Date of Award

Summer 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Lawrence Hatab

Committee Member

David Metzger

Committee Member

Diane Davis

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 K68


Following Friedrich Nietzsche's critique of ethics, twentieth century philosophical investigations into ethics have attempted to abandon the universalist principles which guided the endeavors of Christianity, Kant and Bentham. The purpose of this work was to examine exactly how successful that endeavor has been. In order to represent the field of ethics as a whole given the limited space of the work I chose three distinct ethics, which in their formulations are representative of the current ethical clime. Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism serves as a model for radical individualism and solipsism. Alasdair MacIntyre' s virtue based ethic demonstrates communitarian trends. And the Care Ethic of Nel Noddings and Carol Gilligan stands in place of those ethics which purport to rebel against reason in favor of emotion. In order to compare these ethics with the ethics of Christianity, Kant and Bentham, this work begins with an exposition on Nietzsche's critique of the latter and in the following pages, this same critique is applied to the former. Nietzsche is therefore not heralded or supported, but used as a lens in order that the distinctions between Traditional and Post-Traditional ethics can be clarified. Through this process I discovered that the main difference between Traditional and Post-Traditional is what becomes a universal standard. Traditionally it is the action itself, in the Post-Traditional world, it is how the decision is determined. Ultimately, however, very little difference separates the two epochs in ethical theory.


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