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The Ethical Project
Author Philip Kitcher
Publisher Harvard University Press
ISBN 9780674284289
Classification Philosophy > Western Philosophy
Price HK$257.00
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Principles of right and wrong guide the lives of almost all human beings, but we often see them as external to ourselves, outside our own control. In a revolutionary approach to the problems of moral philosophy, Philip Kitcher makes a provocative proposal: Instead of conceiving ethical commands as divine revelations or as the discoveries of brilliant thinkers, we should see our ethical practices as evolving over tens of thousands of years, as members of our species have worked out how to live together and prosper. Elaborating this radical new vision, Kitcher shows how the limited altruistic tendencies of our ancestors enabled a fragile social life, how our forebears learned to regulate their interactions with one another, and how human societies eventually grew into forms of previously unimaginable complexity. The most successful of the many millennia-old experiments in how to live, he contends, survive in our values today.

Drawing on natural science, social science, and philosophy to develop an approach he calls “pragmatic naturalism,” Kitcher reveals the power of an evolving ethics built around a few core principles—including justice and cooperation—but leaving room for a diversity of communities and modes of self-expression. Ethics emerges as a beautifully human phenomenon—permanently unfinished, collectively refined and distorted generation by generation. Our human values, Kitcher shows, can be understood not as a final system but as a project—the ethical project—in which our species has engaged for most of its history, and which has been central to who we are.

1. The Shape of Things to Come
2. Methodological Preliminaries

I. An Analytical History

1. The Springs of Sympathy
3. Psychological Altruism: Basics
4. The Varieties of Altruistic Reactions
5. Some Dimensions of Altruism
6. Maternal Concern
7. Broader Forms of Altruism?
8. Possibilities of Evolutionary Explanation
9. The Coalition Game

2. Normative Guidance
10. The Limits of Altruism
11. Following Orders
12. Punishment
13. Conscience
14. Social Embedding

3. Experiments of Living
15. From There to Here
16. Cultural Competition
17. The Unseen Enforcer
18. Some Dots to Be Connected
19. Divisions of Labor
20. Roles, Rules, and Institutions
21. Altruism Expanded

4. One Thing after Another?
22. Mere Change?
23. Three Ancient Examples
24. Second-Sex Citizens
25. Repudiating Chattel Slavery
26. The Withering of Vice
27. The Divine Commander

II. A Metaethical Perspective
5. Troubles with Truth
28. Taking Stock
29. Prima Facie Problems
30. Truth, Realism and Constructivism
31. The Sources of the Troubles

6. Possibilities of Progress
32. The Centrality of Ethical Progress
33. Generalizations from History
34. Problems, Functions and Progress
35. Modes of Refinement
36. Functional Generation
37. Local and Global Progress
38. Ethical Truth Revisited
39. Residual Concerns

7. Naturalistic Fallacies?
40. Hume’s Challenge
41. Authority Undermined?
42. Troublesome Characters
43. Settling Disputes

III. A Normative Stance

8. Progress, Equality, and the Good
44. Two Visions of Normative Ethics
45. Dynamic Consequentialism
46. Failures and Successes
47. From the Local Community to the Human Population
48. Equality and the Good Life
49. Population Size
50. Aspects of the Good Life

9. Method in Ethics
51. Varieties of Ethical Change
52. Method and the Good
53. Mutual Engagement
54. Ethical Debate
55. Dissent and the Limits of Tolerance
56. The Challenger Revisited

10. Renewing the Project
57. Philosophical Midwifery
58. Scarce Resources
59. Habits and Their Limits
60. Conflicting Roles
61. Ethically Insulated Spheres
62. Maintaining Equality
63. The Challenges of Technology

64. Summing Up



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