How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time: Solving the Riddle of Right and Wrong

Overview


A compelling guide to ethical thinking for everyday life  

In How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time Iain King presents an introduction to moral philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment and beyond. He argues that right and wrong need a Newtonian revolution so that they are no longer a matter of judgment or guesswork and presents a system of simple formulas for solving difficult moral quandaries. Clearly argued, the book combines new ideas ...

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Overview


A compelling guide to ethical thinking for everyday life  

In How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time Iain King presents an introduction to moral philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment and beyond. He argues that right and wrong need a Newtonian revolution so that they are no longer a matter of judgment or guesswork and presents a system of simple formulas for solving difficult moral quandaries. Clearly argued, the book combines new ideas with old and rips apart traditional tenets of morality, dismantling even the golden rule that you should "do unto others as you would have done unto you." In their place, the author constructs a new, comprehensive system of ethics, identifying the basic DNA of right and wrong and offering clear advice on how to be good in today's complicated and challenging world.

Sometimes controversial and thoroughly engaging throughout, How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time is required reading for anyone with a difficult decision to make.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this philosophical self-help, author and academic King (Peace at Any Price, How the World Failed Kosovo) reveals a logical method for making ethical decisions that he calls a "Newtonian revolution" in moral science (aka the "DNA of right and wrong"), combining the golden rule and Jeremy Betham's calculus for determining "the Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Number": "Help someone if your help is worth more to them than it is to you." Most of the book is devoted to elaborating this principle, offering an intro-to-philosophy overview and clear arguments illustrated with numerous thought-experiments. (Should a man of integrity agree to work in a dictator's torture chamber in order to replace the evil sadist currently manning the switch? Yes.) Everyday ethical considerations abound; King is even able to formulate "a credible rule that tells us when to lie." Although his system is most easily applied to one-on-one situations and small groups, it tends to break down in large groups; King concludes that, just as Newton's revolution was superseded by quantum mechanics, his principles are inherently limited by real-world complexity. Still, an academic audience interested in practical philosophy will find King's approach to everyday morals bracing, optimistic and perhaps inspiring.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781847063472
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 12/16/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Iain King, a former fellow of the University of Cambridge, UK, and author of the acclaimed Peace at Any Price (Cornell University Press, 2006), has faced many testing decisions working in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Africa.

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Table of Contents

Part I. The Problem: We Need to Make Decisions, But We Don't Know How

1. Five challenges to the formula of right and wrong
2. Desperately seeking a system
3. Unreliable advice from religion and dice
4. The Enlightenment decision-making machine: do whatever is best...
5. ... does not seem best
6. Can we fix it: the pieces of the puzzle
Part II. The Proof: Finding the Basics of Right and Wrong

7. The meaning of life
8. A plan for Robinson Crusoe
9. Answering an eight-year old who incessantly asks 'why?'
10. I say this, you say that - can we ever know who's right?
11. Applying the Sherlock Holmes method
12. How to become a better person (and answer Aristotle)
13. The Help Principle
14. The DNA of right and wrong
Part III. The Principle: Refining the Help Principle

15. Putting the DNA of 'right' and 'wrong' in a Petri dish
16. Using your watch to tell right from wrong
17. Letting people choose for themselves
18. Torturers and charitable show-offs
19. Revenge, reciprocity and received wisdom
20. What if you didn't mean to do it?
21. The new ladder to humility
22. The first seven Principles of right and wrong
Part IV. The Programme: Extending the Principles to Other Problems

23. The myth of blame
24. Punishment, mercy and remorse
25. Something funny about promises
26. A credible rule on lying and the Richard Nixon problem
27. Rules for romance and sex
28. How to choose in small groups
29. How to choose in large groups
30. The system for making decisions
31. The riddle answered?
Part V. Practical Advice: For Real People in the Modern World

32. So why aren't people good then?
33. Why people hate lawyers
34. When it's best to be bad
35. The Live Aid problem: does charity begin at home?
36. The Mother Teresa quandary: can you be good without giving everything away?
37. The man on the morning train
38. How to lead a good life in a rough world
Part VI. The Prognosis: How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time

39. Newton's limits
40. What to do and why

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