Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Pritchard

Second Advisor

Dr. John Dilworth

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Farber

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This enquiry suggests a solution to a challenge posed by Bernard Williams (1985) in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy to develop a positive ethical theory that fulfills his guidelines. In particular, the theory is used to solve two problems: (1) reflection typically uproots and destroys ethical beliefs, and (2) modern ethical theories typically answer questions about ethics universally and ignore their practical characteristics.

Casuistry, as explained by Albert R. Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin (1988) in The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning, responds to Williams' challenge. To solve (1) casuistry must employ thick ethical concepts, ethical concepts with descriptive and evaluative portions. Discussions of thick concepts contain arguments relevant to the "ought-is" distinction, as seen in Peter Winch's (1972) discussions concerning conceptual understanding, and other relevant topics. To solve (2) casuistry's foundations, that is, Aristotle's distinction between theoretical and practical knowledge, are used. The latter discussion examines arguments concerning utilitarianism, the categorical imperative, Henry S. Richardson's (1990) "Specifying Norms," among others.

Included in

Philosophy Commons