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Suffering and Moral Responsibility. By Jamie Mayerfeld. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 237p. $45.00.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2004

Joan C. Tronto
Hunter College, CUNY


Jamie Mayerfeld has written a wise and morally sensitive book that he hopes will compel readers to take seriously their “prima facie duty to relieve suffering” (p. 9). Insofar as “attention to suffering has been a casualty of a long series of attacks on hedonistic utilitarianism” (p. 3), Mayerfeld offers a thorough account of the nature of suffering and argues for the view that its badness imposes a universal prima facie duty for people to try to avoid suffering. Since the purpose of moral inquiry is “to identify wrong kinds of behavior so that we can avoid them” (p. 7), Mayerfeld, not himself a utilitarian, follows a catholic approach and skillfully draws upon arguments from utilitarians, deontologists, Aristotelians, hedonists, psychologists, and philosophers to support his moral intuitions.

© 2002 by the American Political Science Association

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