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The Situated but Directionless Self: The Postmetaphysical World of Benhabib’s Discourse Ethics

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Drawing on the work of Jurgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib has developed a system of communicative or discourse ethics. Her approach is said to respect differences and to count context as important but she also claims that it is postmetaphysical. I dispute this claim on two grounds. First, I argue that any system of ethics must be grounded by metaphysical commitments. Second, I show that in using elements of both Kantian and Aristotelian theory, Benhabib has imported metaphysical underpinnings into her theory and that these implicit understandings of what the moral enterprise is about, ought to be made explicit. Finally, a brief exploration of some contemporary ethical reflection and problem solving suggests that a shared metaphysical foundation is essential to ethical discourse.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-5930.00040

Affiliations: Queensland Bioethics Centre, South Brisbane, Q4101, Australia

Publication date: April 1, 1997

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