Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Philosophy

First Advisor

Steven Skultety

Second Advisor

Joseph W. Ulatowski

Third Advisor

Robert Westmoreland

Relational Format



Talbot Brewer's Retrieval of Ethics and Robert Adams's Finite and Infinite Goods present distinct theories in ethics and metaethics. Brewer begins with the fundamental ethical perspective of the practical deliberator who experiences his practical deliberations as a continuous, unified, and constantly revised activity which begins with inchoate intimations of goodness and proceeds better or worse to understand and pursue the goodness which pervades his evaluative outlook. From this Brewer aims to account for how we achieve excellence in practical deliberation and arrive at a more tenable and self-consistent evaluative outlook which informs our ethical deliberations. Alternately, Adams begins in the linguistic community and the role suggested by our ordinary language which 'good' must play to account for the diversity of its predications and suggested instantiations. From this a deeply metaphysical account is developed of ordinary goods as, in a sense, parasitic on a transcendent and infinite good to which their intelligibility is oand upon which traditional moral notions of obligation and the like are appealingly based. This thesis argues that each theory, though similar, has distinct strengths and weaknesses which might complement each other in a synthetic theory strengthened by both. Adams's transcendent Good, while it secures objectivity and maximal sharedness, lacks a criterion for higher and lower order goods. Brewer's epistemology couched in practical reason, while establishing an intriguing picture of the good human life, lacks a firm grounding outside the individual to avoid subjectivism. My solution is to push the two theories together with a dialectical criterion for Adams and a notion of the transcendent community for Brewer.



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