Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality

Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality

by James Davison Hunter, Paul Nedelisky

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Why efforts to create a scientific basis of morality are neither scientific nor moral
In this illuminating book, James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky trace the origins and development of the centuries-long, passionate, but ultimately failed quest to discover a scientific foundation for morality. The “new moral science” led by such figures as E. O. Wilson, Patricia Churchland, Sam Harris, Jonathan Haidt, and Joshua Greene is only the newest manifestation of that quest. Though claims for its accomplishments are often wildly exaggerated, this new iteration has been no more successful than its predecessors. But rather than giving up in the face of this failure, the new moral science has taken a surprising turn. Whereas earlier efforts sought to demonstrate what is right and wrong, the new moral scientists have concluded, ironically, that right and wrong don’t actually exist. Their (perhaps unwitting) moral nihilism turns the science of morality into a social engineering project. If there is nothing moral for science to discover, the science of morality becomes, at best, a feeble program to achieve arbitrary societal goals. Concise and rigorously argued, Science and the Good is a definitive critique of a would-be science that has gained extraordinary influence in public discourse today and an exposé of that project’s darker turn.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300196283
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Series: Foundational Questions in Science
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 1,192,546
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

James Davison Hunter is LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture, and Social Theory at the University of Virginia. Paul Nedelisky is a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface: The Argument, in Brief xi

Part I Introduction

1 Our Promethean Longing 3

Part II The Historical Quest

2 Early Formulations 25

3 Three Schools of Enlightenment Thinking: And One Lingering and Disturbing Worry 49

4 The New Synthesis 81

Part III The Quest Thus Far

5 What Has Science Found? 97

6 The Proclivity to Overreach 119

7 Intractable Challenges 139

Part IV Enduring Quandaries

8 The Quest, Redirected 167

9 The Promethean Temptation: And the Problem of Unintended Consequences 193

Notes 217

Bibliography 261

Index 275

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