Aspects of moral law foundations for social ethics
Broughton, Donald Norman
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The central problem of this dissertation is to test some aspects of the hypothesis that a modified version of Edgar Sheffield Brightman's Moral Laws constitutes a fundamental theoretical framework for social ethics. A test case is considered which compares the implicit assumptions made qy certain religious social ethicists with those characteristic of moral law social etlncs. It is hypothesized that if social ethics based on moral laws do represent fundamental principles, then evidence of dependence on them will be found in the writinr,s of those who hold to other systems. These investigations allow six propositions to be made on the proper components of a viable social ethic. These are derived from the investigation of the presuppositions of moral laws and the consequences of the types of appeals made to moral law social ethics by Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey. Two methodological procedures are used. The first is an analytic and synthetic exposition of the central theoretical problem of outlining particular aspects of moral law foundations for social ethics. This exposition includes contributions of philosophy and social science. These data are incorporated into a fourfold re-classification of Brightman's Noral Laws as amended to include a law of the ideal of community. The second methodological procedure involves the use of content analysis of selected works of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey. The analysis is made by examining the arguments in specific ethical considerations in terms of the adequacy of their theoretical framework. It is noted that the authors rely on arguments analogous to the principles of moral law social ethics where their theory seems inadequate, and that the theoretical framework often makes no improvement on moral law social ethics. The limitations of this study are uncerstood in terms of the use of the data. In the work on the expansion of Edgar S. Brightman's Horal Laws, contributions by other philosophers and by social scientists are limited to the areas where their thinking is consonant with that of Brightman, although new insights of these thinkers are incorporated. The thought of neither Reinhold Niebuhr nor Paul Ramsey has been exhaustively analyzed. This dissertation is not primarily concerned with this problem but rather, only with their thought as illustrative material. The limits of the conclusions regarding this illustrative material are that some forms of Christian social ethics may be subsumed in moral law social ethics without doing violence to the ethical efficacy of Christian theory. This excludes, however, accepting the exclusiveness of revelatory data as a presupposition. It is concluded that at least six aspects of moral law foundations for social ethics are universally valid. First, that the term "normative system" must be understood as capable of development; second, that any valid social ethics must be adequately grounded in an empirical approach; third, that empiricism must be broadly understood in terms of a theory of reality which is organic and pluralistic; fourth, that ethics must always find its locus in the category of personality which, in social ethics, is integral to the concept of community; fifth, that ethical terms and their validity may only be understood in the light of one's understanaing of the nature and function of culture; sixth, that religious ethics should be included as part of the data of moral experience.
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