Philosophical Glossary

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The following is a collection of some of the words used in philosophical discussions along with working definitions of what they may mean in those discussions. Some of these definitions I have worded on my own, others have been gleaned from lots of sources and put together -- or outright kept intact as I found them. I try to avoid plagiarism by linking to the original source or making note of them.  I have added some of the words but not yet taken the time to enter a definition for them, even though some of them should be pretty obvious. This glossary is an ongoing project. A value to this list, apart from assisting students unfamiliar with the use these words have in the "language game" of ethics to learn the rules of the game, is in how they help raise the "moral IQ." Tests used nationally to evaluate the success of Ethics classes, such as that developed by Regents College of New York, are primarily a test of these terms and their definitions. Typical questions would be to give the word and ask which of choices a-d is the correct meaning of the word. So, becoming familiar with this list and others like it may be an excellent way to prepare for such a test. Please do not use the first definition as an indicator of how easy the rest of them will be.


Absolute: Hegel - not only subject-object identity but identity of subject-object identity and subject-object non-identity. Clear? This is how we can metaphorically think that we can conceive of not only the conceivable but also the inconceivable as part of what we can conceive.

Acts of commission: things you actually did that were not right for you to do.

Acts of omission: knowing what the right thing to do is in a situation but not doing it.

Aesthetic: having to do with sense-perception. In Kant's first Critique this word refers to space and time as the necessary conditions for sense-perception. The first half of the third Critique examines the subjective purposiveness in our perception of beautiful or sublime objects in order to construct a system of aesthetic judgment. (Cf. teleological.)

Altruism: interested in other people for their own sake. Contrast with Egoism.

Analysis: For Kant, a division of a representation into two opposing representations, with a view towards clarifying the original representation. Philosophy as metaphysics employs analysis more than synthesis. (Cf. synthesis.) 


Analytic: Statement that is considered true based on information already known by analysis of the statement itself ("old news"). A statement or an item of knowledge which is true solely because of its conformity to some logical laws. Contrast with Synthetic.

anthropocentrism: viewing everything as if all was designed for the purpose of serving Man.

a priori and a posteriori: Latin for "before" and "after" used following Kant to mean "before experience" i.e. was is required for the experience to happen, and "after" as what we know as part of the experience once we have had the experience.

Autonomy: an action which is determined by the subject's own free choice (see will). In Kant's second Critique, moral action is defined as being autonomous. (Cf. heteronomy.)


Basic structure: The way in which the basic institution (political constitution, forms of property, legal system, economy) fit together into a system and assign rights and duties, determine probable outcomes for individuals.

Rawls suggests that the parties will hit on two principles to govern the basic structure of society:

FIRST PRINCIPLE: Each person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all.

SECOND PRINCIPLE: Social and economic principles are to satisfy two conditions. First, they must be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity (the opportunity principle); and second, they must be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society (the difference principle).

The first principle is considered as lexically prior to the second and the first part of the second is lexically prior to the second part of the second.

Behaviorism: theory that belittles the importance of consciousness as a concern for controlling or predicting a persons actions. What can be observed is sufficient to understand human action.


boo-hooray theory: moral statements merely express the reactions of the speaker. (A.J.Ayer)


Categorical imperative: the moral action to take in a situation as intuitively understood, (one's duty) by any rational person in that situation (Kant). An action is properly called 'morally good' only if (1) we can will all persons to do it, (2) it enables us to treat other persons as ends and not merely as the means to our own selfish ends, and (3) it allows us to see other persons as mutual law-makers in an ideal 'realm of ends'.

Categories: the most general concepts, in terms of which every object must be viewed in order for it to become an object of empirical knowledge. The four main categories (quantity, quality, relation and modality) each have three sub-categories, forming a typical example of a twelvefold, architectonic pattern. (Cf. space and time.)

Cognition, intuition, creativity, and imagination: a continuous maelstrom of conformations and counter-conformations among subsets of the egon, which create, reinforce, and annihilate one another. This maelstrom is traditionally denoted the "unconscious" mind. (Watson)

Collective unconscious: the inherited symbolic expressions of human experience (Jung).

Conception of the good: A person's view about what is valuable in life and in the world. May be religious conviction, career ambition or just a set of preferences.

Consequentialist: the result is what counts; utilitarianism is an example.

Conscience: the faculty of the human subject which enforces the moral law in a particular way for each individual by providing an awareness of what is right and wrong in each situation. Kant: "The consciousness of an internal tribunal in man (before which "his thoughts accuse or excuse one another") is CONSCIENCE."

"Conscious" thought: high-order constructions (synecdoches) of the rudimentary conformations and counter-conformations of the unconscious—e.g., verbal symbols (Watson).

Contingent: it all depends....

Curiosity: the tendency of enformy to impose enformation on gestalts to realize their potential complexity. (Watson)


Deontology: Ethical theory that duty is the basis of morality. Do your duty regardless of the consequences.

Determinism: view that all human action is a result of previous causes. Contrast with freewill.

Difference principle: See 'Principles of justice'.

distributive justice : giving to each his due.

Do no harm : part of the oath for a medical doctor. Phrase most refered to by the AMA concerning the opposition to the legalization of Euthanasia.

Duty: an action which we are obligated to perform out of respect for the moral law.


Eclecticism: taking ones views from a variety of sources even though they may not be in harmony with one another.



egocentrism: the tendency of an individual to judge everything in relation to himself.

Egoism: morality is based on self-interest. Conflicts are over indirect (long term), direct (short term) interest. Our interest in other people is in the need for a stable society that is better for us in the long run.

Egon denotes an ipseon that can communicate with humans symbolically in the first person. (Watson)

Emotion: the egon's conforming to the overall state of organization of the material gestalt. Emotion differs from cognition, which conforms to specific states. (Watson)

Empirical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both synthetic and a posteriori. Most of the knowledge we gain through ordinary experience, or through science, is empirical. 'This table is brown' is a typical empirical statement. (Cf. transcendental).

Enformy organizes coherent material systems by imposing enformation on elements of matter.

*   Enformation is nonrandomness—the essence of organization—in any specified frame of reference.

*   Enformation is nonmaterial, whereas information is material—nonrandom states of material systems. Hence, enformation is fundamental to information.

*   An enformed gestalt is any system that is organized as a whole by enformy. It is the sum of its parts plus a four-dimensional map of the relationships among those parts.

*   This map is a coherent, nonmaterial enformation field in spacetime that is sustained by enformy.

*   An enformation field is the domain of influence of enformation. It is discontinuous in three-space, but continuous in spacetime. (Watson)

Ethical egoism: the only valid moral standard is an obligation to promote one's own good, well-being.

Psychological egoism: we are selfish and no matter what we do, if probed deeply enough, a selfish motive would be found; we don't have any choice in this.


empathy: feeling with another. Reacting to the experiences of another as though they were one's own.

empiricist: searchs for an origin of ethical reasoning that can be objectively studied, reverses the chain of causation. The individual is seen as predisposed biologically to make certain choices. Through cultural evolution some of the choices are hardened into precepts, then into laws, and, if the predisposition or coercion is strong enough, into a belief in the command of God or the natural order of the universe. The general empiricist principle takes this form: Strong innate feeling and historical experience cause certain actions to be preferred; we have experienced them, and have weighed their consequences, and agree to conform with codes that express them. Let us take an oath upon the codes, invest our personal honor in them, and suffer punishment for their violation. The empiricist view concedes that moral codes are devised to conform to some drives of human nature and to suppress others. Ought is the translation not of human nature but of the public will, which can be made increasingly wise and stable through an understanding of the needs and pitfalls of human nature. The empiricist view recognizes that the strength of commitment can wane as a result of new knowledge and experience, with the result that certain rules may be desacralized, old laws rescinded, and formerly prohibited behavior set free. It also recognizes that for the same reason new moral codes may need to be devised, with the potential of being made sacred in time.

Epistemology: branch of philosophy concerned with theory of knowledge ("how we know").

equal opportunity:

Ethics: the branch of philosophy concerned with theories of moral action ("how we should live").

Applied ethics: taking basic moral principles you have arrived at, apply them to specific problems, and in the process define them further.

Descriptive ethics: investigating lots of moral beliefs and behaviors, for example, infanticide; can lead to questions about relativity of moral values.

Metaethics: study of the nature of ethical theories; language game that considers how ethical theories should be constructed.

Non-normative ethics: metaethics and descriptive ethics.

Normative ethics: this term includes both general normative ethics (which is attempting to come up with and defend basic moral principles) and applied ethics; an attempt to formulate and defend basic moral principles and standards of virtue.

Ethnomethodology: study of social structure of interactions: the study of how people interact in ways that maintain the social structure of the situations in which they find themselves

extrinsic value : value in terms of what it means to me or others, not in itself for itself. Contrast with intrinsic value.


faith: a rational attitude towards a potential object of knowledge which arises when we are subjectively certain it is true even though we are unable to gain theoretical or objective certainty. By contrast, knowledge implies objective and subjective certainty, while opinion is the state of having neither objective nor subjective certainty.



Freewill: man can choose what to do independently of scientifically ascertainable causal factors. Contrast with determinism.



General Phenomena: (Watson)

*   Life per se

*   The evolution of species

*   Quantum coherence

*   "Water memory"

*   Homing behavior of pigeons

*   Reincarnation

*   Crop circles (non-hoaxed)


Golden Mean: doctrine of the. A central doctrine in Aristotle's account of excellence of *character. Aristotle describes that excellence as concerned with pathe, i.e. motivational impulses, chiefly emotions, and with actions (sc. which issue from those motivations), and defines it as 'a settled state issuing in choice, in a mean determined by a rational principle, viz. the one by which the agent of practical wisdom would determine it'. This settled state is in a mean in the sense that the virtuous agent is neither excessively given to the various motivations prompting to action (e.g. excessively irascible) nor insufficiently sensitive to them, but responsive to the right extent, so as to choose to act on each motivation to the right degree, on the right occasions, for the right reasons, with reference to the right people, etc. The determination of what is right in all these particular respects cannot be captured in any formula, but has to be the task of the educated judgment of the practically wise agent, responding to the indefinitely variable range of circumstances in which action is required.


Hedonism: the view that happiness (as pleasure) is the goal of all human action. (Ethical hedonism is the view that happiness should be the goal.)

Heteronomy: an action which is determined by some outside influence (i.e., some force other than the freedom given by practical reason, such as inclination) impelling the subject to act in a certain way. Such action is nonmoral (i.e., neither moral nor immoral). (Cf. autonomy.)


Hypothetical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both analytic and a posteriori (though Kant himself wrongly identified it as synthetic and a priori). Most metaphysical knowledge is properly viewed from this perspective, instead of from the speculative perspective of traditional metaphysics. 'There is a God' is a typical hypothetical statement. (Cf. logical).


intrinsic value : a person has intrinsic value (Kant), freedom is another that has intrinsic value -- we are not sure of these. Is it possible for them to have a value without that value being due to relationships with others?

Intuition: the passive species of representation, by means of which our sensibility enables to have sensations. By requiring appearances to be given in space and time, intuitions allow us to perceive particular relations between representations, thereby limiting empirical knowledge to the sensible realm. (Cf. concept.)

Ipseon denotes the nonmaterial, four-dimensional map of a specific enformed gestalt. It is the unique "self" of a holistic entity—an enformy-sustained, coherent enformation field in spacetime. Ipseons therefore comprise "memories," which are detectable, not only in living systems, but in other complex systems such as water (Schiff 1995).



Judicial: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to experience--i.e., to what we feel, as opposed to what we know or desire to do. Judicial reason is virtually synonymous with 'Critique' itself, and is concerned with questions about the most profound ways in which we experience the world. Finding the source of two examples of such experiences is the task of the third Critique. (Cf. theoretical and practical.)




Knowledge: the final goal of the understanding in combining intuitions and concepts. If they are pure, the knowledge will be transcendental; if they are impure, the knowledge will be empirical. In a looser sense, 'knowledge' also refers to that which arises out adopting any legitimate perspective.


Lawrence Kohlberg was a professor of education and social psychology at Harvard University. Kohlberg wondered, as Piaget had, how children learn moral and ethical ideas. He put together a series of moral dilemmas and as his thesis presented them to a group of boys, and then analyzed their replies. Since 1957 he has repeated the experiment every three years, and today his first subjects are in their thirties. His results show a pattern of development involving six possible stages of increasing complexity and maturity, through which an individual can pass as he develops his own standards of morality and ethics, much as Piaget presented the stages of cognitive development which young children experience. Kohlberg defines the six stages of moral development as follows:


STAGE 1: The child defers to the superiority of the parent or other adult, and the emphasis is on punishment and obedience.

STAGE 2: The child will obey or agree to behave if he can see some immediate benefit in return.

STAGE 3: The child behaves to gain the approval of others, and conforms in order to please. This is sometimes called the "good boy-nice girl" orientation.

STAGE 4: The child obeys rules for the sake of maintaining the social order, or from concern for the wider community, rather than for the immediate narrow group.

STAGE 5: The child obeys in response to a contract between those who are in charge and those who follow the rules laid down, based on a democratic system of equality. This is called the  "social contract, legalistic" orientation.

STAGE 6: This stage requires a highly sophisticated and abstract sense of morality rarely, if ever, achieved in real life by children or even adults. Here individuals achieve resolutions to the dilemmas based on ethical principles applied universally, consistently, and logically. People make ethical decisions that take into consideration every point of view in a totally objective way. Kohlberg explains: "Personally chosen moral principles are also principles of justice, the principles any member of society would choose for that society if he did not know what his position was to be in the society, and in which he might be the least advantaged."

(Note the similarity of this last with John Rawls thesis in Political Liberalism.)


 Kohlberg also groups his six stages into three pairs of developmental areas:


PRECONVENTIONAL (STAGES 1 and 2): Usually found in children from four to ten years old. Children here are often well behaved, but they interpret labels of good and bad in terms of their physical consequences or because of the physical power of those who set the rules.


CONVENTIONAL (STAGES 3 and 4): Usually described as conformist. A child is concerned with conforming to the social order and with maintaining, supporting, and justifying that order.

POSTCONVENTIONAL (STAGES 5 and 6): Characterized by a recognition of moral principles that are accepted because they have a validity of their own, apart from any outside authority.


 Kohlberg, who uses Piaget's open-ended approach to interviewing children, asserts that "adults seldom listen to children's moralizing. If a child throws back a few adult clichés and behaves himself, most parents--and many anthropologists and psychologists as well--think that the child has adopted or internalized the appropriate parental standards. Actually, as soon as we talk to children about morality, we find that they have many ways of making judgments which are not internalized from the outside and which do not come in any direct or obvious way from parents, teachers, or even peers."


Language game: metaphor used by Wittgenstein to explain how the language we use in different "forms of life" are like various games with rules that are different from game to game. The kinds of certainty we seek in knowledge, the meanings words have in conversation, are all dependent on the rules of the game we are playing.

Lexical ordering: Short for 'lexicographical ordering'. An ordering that completely satisfies a first principle before beginning to apply a second. Example: the ordering of words in a dictionary 'Put all the word beginning with A before any beginning with any other letter, then do the Bs; Within the As, place 'aardvark' before 'abacus'.


Logical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both analytic and a priori. Hence it is concerned with nothing but the relationships between concepts. The law of noncontradiction (A is not -A) is the fundamental law of traditional, Aristotelian logic. (If we call this 'analytic' logic, then 'synthetic' logic would be based on the opposite law of 'contradiction' [A is -A].) 'All bachelors are unmarried' is a typical logical statement. (Cf. hypothetical.)



Maxim: the material rule or principle used to guide a person in a particular situation about what to do (e.g., 'I should never tell a lie'). It thus provides a kind of bridge between a persons inner disposition and outer actions.

maximize utility

Maximin decision rule: A decision rule for situations where the probabilities of particular outcomes obtaining are unknown. In such circumstances, it is most prudent (it is claimed) to choose the option with the least-worst possible outcome (in other words to maximize the minimum). Rawls employs this principle to derive his general conception of justice and in particular, to derive the difference principle, claiming that persons in the original position would employ the rule.

Memory: enformation that is retained as ipseons: coherent, nonmaterial gestalts that are distributed principally—but not exclusively—within the brain.

Metaphysics: the highest form of philosophy, which attempts to gain knowledge of the ideas. Because the traditional, speculative perspective fails to succeed in this task, Kant suggests a new, hypothetical perspective for metaphysics. Metaphysics can succeed only when it is preceded by Critique. (Cf. Critique.)

moral agency

moral consequence

Moral law: the one 'fact' of practical reason, which is in every rational person, though some people are more aware of it than others. The moral law, in essence, is our knowledge of the difference between good and evil, and our inner conviction that we ought to do what is good. (See categorical imperative.)

Moral nihilism

moral realism

moral relativism

moral subjectivism


naturalistic fallacy: In Principia Ethica (1903), G. E. Moore, the founder of modern ethical philosophy, essentially agreed with Kant. In his view, moral reasoning cannot dip into psychology and the social sciences in order to locate ethical principles, because those disciplines yield only a causal picture and fail to illuminate the basis of moral justification. So to reach the normative ought by way of the factual is is to commit a basic error of logic, which Moore called the naturalistic fallacy.

Nonconsequentialist: the result isn't what determines whether or not something is moral; the value of an act is in its motive.

Noumenon: the name given to a thing when it is viewed as a transcendent object. The term 'negative noumenon' refers only to the recognition of something which is not an object of sensible intuition, while 'positive noumenon' refers to the (quite mistaken) attempt to know such a thing as an empirical object. These two terms are sometimes used loosely as synonyms for 'transcendental object' and 'thing in itself', respectively. (Cf. phenomenon.)


Objective: related more to the object or representation out of which knowledge is constructed than to the subject possessing the knowledge. Considered transcendentally, objective knowledge is less certain than subjective knowledge; considered empirically, objective knowledge is more certain. (Cf. subjective.)

Objectivism: view that there are moral truths regardless of whether they are recognized by people or not. Contrast with Subjectivism.


Original position: The hypothetical situation in which rational persons behind a 'veil of ignorance' choose principles of justice to govern the basic structure of society.


Parapsychological and Psychic Phenomena: (Watson)

*   Precognition

*   Telepathy, Remote viewing

*   Psychokinesis: micro-, macro-, retro-

*   Psychic healing

*   Psychometry

*   Synchronicity phenomena

*   Apparitions

*   Near-death and Out-of-body experiences

patient autonomy: condition in which the patient has self-direction over their care.

Perception: egons conforming to enformation inherent in the sensory apparatus and other systems of the material gestalt.

Perspective: a way of thinking about or considering something; or a set of assumptions from which an object can be viewed. Knowing which perspective is assumed is important because the same question can have different answers if different perspectives are assumed. Kant himself does not use this word, but he uses a number of other expressions (such as standpoint, way of thinking, employment of understanding, etc.) in precisely this way. The main Critical perspectives are the transcendental, empirical, logical and hypothetical.

Phenomena and Noumena of Human Experience: (Watson)

*   Self-awareness

*   Perception     

*   Cognition

*   Memory, Learning

*   Curiosity, Creativity,

*   Intuition           

*   Emotion

*   Social bonding, Collective unconscious

*   Altered states, Dissociation


Phenomenon: the object of knowledge, viewed empirically, in its fully knowable state (i.e., conditioned by space and time and the categories). (Cf. noumenon.)

Phenomenology: the study of things as they appear to us.

Phronesis: -- thoughtfulness. Most translators render phronesis by "wisdom," and there seems to be good reason for this. In several passages (especially the discussion of the philosopher's view of the body, Phaedo 65a9-67b) phronesis appears to mean the achievement of knowledge or insight into the truth (e.g., 66e3). Further, phronesis is explicitly identified as that which the philos-sophos loves (66e2-5): In fact, it seems to be the preferred term for marking the object of the desire which characterizes the philosopher.  Thus, it is easy to take it as a synonym for what in other dialogues is called sophia. In translating it by "thoughtfulness," it is in the sense of "reflectiveness" or as the "character of careful reflection and consideration." The advantage of this translation is that it preserves the etymological connection with FRH/N. In addition, it allows for the preservation in English of the connection between the Greek words FRO/NHSIS and FRONE/W. Its drawback lies in it being perhaps too broad. Understood as "reflectiveness," phronesis loses its intrinsic connection with truth. Like episteme, phronesis seems to be by its essence incorrigible--it is essentially the understanding of the truth. "Thoughtfulness" does not, however, preclude error. It only describes the manner in which we comport ourselves in regard to the world: Being "thoughtful" is compatible with being in error. Wisdom, however, like knowledge, seems to require more than just care in our thought, it must also be successful; it must attain the truth. In addition, it is unclear why "thoughtfulness" should be considered the goal of the philosopher rather than truth, unless there is some necessary connection between the two.

Practical: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to action --i.e., to what we desire to do as opposed to what we know or feel. Practical reason is a synonym for will; and these two terms are concerned with questions of morality. Finding the sources of such action is the task of the second Critique. (Cf. theoretical and judicial.)

Primary good: A good that is supposed to be useful (or at least not harmful) to anyone, whatever their plan for life or conception of the good. Examples: money, self-respect, freedom of speech.

principle of double effect

Principles of justice:

1. Each person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all.

2. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions. First, they must be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second [the difference principle] they must be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.'

The principles are lexically ordered, with the first coming before the second and the first part of the second coming before the second part of the second.



rational self-interest


Reflective equilibrium: method for reasoning in ethics which attempts to make progress by seeking coherence between one's considered judgments about particular cases and questions, a set of ethical principles and the theoretical apparatus that generates those principles. Attempts to do ethical or political theory without solving the big meta ethical questions about the foundation of ethics.

relative: interdependence or reciprocal dependence.

Relativism: what's right depends on the situation (also situational ethics).

reliability: consistency or constancy.




slippery slope

Social bonding, collective unconscious, telepathy: enformy cohering subsets of enformation of two or more egons. (Watson)

social contract:


Subjectivism: view that moral attitudes are based on personal taste or experience. Contrast with objectivism.

sufficient reason

Supererogatory: beyond obligation; acting from personal ideals.

Synthesis: integration of two opposing representations into one new representation, with a view towards constructing a new level of the object's reality. Philosophy as Critique employs synthesis more than analysis. On the operation of synthesis in the first Critique, see imagination. (Cf. analysis.)


Synthetic: a statement or item of knowledge which is known to be true because of its connection with some intuition. (Cf. analytic.)


teleological: having to do with purposes or ends. The second half of the third Critique examines the objective purposiveness in our perception of natural organisms in order to construct a system of teleological judgment.


theoretical: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to cognition--i.e., to what we know as opposed to what we feel or desire to do. Theoretical reason is concerned with questions about our knowledge of the ordinary world (the world science seeks to understand). Finding the source of such knowledge is the task of the first Critique, which would best be entitled the Critique of Pure 'Theoretical' Reason. (Cf. practical and judicial; see speculative.)


thing in itself: an object considered transcendentally apart from all the conditions under which a subject can gain knowledge of it. Hence the thing in itself is, by definition, unknowable. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of noumenon. (Cf. appearance.)


Transcendent: the realm of thought which lies beyond the boundary of possible knowledge, because it consists of objects which cannot be presented to us in intuition--i.e., objects which we can never experience with our senses (sometimes called noumena). The closest we can get to gaining knowledge of the transcendent realm is to think about it by means of ideas. (The opposite of 'transcendent' is 'immanent'.)


Transcendental: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge which is both synthetic and a priori. It is a special type of philosophical knowledge, concerned with the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. However, Kant believes all knowing subjects assume certain transcendental truths, whether or not they are aware of it. Transcendental knowledge defines the boundary between empirical knowledge and speculation about the transcendent realm. 'Every event has a cause' is a typical transcendental statement. (Cf. empirical.)

transcendentalism: The order of nature contains supreme principles, either divine or intrinsic, and we will be wise to learn about them and find the means to conform to them.


Understanding: in the first Critique, the faculty concerned with actively producing knowledge by means of concepts. This is quite similar to what is normally called the mind. It gives rise to the logical perspective, which enables us to compare concepts with each other, and to the empirical perspective (where it is also called judgment), which enables us to combine concepts with intuitions in order to produce empirical knowledge. The first Critique examines the form of our cognitions in order to construct a system based on the faculty of understanding (= the theoretical standpoint). (Cf. sensibility.)

Universalization: The essential point of discourse ethics by Habermas is formulated in the principle of universalization and what it entails - namely, the principle of discourse. Habermas reformulates the Kantian version of the principle of universalization in terms of intersubjectivity. To begin with, the principle of universalization explains what our everyday, but postconventional intuition would outline for us as a strategy for solving moral conflicts: the principle of impartiality. This basic assumption of impartiality already draws a line between a cognitivistic and universal ethics and an ethics oriented towards solidarity, as advocated by Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice, 1982). The psychologist Carol Gilligan criticized L. Kohlberg's theory of moral development, especially its emphasis on the level of 'postconventionality' as the highest and 'best' level of moral judgment. Gilligan's critique applies first of all to Kohlberg's reduction of moral judgments to a formal procedure of justice - a procedure which is ultimately a procedure of 'postconventionality.' While Gilligan's critique of biases in Kohlberg's model is quite fruitful, a first problem in her approach is that she provides no way of distinguishing coerced solidarity from voluntary solidarity. There is a second problem inherent in decisions guided by solidarity: those decisions could be easily unjust and unfair decisions for those who are are affected by those decisions, but who are not part of the shared community [and thus excluded from the discussions in the first place].



Veil of ignorance: The exclusion of information about one's own conception of the good, social situation and talents and abilities from deliberation in the original position.

Virtues: Following Plato -- The Cardinal Virtues are: Temperance, the unique virtue of the artisan class; courage, the virtue peculiar to the military class; and wisdom characterizes the rulers. Justice, the fourth virtue, characterizes society as a whole. Christianity adds three more virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity (Love).


Will: the manifestation of reason in its practical form (see practical). The two German words, 'WillkŸr' and 'Wille' can both be translated in English as 'will'. WillkŸr refers to the faculty of choice, which for Kant is just one (empirical) function of the more fundamental faculty of practical reason.

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