The Roots of Morality

The Roots of Morality

by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone
     
 

This book argues the case for a foundationalist ethics centrally based on an empirical understanding of human nature. For Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, “an ethics formulated on the foundations of anything other than human nature, hence on anything other than an identification of pan-cultural human realities, lacks solid empirical moorings. It easily loses itself

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Overview

This book argues the case for a foundationalist ethics centrally based on an empirical understanding of human nature. For Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, “an ethics formulated on the foundations of anything other than human nature, hence on anything other than an identification of pan-cultural human realities, lacks solid empirical moorings. It easily loses itself in isolated hypotheticals, reductionist scenarios, or theoretical abstractions—in the prisoner’s dilemma, selfish genes, dedicated brain modules, evolutionary altruism, or psychological egoism, for example—or it easily becomes itself an ethical system over and above the ethics it formulates,” such as the deontological ethics of Kantian categorical imperatives, the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, or the ethics of care.

Taking her cue from Hume, especially his Treatise on Human Nature, where he grounds “the moral sense” in human nature seen as always in tension between the natural tendencies of selfish acquisitiveness and sympathy for others, Sheets-Johnstone pursues her phenomenological investigation of the natural basis of human morality by directing her attention, first in Part I, to what is traditionally considered the dark side of human nature, and then, in Part II, to the positive side. The tension between the two calls for an interdisciplinary therapeutic resolution, which she offers in the Epilogue by arguing for the value of a moral education that enlightens humans about their own human nature, highlighting both the socialization of fear and the importance of play and creativity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271033921
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
12/28/2008
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.25(d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue: Human Nature and Human Morality: The Challenge of Grounding “the Moral Sense”

1. Introduction

2. The Foundations Laid by Hume in His Moral Philosophy

3. On the Origin of Sympathy and Selfishness: An Initial Determination

4. Unevenly Valorized Binary Oppositions: A Question of Life and Death

5. Hume’s Affective Polarity Revisited

6. The Culture/Nature Opposition

From the Perspective of Mythology and Religion

From the Perspective of Patriarchal Symbolism

From the Perspective of Practices in Present-day Western Science

From the Perspective of the Cultural Practice of War

7. Conclusion

Notes

Part I

1 Size, Power, and Death: Constituents in the Making of Human Morality

I. Introduction

II. Size and Power

III. Cultural Translations of Biological Facts

IV. Cultural Transformations and Evolutionary Ethics

V. Immortality Ideologies

VI. Implications

Notes

2 Death and Immortality Ideologies in Western Philosophy

I. Introduction

II. Descartes

On the Purpose of the Meditations as Specified in the Synopsis

Mind as Immaterial Substance

Mind and the Question of Time

III. Heidegger and Immortality Ideologies

IV. Psychological Underpinnings of Immortality Ideologies

V. Derrida’s Immortality Reading of Husserl and Derrida’s Own Immortality Ideology

VI. The Double: A Further Sign of Derrida’s Immortality Ideology

VII. The Last Word and the Ultimate Mortal Question

Notes

3 Real Male-Male Competition

I. Introduction

II. On Natural and Sexual Selection

III. Darwin’s Seminal Insights into Male-Male Competition and Their Total Neglect in Current Research

IV. Exemplifications

V. Evolutionary Considerations

VI. A Methodological Imperative and A Closing Apologue

VII. An Afterword

Notes

4 On the Pan-cultural Origins of Evil

I. Introduction

II. The Banality of Evil

III. Affective Elaborations of the Banality of Evil

IV. Toward Pan-cultural Understandings of the Banality of Evil

V. Beginning Evolutionary Considerations

VI. Clarifications Along Motivational Lines

VII. Killing, Death, Fear: Elementary Facts of Human Life

VIII. Warriors and the Heroic Honing of Males

IX. A Finer Analysis of Motivation

X. Broader Socio-Political Understandings of the Heroic Honing of Males: A Return to Evolutionary Considerations

XI. Classic Studies: An Afterword on History and Science

Notes

Part II

5 Empathy

I. Introduction

II. Early Clues and Husserl’s Archival Texts

III. Affect Attunement and the Qualitative Nature of Movement

IV. Emotions and Movement

V. Spontaneity

VI. The Kinetic Foundations of “Knowing Other Minds”

VII. Responsivity

VIII. Empathy

IX. A Postscript on Origins, History, and Methodology

Notes

6 Child’s Play: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

I. Introduction

II. Rough and Tumble Play

III. Locomotor-Rotational Play

IV. Play and Laughter

V. Morality and Child’s Play

Notes

7 On the Nature of Trust

I. Introduction

II. Learning to Trust: Uncovering Affective and Existential Realities

III. A Critical Examination of Luhmann’s Thesis of a “Readiness to Trust”

IV. Affective Experience, Human Freedom, and Uncertainty: Deepened Understandings of Trust

Notes

8 The Rationality of Caring: Forging a Genuine Evolutionary Ethics

I. Introduction

II. Transfers of Sense: The Ground of Caring

III. Comsigns: The Evolutionary Basis of Intercorporeal Life

IV. The Rationality of Caring: Laying the Groundwork

V. The Living Import of the “Metaphysically Significant”: The Experience of Interconnectedness

VI. The Living Import of the Metaphysically Significant: Interconnectedness, the Principle of Not Harming, and “Difference Removed”

VII. A Closer Look at the First Moral Principle and the Challenge of Human Existence

Notes

Epilogue: Re-Naturing the De-Natured Species: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

I. Introduction

II. Endangered Species

III. Ontogeny and Natural Signs

IV. Aggressive Complexities in the Socialization of Fear

V. Acquisitive Complexities in the Socialization of Fear

VI. On Psychological Ignorance

VII. A Moral Education

VIII. Concluding Thought

Notes

References

Index

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