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What Ought I to Do?: Morality in Kant and Levinas

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Overview

Is it possible to apply a theoretical approach to ethics? The French philosopher Catherine Chalier addresses this question with an unusual combination of traditional ethics and continental philosophy. In a powerful argument for the necessity of moral reflection, Chalier counters the notion that morality can be derived from theoretical knowledge. Chalier analyzes the positions of two great moral philosophers, Kant and Levinas. While both are critical of an ethics founded on knowledge, their criticisms spring from distinctly different points of view. Chalier reexamines their conclusions, pitting Levinas against (and with) Kant, to interrogate the very foundations of moral philosophy and moral imperatives. She provides a clear, systematic comparison of their positions on essential ideas such as free will, happiness, freedom, and evil. Although based on a close and elegant presentation of Kant and Levinas, Chalier's book serves as a context for the development of the author's own reflections on the question "What am I supposed to do?" and its continued importance for contemporary philosophy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Chalier's reflection on a possible dialogue between these figures in illuminating for moral philosophy in general, and for an understanding of Levinasian ethics in particular."—Brigitt Sassen, McMaster University, Philosophy in Review, 2003

"Chalier's accounts of Levinas's views draw on extensive knowledge of his works as a whole and are often exciting in scope and detail. . . . If you have wondered whether Levinas is a Kantian, you will find Chalier's knowledgeable book helpful for reflection on the question."—Deborah Achtenberg, University of Nevada Reno, Review of Metaphysics

" Whereas most introductions to Levinas's thought take the reader by way of the history of twentieth century European philosophy, Catherine Chalier here succeeds in laying out Levinas's ethical philosophy by reference to Kant. What Ought I to Do? succeeds in making Levinasian ethics accessible to the broader philosophical community."—Robert Bernasconi, The University of Memphis

"Kant is the figure in the western philosophical tradition that Levinas most resembles, yet there are important differences between them, most notably on the issue of autonomy versus heteronomy. Hitherto the relation between Levinas and Kant has not been clearly understood. It is the great virtue of Catherine Chalier's impressive book that these differences and similarities can be brought together in a clear presentation that shows how Levinas and Kant can complement each other in building a powerful moral vision."—Simon Critchley, University of Essex

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801437090
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Pages: 208

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Critique of Intellectualism 9
2 Good Will and the Face 25
3 Good Precedes Evil 42
4 Autonomy and Heteronomy 60
5 Sensibility and Reason 85
6 Intelligible Character and Anarchy 110
7 The Question of Happiness 132
8 Ethics and Religion 153
Notes 177
Index 191
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