In the past few decades, scientists of human natureincluding experimental and cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary theorists, and behavioral economistshave explored the way we arrive at moral judgments. They have called into question commonplaces about character and offered troubling explanations for various moral intuitions. Research like this may help explain what, in fact, we do and feel. But can it tell us what we ought to do or feel? In Experiments in Ethics, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah explores how the new empirical moral psychology relates to the age-old project of philosophical ethics.
Some moral theorists hold that the realm of morality must be autonomous of the sciences; others maintain that science undermines the authority of moral reasons. Appiah elaborates a vision of naturalism that resists both temptations. He traces an intellectual genealogy of the burgeoning discipline of "experimental philosophy," provides a balanced, lucid account of the work being done in this controversial and increasingly influential field, and offers a fresh way of thinking about ethics in the classical tradition.
Appiah urges that the relation between empirical research and morality, now so often antagonistic, should be seen in terms of dialogue, not contest. And he shows how experimental philosophy, far from being something new, is actually as old as philosophy itself. Beyond illuminating debates about the connection between psychology and ethics, intuition and theory, his book helps us to rethink the very nature of the philosophical enterprise.
Kwame Anthony Appiah writes the Ethicist column for The New York Times Magazine. A professor of philosophy and law at New York University, he is the best-selling, award-winning author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity; Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers; The Ethics of Identity; and The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: The Waterless Moat
2. The Case against Character
3. The Case against Intuition
4. The Varieties of Moral Experience
5. The Ends of Ethics
What People are Saying About This
Experiments in Ethics is wonderful: concise but not breezy, clear but not simplistic, wide-ranging but focused, filled with wit and learning. It is an accessible, lively, and balanced introduction to empirical moral psychology that I recommend happily to philosophers and non-philosophers.
This dazzlingly written book argues for reconnecting moral philosophy with the sciences, both natural and social--and demonstrates that the reconnection, while in a sense overdue, reconnects philosophy with its ancient interest in empirical issues. Appiah's important argument promises to transform more than one field. It is not only wise and subtle; it is also inspiring.
Cass Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago and author of Worst-Case Scenarios
Experiments in Ethics is wonderful: concise but not breezy, clear but not simplistic, wide-ranging but focused, filled with wit and learning. It is an accessible, lively, and balanced introduction to empirical moral psychology that I recommend happily to philosophers and non-philosophers. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,Professor of Philosophy and Hardy Professor of Legal Studies at Dartmouth College
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