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Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

(p.7) Chapter One Setting the Stage
Moral Stealth
University of Chicago Press

Paul Ricoeur, the French philosopher, defined ethics as “the wish to live well with and for others in just institutions.” His is what he called a three-cornered definition, which unites the self, the other, and the third-party bearer in the judicial, social, and political planes. For Ricoeur, morality concerned itself with the imperatives and prohibitions which thereby regulate ethics. Bernard Williams continues this line of thought with his suggestion that morality should be understood as “a particular development of the ethical that has a special significance in modern Western culture.” The idea of duty encompassing prohibitions seems to make the moral domain a more useful way to think about the conduct of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy than the much broader field of ethics, which carries with it a good deal of the thinking of religious and philosophical concepts. It is certainly true that much talk about duties and obligations is subsumed under the so-called study of ethics, but a focus on duties, obligations, prohibitions, and imperatives might be better understood under the umbrella of morals and morality.

Keywords:   Paul Ricoeur, morality, ethics, Bernard Williams, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, duties, obligations, morals, prohibitions

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