Existence and the Good

Metaphysical Necessity in Morals and Politics

By Franklin I. Gamwell

Subjects: Metaphysics, Philosophy Of Religion, Philosophy, Religion
Paperback : 9781438435923, 219 pages, January 2012
Hardcover : 9781438435930, 219 pages, June 2011

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Table of contents


1. The Metaphysics of Existence
The Western Background
The Necessity of Existence
The Task of Metaphysics

2. The Metaphysics of Subjectivity
Totality and Meaning
Totality Is Prior to Meaning

3. The Metaphysics of God and the World
Final Real Things
The Divine Individual
God and the World

4. The Metaphysics of Human Purpose
Decision for a Self-Understanding
The Comprehensive Good
Human Purposes
The Good of Human Rights

5. The Metaphysics of Democracy, Part 1
Democracy without Metaphysics
Democracy without Metaphysics: A Critique
6. The Metaphysics of Democracy, Part 2
The Principle of Communicative Respect
Constitutional Principles of Justice
Democracy and Substantive Justice
Democracy and the Comprehensive Good

Works Cited

Argues that morals and politics require on a metaphysical backing and proposes a neoclassical metaphysics.


Morals and politics depend on a metaphysical backing. All reality is marked by certain necessary features and a divine purpose inherent in all reality defines the good to which all human life should be directed.

These are bold assertions in a climate where the credibility of metaphysics is widely denied. Indeed, for the past two centuries, Western philosophy has been marked by a consensus that questions about moral and political life should be considered separately from questions about ultimate reality. In this challenging work, Franklin I. Gamwell defends metaphysical necessity against both modern and postmodern critiques. The metaphysics vindicated is not the traditional form both critiques typically have in view, however. Instead, Gamwell outlines a neoclassical project for which Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne are the main philosophical resources. As it maintains the significance of theistic metaphysics, the book makes no appeal to religious authority but solely to common human experience, and on this basis articulates principles of human purpose and democratic justice.

Franklin I. Gamwell is Shailer Mathews Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Religious Ethics, Theology, and Philosophy of Religion at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His books include The Meaning of Religious Freedom: Modern Politics and the Democratic Resolution, also published by SUNY Press.


"The volume is welcome especially because of its uncompromisingly unorthodox approach. " — Journal of Religion

"…this book may well be the best of its kind … In short, it is a must read. " — International Journal for Philosophy of Religion