Moral Obligations

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There are many ways of writing about the moral life; Moral Obligations follows the way of what philosophers call ""meta-ethics"": the analysis, not of particular moral problems, but of how the concepts used in formulating and solving them, concepts like ""right"" and ""obligatory,"" have significance and power over us. The meta-ethical part of this book is preceded by a discussion of action, in which Wren lays the foundations for the argument that moral obligation is a part of the formal structure of human agency.

Wren's argument is practical and social-psychological: it is to help all, starting with those who are already committed to some version of the ethic of individual dignity, to promote interagency fellowship and peace as a result of seeing a certain truth, namely, the truth that the urgency of their feelings of moral obligation derives from a unspoken intention to belong to a community of agents.

Moral Obligations begins with the philosophy of action, and then it reviews the historical debate about the nature of obligation and its social context. This is followed by a section about action in general: it establishes the standpoint of the agent and makes an inventory of several species of action. Later chapters summarize the foregoing themes, with emphasis on the unspoken side of intention, and develop them in conjunction with an analysis of the hypothetical imperative. The work closes with a discussion of the dilemma of membership in competing moral communities.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412813402
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 150
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas E. Wren is professor of philosophy and assistant chair of the department at Loyola University, Chicago. He is the author or editor of multiple books, including Caring About Morality, The Moral Domain, and The Personal Universe.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction to the Transaction Edition 1

Chapter 1 Action 7

1 The Standpoint of the Agent 7

2 The Primacy of Action 12

3 Self and Other 17

4 A Taxonomy of Action 20

5 Transitive, Intransitive, and Static Actions 24

Chapter 2 Intention 31

1 The Descriptions of an Action 31

2 Levels of Intention 37

3 The Tacit Side of Intention 43

4 The Vertical, Forward, and Lateral Dimensions 47

Chapter 3 Valuation 51

1 The Greek Debate 51

2 Medieval Conceptions of Value 56

3 The Naturalistic Fallacy 60

4 Prescriptivism 64

5 Descriptivism 69

Chapter 4 Obligation 77

1 Three Preparatory Distinctions 77

2 Moral Urgency and Other Oughts 83

3 Why Be Moral" 92

4 The Necessity of Interagency 98

Chapter 5 The Moral Community 105

1 The Rightness of Rules 105

2 Self-Imposed Heteronomy 108

3 Three Conceptions of Harmony 113

Chapter 6 The Moral Domain 123

1 The Model 124

2 Applied Geometry 125

3 Some Ongoing Discussions of Moral Agency 127

Index 137

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