Volume 25 – Issue 1 – March 2017 – A SURVEY OF ETHICAL SYSTEMS
There is no question more important than what a person should do—toward what end he should orient his life project and how he should pursue that end. To do this systematically often involves adherence to a particular moral theory. In this issue of Light & Truth, we investigate some rival ethical theories to guide readers on their path toward the good life.
Moral theories typically address the following three questions: what do moral concepts mean? when do moral concepts apply? and where do moral concepts come from? That so many disagree so seriously about these questions—the fundamental tenets of morality—suggests we will not reach consensus about these issues anytime soon. Indeed, a universal moral consensus may well be impossible. But this uncertainty need not discourage us from doing moral philosophy—and it must not discourage us from living well.
In the pages that follow, Messrs. Strench and Krapf describe how virtue ethics and Stoicism respectively can guide us in organizing and balancing our desires. These theories raise a further question: what justifies the claims morality makes on us, assuming we have some idea of what these are? The problem of normativity is inherently linked to the structure of reason itself. Addressing this, Mr. Effman explains the three possible positions on practical reason.
Each article makes assumptions to argue for positions that are by no means uncontroversial. Many presume the existence of some foundational moral truth toward which humanity strives. As Christine Korsgaard notes in The Sources of Normativity, “there is no normativity if you cannot be wrong.” There must be one set answer, though it may be inaccessible. Yet even this is not universally accepted.
It is up to readers to critically assess the content of these pages. Do not be dogmatic. Do not be intellectually lazy. Free thought, self-reflection, and liberal education are the values that Light & Truth hopes to advance.
Light & Truth would not be possible without the thoughtful contributions of its writers and the intellectual curiosity of its readers. In 1994, this magazine was born out of necessity, to combat the complacent and lazy forces of moral relativism and decay. Thank you for helping us stay true to Yale’s founding principles of intellectualism and academic inquiry. We hope you enjoy our latest issue.
—Madeline E. Fortier, The Editor