The Provisional Moral Code (la morale provisoire) or the Permanent Ethical Stopgap? Inspiration from Descartes and Montaigne

Marcin T. Zdrenka



The purpose of this article is to distinguish three essential ways of understanding “provisional ethics” derived from the Cartesian provisional moral code (la morale provisoire). The first meaning is connected with providing an answer to the need for the “provision” of a moral code to someone who is not yet ready to formulate a final ethical model established in the system. The other meaning emphasises the temporariness of the set of these rules whereas the third one brings out the imperfection reflected by the Polish word prowizorka (stopgap). These considerations lead to a question whether provisional ethics is indeed merely a vestibule of a mature and complete system. Or, to the contrary, the difficulty or inability to build such a system requires such an ethical stopgap to become a permanent state. In the second depiction, partly inspired by Michel de Montaigne’s thought, the use of provisional ethics would come closer to the category of a specifically understood tinkering.

Słowa kluczowe

provisional moral code; la morale provisoire; Descartes; Montaigne; stopgap; prowizorka

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