Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Nenon Thomas

Committee Member

Remy Debes

Committee Member

Mary Beth Mader

Committee Member

Sarah Clark Miller


This project formulates the idea of a comprehensive and pluralistic philosophical ethics. Its aim is to describe ethics as a discourse that has its ultimate source of intelligibility in ethical experience as described in phenomenological analysis and as attested in ethical testimonies. Part One argues that the meaning of ethical experience is to be found in (a) phenomenological accounts of lived ethical experiences and (b) ethical testimonies. Ethical experience is defined as the sui generis experience of the authority or binding character of the imperative to do the good. It is argued that because of the eventful and affective character of ethical experience, there is no ultimate principle or series of principles from which norms for action could be aprioristically withdrawn. Through a reading of Simone Weil, it is shown that in ethical experience the other is revealed to us in its concrete materiality, that the good, in its elementary forms, always manifests itself in multiple expressions, and that it is impossible for us to fully grasp this plurality or multiplicity of goods in a philosophical discourse. Part Two is devoted to the idea of ethical testimony. Different aspects or dimensions of testimony are discussed: the juridical, epistemological, religious, aesthetic, ethical and political ones. It is shown that the ethical, political and aesthetic dimensions of testimony must be thought of together as constituting the core of the phenomenon of testimony. Two very influential conceptions of testimony are examined: Heidegger and Levinas’s. Part Two concludes by showing that between ethical experience and testimony there is more than a structural analogy: the latter embodies the eminent, though necessarily inadequate, expression of the former. In the concluding section of the dissertation it is suggested that the phenomenological primacy of ethical experience and the central role of testimonies in the construction of ethical theories compels one to reconsider the idea, nature and scope of philosophical ethics and ethical theories in particular.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.