Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics

Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics

Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics

Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics

Synopsis

Renowned scholar Robert Adams explores the relation between religion and ethics through a comprehensive philosophical account of a theistically-based framework for ethics. Adams' framework begins with the good rather than the right, and with excellence rather than usefulness. He argues that loving the excellent, of which adoring God is a clear example, is the most fundamental aspect of a life well lived. Developing his original and detailed theory, Adams contends that devotion, the sacred, grace, martyrdom, worship, vocation, faith, and other concepts drawn from religious ethics have been sorely overlooked in moral philosophy and can enrich the texture of ethical thought.

Excerpt

Finite and infinite goods -- many finite and one infinite. This book proposes a framework for ethics that is organized around a transcendent Good and its relation to the many finite goods of our experience. Two main themes contained in this idea should be emphasized at the outset: the centrality of the good, and the transcendence of the infinite Good. I begin with the latter.

On my view, the infinite or transcendent Good is God. When I began to study moral philosophy, in the late 1950s, writers in the subject were almost unanimous in holding that ethics could not have religious foundations -- that the nature of the good and the right (or the meaning of 'good' and 'right', as analytical philosophers then preferred to say) could not be understood in terms of facts about God, even if God exists. This view was accepted even by many theists. This surprised me, because I had grown up in an atmosphere in which religion and ethics were treated as a single, supremely important aspect of life, grounded in the nature, action, and commands of God; and this treatment seemed to me, as it still does, to make living sense. At the same time it seemed to me that there were grounds for genuine puzzlement, not just about the relation between religion and ethics, but about the nature of the good and the right, which seemed to demand or strongly invite an explanation, which I hoped might be given in theistic terms.

Over the years since then, I and others have made a number of attempts at theistic explanation in this area, chiefly along the lines of development and defense of . . .

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