Metaphysical Society of America 64th Annual Meeting: Metaphysics and Ethics, East and West

April 12, 2013 - April 13, 2013
College of the Holy Cross

1 College Street
United States

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What is the relationship between metaphysics and ethics? Metaphysics is concerned with being qua being or the first principles and causes of being, or the primary sense or senses of reality, or its fundamental categories. Ethics is concerned with the goodness of persons, or the rightness of actions, or the best value in consequences. Hence metaphysics and ethics may seem to be unrelated. Is it possible, however, to ask about being without asking about the goodness of being? Is it possible to define human goodness and rightness without first defining human being or human value? Might being, itself, provide a measure of the goodness of actions and persons? Is there a state of being the attainment of which makes persons to be good or actions to be right? Moreover, is this state of being prescribed by the nature of human beings? Is this prescription provided by some being that is both prior to and the cause of human beings?

Whether metaphysics and ethics are related is a topic that invites reflection on the normativity or neutrality of being. How one answers the prior metaphysical questions will inevitably affect one’s views of ethics. Both Asian and Western philosophical traditions exhibit both the normativist and the neutralist alternatives. Cross-cultural comparisons between Eastern and Western responses afford a wider set of variations and some strong examples of mutual corroboration.

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