Warwick Fox


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A Theory of General Ethics

Research & Publs


Warwick Fox,
A Theory of General Ethics: Human Relationships, Nature, and the Built Environment (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006)

Backcover summary:

With
A Theory of General Ethics Warwick Fox both defines the field of General Ethics and offers the first example of a truly general ethics. Specifically, he develops a single, integrated approach to ethics that encompasses the realms of interhuman ethics, the ethics of the natural environment, and the ethics of the built environment. Thus Fox offers what is in effect the first example of an ethical "Theory of Everything."

Fox refers to his own approach to General Ethics as the "theory of responsive cohesion." He argues that the best examples in any domain of interest—from psychology to politics, from conversations to theories—exemplify the quality of responsive cohesion, that is, they hold together by virtue of the mutual responsiveness of the elements that constitute them. Fox argues that the relational quality of responsive cohesion represents the most fundamental value there is. He then develops the theory of responsive cohesion, central features of which include the elaboration of a "theory of contexts" as well as a differentiated model of our obligations in respect of all beings. In doing this, he draws on cutting-edge work in cognitive science in order to develop a powerful distinction between beings who use language and beings that do not.

Fox tests his theory against eighteen central problems in General Ethics—including challenges raised by abortion, euthanasia, personal obligations, politics, animal welfare, invasive species, ecological management, architecture, and planning—and shows that it offers sensible and defensible answers to the widest possible range of ethical problems.

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