Arquivo para August 25th, 2021

Ethics in the morals of Paul Ricoeur

25 Aug

In his 1990 text, Paul Ricoeur has already elaborated what he called a little ethics, simplified into three theses:

  • the priority of ethics over morals, that is, the priority of the life of the good life (comes from the Greek concept of goodness), with and for others, in just institutions, over the moral norm;
  • The need, however, that the ethical approach (here opposes the Hegel/Kantian ethics) through the sieve of the moral norm: this passage from ethics to morality, with its imperatives and its prohibitions, is, as it were, demanded by the ethics, insofar as the desire for the good life meets violence in all its forms; and,
  • the legitimacy of a recourse from the moral norm to the ethical aim, when the norm leads to conflicts and for which there is no other way out than practical wisdom, the creation of new decisions in difficult cases, such as in law , in everyday life and in medicine.

Ricoeur clarifies that neither in the etymology of the words, nor in the history of the use of the terms, there is no clear distinction between morals and ethics, but there is a nuance in the term ethics “for the aim of a life carried out under the sign of good deeds” , and the moral term “towards the obligatory side, marked by norms, obligations, interdictions characterized at the same time by a demand for universality and an effect of coercion” (Ricoeur, 1991a, p. 256).

In this sense, its “ethical aim” must be understood, nor is it restricted to the field of personal freedom, since it admits “the requirement of universality and an effect of coercion” nor is it limited to institutional ethics since it must be “under the sign of good esteemed actions”.

It is thus possible to distinguish more clearly in his ethical approach, the distinction between two inheritances, the Aristotelian “ethics characterized by its teleological perspective (from telos, which means ends), and the Kantian deontological inheritance (“morality is defined by character from the norm’s obligation and, therefore, from a deontological point of view (deo of “duty”).

Thus, his analysis, rather than excluding one or another thesis of modern ethics, complements both the work of Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle, and the Grounds of Moral Metaphysics and Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, but without the need for to be faithful to the orthodoxy of neither is not an evasive solution, but an inclusive one.

RICOEUR, Paul. (1991). Éthique et morale, Lectures 1: Autour du politique. Paris, Seuil, Pp. 256-269.