Towards an Object-Oriented Ethics: Schopenhauer, Spinoza, and the Physics of Objective Evil

Drew M. Dalton 1
  • 1 Dominican University,, River Forest, United States of America


Objects are inert, passive, devoid of will, and as such bear no intrinsic value or moral worth. This claim is supported by the argument that to be considered a moral agent one must have a conscious will and be sufficiently free to act in accordance with that will. Since material objects, it is assumed, have no active will nor freedom, they should not be considered moral agents nor bearers of intrinsic ethical vale. Thus, the apparent “moral neutrality” of objects rests upon a kind of subject/object or mind/body dualism. The aim of this paper is to explore two paths by which western thought can escape this dualism, re-valuate the alleged “moral neutrality” of material objects, and initiate a sort of “object oriented ethics,” albeit with surprising results. To do so, this paper explores the work of Arthur Schopenhauer and Baruch Spinoza to interrogate both the claim that material objects have no will and that freedom is the necessary condition for ethical responsibility. This paper concludes by arguing that not only should objects been seen as bearers of their own ethical value, a determinate judgement can be made regarding that value through a basic understanding of the laws of physics.

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