also needs to make peaceable resolution of conflict constitutive of the way the game of blaming and praising is defined. This will require independent criteria for when force is deployed by an agent to resolve a controversy.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-18965-9_7

Full citation:

Khushf, G. (2015)., A transcendental argument for agreement as the sole sufficient basis of a philosophical ethic, in L. M. Rasmussen, A. S. Iltis & M. J. . Cherry (eds.), At the foundations of bioethics and biopolitics, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 87-144.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.