Ethical tradition as lived and reflected upon


  • Thomas Daniel Howes


Summary : I. The Practical Reason in Actu Exercito and in Actu Signato. II. Polanyi on Skills. III. The Ratio of a Lie. IV. Conclusion.

In this essay, starting from the standpoint of ethics being like a craft, and making use of a helpful distinction made by the Thomistic commentator Cajetan, I argue for a distinction between two different aspects of an ethical tradition : a lived tradition and a tradition of reflection. After some initial clarifications, I examine this distinction by comparing ethical development and traditions to other traditions of practice, making use of Michael Polanyi’s discussion of the development of skills in Personal Knowledge. I then close by examining the possibility of tension between a lived tradition and a tradition of reflection by consideration of the tradition of the moral prohibition against lying in the Catholic moral tradition.