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The chapter opens by considering Johnson’s seemingly hostile attitude to the eighteenth-century novel and its realistic portrayals of human life, as contrasted with that of his contemporary Henry Fielding. It places The Rambler’s theoretical strictures on such writing alongside Johnson’s views on biography and practice as a writer of fiction in Rasselas, eliciting his various contradictory opinions on representing bad characters and negative examples in literature. The chapter shows how, for Johnson, human imagination is both dangerous – competing with truth for control of the human psyche – and a positive source of creative energy. Fiction is sometimes therefore synonymous, in his mind, with falsehood and unreality. But it is also synonymous with literature of all kinds, and with the human endeavor to depict the world and other people in strikingly new and powerful ways that may, paradoxically, “awaken us to things as they are.”
This chapter addresses the question of Johnson’s ethical thought and argues that it is in and through his balanced, subtle, and refined writings that we most see it in play. The piece summons Johnson’s own definition of ethics in his Preface to the Preceptor, an educational work written for the publisher Robert Dodsley (1748), and finds in the work of three thinkers – Isaac Watts, William Law, and Cicero – strong influential strands of thought that offered him both Christian and classical models for how humans should behave toward their fellow-beings. Johnson put in play questions of ethical behavior in his periodical writings, allowing him to present complex moral dilemmas from the multiple angles needed to encompass them. The chapter, taking up a hint from John Sitter, summons an ethical Johnson who might help us face twenty-first century problems with grace and inclusivity.
Why do many societies moralize apparently harmless pleasures, such as lust, gluttony, alcohol, drugs, and even music and dance? Why do they erect temperance, asceticism, sobriety, modesty, and piety as cardinal moral virtues? According to existing theories, this puritanical morality cannot be reduced to concerns for harm and fairness: it must emerge from cognitive systems that did not evolve for cooperation (e.g., disgust-based “Purity” concerns). Here, we argue that, despite appearances, puritanical morality is no exception to the cooperative function of moral cognition. It emerges in response to a key feature of cooperation, namely that cooperation is (ultimately) a long-term strategy, requiring (proximately) the self-control of appetites for immediate gratification. Puritanical moralizations condemn behaviors which, although inherently harmless, are perceived as indirectly facilitating uncooperative behaviors, by impairing the self-control required to refrain from cheating. Drinking, drugs, immodest clothing, and unruly music and dance, are condemned as stimulating short-term impulses, thus facilitating uncooperative behaviors (e.g., violence, adultery, free-riding). Overindulgence in harmless bodily pleasures (e.g., masturbation, gluttony) is perceived as making people slave to their urges, thus altering abilities to resist future antisocial temptations. Daily self-discipline, ascetic temperance, and pious ritual observance are perceived as cultivating the self-control required to honor prosocial obligations. We review psychological, historical, and ethnographic evidence supporting this account. We use this theory to explain the fall of puritanism in WEIRD societies, and discuss the cultural evolution of puritanical norms. Explaining puritanical norms does not require adding mechanisms unrelated to cooperation in our models of the moral mind.
Chapter 8 discusses the processes involved in building and maintaining satisfactory relationships. It covers politeness theory, facework, morality, and how these contribute to relationship homeostasis.
My aim in this essay is to reorient our understanding of the Kantian ethical project, especially in relation to its assumed rivals. I do this by considering Kant's relation to eudaimonism, especially in its Aristotelian form. I argue for two points. First, once we understand what Kant and Aristotle mean by happiness, we can see that not only is it the case that, by Kant's lights, Aristotle is not a eudaimonist. We can also see that, by Aristotle's lights, Kant is a eudaimonist. Second, we can see that this agreement on eudaimonism actually reflects a deeper, more fundamental agreement on the nature of ethics as a distinctively practical philosophy. This is an important result, not just for the history of moral philosophy but for moral philosophy as well. For it suggests that both Kantians and Aristotelians may well have more argumentative resources available to them than is commonly thought.
In these articles Black writers addressed the perceived need to create stable families and the consequences of not doing so. Most contributors to the Black press shared their larger societies' conviction that orderly, disciplined families were foundational to orderly, disciplined nations. They deemed efforts to reform sexual behavior and family relations even more essential for the Black population, who because of the vicissitudes of slavery and poverty found it especially difficult to constitute family units that fit the national ideal. The Black press included articles asserting that women and children should be governed by male patriarchs and calls for Black people to work toward racial improvement by investment in hygienic families. While some criticized the ways that conventions about honor and legitimacy harmed women who became pregnant outside of wedlock and illegitimate children, others condemned women who handed their children over to be servants in wealthy White households. Writers similarly debated whether Black parents (and by extension the Black community) had dedicated themselves sufficiently or correctly to the project of educating children. Some argued for limiting education to training in manual trades. Others complained that criticisms of the supposed failings of Black morality and education failed to recognize the great progress made by the community.
Life extension consists in slowing, halting, or even reversing human ageing. I will briefly review why many reputable geroscientists believe this is possible. This raises three areas of ethical concern. First, some people argue that extended life is not desirable, and that we are better off without it. I explain why these are mostly bad arguments, and why, for most people, the advantages of extended life will outweigh whatever disadvantages it may have. The second concern is that widespread use of life extension will cause overpopulation. The third concern is that life extension will be so expensive that not everyone will be able to get it, and this is unjust. These are legitimate concerns, but not insurmountable. After reviewing the ethical issues behind these concerns, I argue that we should develop life extension and make it available provided that we take steps to avoid overpopulation and to distribute life extension fairly.
In the spate of scholarship on boredom over the past two decades, the moral character of boredom has received little attention (Elpidorou, ). This is striking because boredom’s ancient precursor, acedia, was considered to be one of the deadliest vices and the source of several other destructive vices, including gluttony, lust, and anger (Bunge, ). In this respect, modern boredom arguably parallels acedia, as it is also casually linked to numerous problematic, arguably immoral behaviors. The state of boredom is morally significant because it adversely impacts both moral reasoning and the vision of flourishing that guides moral reasoning. Boredom is not simply a mood we must endure but a state of mind (certainly impacted by circumstances) that we need not be captive to. Its moral significance also needs to be underscored because there is something at stake: We can do something about what we find to be boring (boredom assessment) and how we contend with this mood state (boredom endurance).
We're all getting older from the moment we're born. Ageing is a fundamental and ubiquitous aspect of life. Yet in ethics, not much work is done on the questions surrounding ageing: how do diachronic features of ageing and the lifespan contribute to the overall value of life? How do time, change, and mortality impact on questions of morality and the good life? And how ought societies to respond to issues of social justice and the good, balancing the interests of generations and age cohorts? In this Cambridge Handbook, the first book-length attempt to stake this terrain, leading moral philosophers from a range of sub-fields and regions set out their approaches to the conceptual and ethical understanding of ageing. The volume makes an important contribution to significant debates about the implications of ageing for individual well-being, social policy and social justice.
Boredom is an enduring problem. In response, schools often do one or both of the following: first, they endorse what novelist Walker Percy describes as a 'boredom avoidance scheme,' adopting new initiative after new initiative in the hope that boredom can be outrun altogether, or second, they compel students to accept boring situations as an inevitable part of life. Both strategies avoid serious reflection on this universal and troubling state of mind. In this book, Gary argues that schools should educate students on how to engage with boredom productively. Rather than being conditioned to avoid or blame boredom on something or someone else, students need to be given tools for dealing with their boredom. These tools provide them with internal resources that equip them to find worthwhile activities and practices to transform boredom into a more productive state of mind. This book addresses the ways students might gain these skills.
The previous chapters, in exploring various aspects of human rights and the implications of seeing social work as a human rights profession, have touched on many important practice issues in relation to social work. The issues are not new. Ethics, social control, the place of policy and advocacy, professionalism, the role of expertise, linking the personal and the political, cultural relativism, need definition, empowerment and so on are all familiar and are frequently contested within social work. In the preceding chapters, however, they have arisen not out of a consideration of social work per se but rather out of a discussion of human rights and the possible implications of a human rights approach to practice. Various social work practice principles emerged from these discussions, and the purpose of this chapter is to bring these together in order to derive an overall picture of human rights-based social work. This will be done around three organising themes: theoretical foundations, empowerment and contextual/universal issues.
In Chapter 1 I discuss the available evidence in evolutionary biology, psychology, palaeontology, anthropology and neuroscience on the origins of Homo sapiens’ normative orientations. I review plausible interpretations of the evolutionary emergence of these normative orientations in the histories of humankind and its predecessors. This normative endowment was probably our best-fitting quality, explaining our capacity to emerge as the most effective predator on earth. It is likely that without a long-evolved disposition towards cooperation, humans would never have achieved a stage of civilisation in which it is possible to ask the question ‘how is cooperation possible?’. The chapter also reviews the evidence on whether early political institutions derived from preceding different types of institutions or co-evolved with them.
Meyer discusses the intensely debated topic of Nietzsche’s philosophical naturalism and thinks that the key is Nietzsche’s study of Schopenhauer. For Meyer Nietzsche’s argument has to do with completing the project of naturalism that Schopenhauer thinks cannot be completed. Meyer thinks that Nietzsche’s naturalism in TSZ leads him to endorse the truth of cosmological eternal recurrence and that this truth entails for Nietzsche a kind of fatalism that leads us beyond a morality of good and evil and beyond the conception of agency that underlies this morality. Meyer thinks that Nietzsche constructed a narrative in which Zarathustra comes to abandon his non-naturalized conception of himself and his agency, thereby attaining a childlike state of innocence beyond good and evil.
This chapter summarized the theoretical and empirical relationships between wisdom and morality. Wise individuals are able to think carefully and rationally about moral dilemmas, recognizing their own intuitive impulses but not necessarily following them in making decisions. As they think about complex moral dilemmas, they aim to balance the different perspectives, interests, and needs optimally. Their value orientations are focused on a greater good that does not just include members of their own family or group but humanity and the world at large. Because they are good at thinking about moral issues and at dealing with the emotional and social aspects of complex situations, they are likely to also act ethically in difficult situations. Many of the great wisdom exemplars in history stood up for a just cause and accomplished major societal changes by peaceful means. We believe that the ethical aspect of wisdom is particularly important in a time where the world needs good decisions that do not focus on the needs of any particular nation or group. If we want to overcome serious world problems, such as climate change, global pandemics, and rising inequality, we need ethical and wise leaders.
Recent interest in the evolution of the social contract is extended by providing a throughly naturalistic, evolutionary account of the biological underpinnings of a social contract theory of morality. This social contract theory of morality (contractevolism) provides an evolutionary justification of the primacy of a moral principle of maximisation of the opportunities for evolutionary reproductive success (ERS), where maximising opportunities does not entail an obligation on individuals to choose to maximise their ERS. From that primary principle, the moral principles of inclusion, individual sovereignty (liberty) and equality can be derived. The implications of these principles, within contractevolism, are explored through an examination of patriarchy, individual sovereignty and copulatory choices, and overpopulation and extinction. Contractevolism is grounded in evolutionary dynamics that resulted in humans and human societies. The most important behavioural consequences of evolution to contractevolism are reciprocity, cooperation, empathy, and the most important cognitive consequences are reason and behavioural modification.
Central to a number of manifestations of antisemitism is anti-Zionism, which in our time has become not only intellectually fashionable but morally required: One cannot be deemed morally good without supporting those who are bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state. This is the topic of Chapter 7. Like most manifestations of antisemitism, but although it is one that has the explicit endorsement both of the left-wing elite and of Islamic Jihadists, anti-Zionism is cloaked in the self-righteous garb of moral indignation. Here anti-Zionism is understood as an opposition not to the policies of the Jewish state but to the existence of the Jewish state. The chapter explains how notions of Holy Land and sacred history are tied to anti-Zionism, how anti-Zionism is tied to a contempt for Judaism, and what this has to do with the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state. Once again, we find that demonization introduces a metaphysical dimension that will not tolerate any compromise or half-measures. Like most manifestations of antisemitism, but one that has yet distinct from them in that it has become intellectually fashionable, anti-Zionism is cloaked in the self-righteous garb of moral indignation.
This chapter presents the book’s framework and overall argument. It also describes the book's implications for the field of social movement studies and for the understanding of the consequences of neoliberal globalization. In addition, it includes a brief description of the case of study, an outline of the project’s methodology, and an overview of the chapters ahead.
Salomon Maimon argues in “The Moral Skeptic” (1800) that Kant’s conception of freedom as the capacity of the power of choice to be determined by reason independently of sensible determinations is an empty concept, or, as Maimon puts it, a “term without a concept.” He holds that a determinate capacity is inconceivable without laws through which its efficacy is invariably determined. Although we might conceive of laws of nature as the determining ground of immoral action and the moral law as the determining ground of moral action, there is no law to determine which of these two opposed grounds is to become the determining ground of action in a given case. Thus, the actual determination of the power of choice would be left to chance, which is absurd since chance indicates the lack of a determining ground. Maimon’s critique is embedded in a broader treatment of the difference between the moral skeptic and the moral dogmatist in view of the Critical philosophy.
Chapter 1 demonstrates that the nineteenth-century medical record undermines the idea that each person could have only one sex. Throughout the period, several doctors made a stand for “true hermaphrodism,” many more could not identify the sex of their living patients, and “experts” constantly disagreed not only about findings, but also about how best to establish sex in unclear cases. Precisely because no one method for determining sex proved entirely foolproof, doctors and medical forensics experts often relied on narrative to support their claims – a narrative that closely mirrors the one being developed simultaneously in contemporary fiction, and especially, but not exclusively, by realist fiction. Herculine Barbin’s memoirs (the only extant memoirs of a nineteenth-century intersex person in Europe) find their literary corollary in popular fiction that shares much with the creativity and exploitation of narrative techniques in the medical record. Newly uncovered case studies challenge the longstanding representation of the rigidly polarized binary in nineteenth-century France as well as the Foucauldian thesis of “true sex.” Patients sometimes made their own sex determinations, or sought out multiple doctors in order to meet their needs.