Possible SSHRC/OGS grant application

Starting a PhD from scratch, I really have no idea what I want to work on. This is a problem when it comes time to write grant applications, however, because these are mostly graded on the current state of your research proposal. That’s ok, insofar as you can make one up. Here’s what I’m thinking right now.

“There never was a non-ontological ethics”. There is the appearence of a divide between non-moral virtue ethics and moral virtue ethics, as the distinction between modern and ancient accounts. In Darwall, the distinction is between those virtue theories which concern “character concerned with choice” but “does not relate to any conception of a moral law under which all are accountable as equals”(2). Heidegger draws this same distinction in his reading of Aristotle, when he claims that “one cannot force Greek ethics into a mode of questioning of modern ethics” because “an ethical consideration for them the very outset outside of the points of view we know today…the consideration of human existence was oriented purely toward the meaning of being itself”(Plato’s Sophist 122).

It is my contention in relation to Darwall, it is absurd to exclude as “amoral” any ethics that concerns choice but which does not relate to a super judicial law which takes us all as equals. But more importantly, I wish to argue that this sort of mistake is only possible through the misinterpretation of modern ethics as seperated from the question of being. We can see this the clearest in Kant, when he states in the Groundwork that moral action always takes human existence, personhood, or the being of the human being, as its end. While this is often confused with the need to aid in other’s projects, it properly means that since all rational beings have dictated by practical reason themselves as their own ends, it is not possible for their final ends to diverge. Just as this is explicit in Kant, however, it is implicit in modern deontology, and especially, consequalialist moral theories.

It will be my task then to make explicit what is implicit, to show the extent to which any worthwhile moral theory must in giving reasons for acting, appeal to the being of the human being, and show how the imperative towards certain actions arises out of propriety with respect to the proper being of the human. It will be my task to show that this cannot be avoided, but rather can only appear to be avoided, by appealing to externally grounded principles such as “contract” or “the greatest good”.]

The upshot of this would be a) to bring ethics into its original relation with metaphysics, and b) to locate metaphysics with respect to human action.The provisional assumption is that this relation is transcendental, in the sense that a field is transcendental to a particle: the meaning of being provides the field upon which ethics can be practiced, and confusion about the field leads to moral blockages.

*to some extent what I wish to pursue is a metaphysical level account of the kind of description Slajov Zizek pursues psychologically/cultural-historically.

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