The recent publication of the stenographer's transcript of Whitehead's guest lecture on “social ethics” has shed new light on the relation between his metaphysics and ethics. Instead of including ethics in his philosophy, Whitehead treats it as a distinct, specialized science that does not share in the universality of metaphysics. The present article argues that an analysis of his lecture shows that a nonindividualist Whiteheadian ethics is possible without rupturing the coherence of Whitehead's system or contradicting the ontological or subjectivist principle. As part of a larger transition in Whitehead's thinking during the years 1925–1927, he reformulates the notion of the environment as inheritance and is therefore able to pose the question of the endurance of values at the level of society, which is the purview of ethics. Reconstructing the metaphysical background may provide a “stimulus to the imagination” for ethical debates today, especially in the field of environmental ethics.

You do not currently have access to this content.