Santa Clara University


Metaethical Theory: Is Ethics Possible?

In Chapter Eighteen, of Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (New York: Longmans, 1957), 595-633, metaphysician Bernard J.F. Lonergan, S.J., inquires into “The Possibility of Ethics” from the viewpoints of

  1. notions of the good, will, value, obligation;
  2. freedom and responsibility; and
  3. effective freedom.

These kinds of metaethical considerations about the very possibility of ethics are always presupposed in any inquiry into the ethics of a single issue such as cloning. While such questions are not the focus of a more applied website like this one, it is important to recognize their legitimacy as intellectual questions, and refer to a few approaches. One is Lonergan’s.

Another approach is that of Notre Dame Professor Robert Audi in the following works:

Audi, Robert, The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).

Audi, Robert, Religious Commitment and Secular Reason (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Audi, Robert, and Wolterstorff, Nicholas, Religion in the Public Square: The Place of Religious Convictions in Political Debate (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997).

Again, this website makes no pretense at being a source for metaethics, but here are two possible approaches to this serious question.

November 9, 2009.