Ethical Formation

Ethical Formation

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Sabina Lovibond invites her readers to see how the "practical reason view of ethics" can survive challenges from within philosophy and from the antirationalist postmodern critique of reason.

She elaborates and defends a modern practical-reason view of ethics by focusing on virtue or ideal states of character that involve sensitivity to the objective reasons circumstances bring into play. At the heart of her argument is the Aristotelian idea of the formation of character through upbringing; these ancient ideas can be made contemporary if one understands them in a naturalized way. She then explores the implications that arise from the naturalization of the classical view, weaving into her theory ideas of Jacques Derrida and J. L. Austin. The book also discusses two modes of resistance to an existing ethical culture--one committed to the critical employment of shared norms of rationality, the other aspiring to a more radical attitude, grounded in hostility to the "universal." Lovibond tries to determine what may be correct in this second, admittedly paradoxical, tendency.

This is a timely and valuable effort to connect the most advanced forms of thinking in the analytic tradition and in the Continental tradition, and to extend our understanding of the intimacies and resistances between these two prominent strands of contemporary philosophy.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 144 x 227 x 16.76mm | 331g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • none
  • 0674013654
  • 9780674013650
  • 1,467,019

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From the book

To my mind the most striking development in ethical theory since the 1970s has been an attempt to reactivate the Platonic-Aristotelian ethical tradition and to provide an updated account of its leading idea--namely, that moral virtue is the outcome of a successful process of formation...The notion of form can be replaced by that of order, the kind of order that we try to impose on our own behavior insofar as we take ourselves to be answerable to norms of correctness; and this change of perspective can open up our conception of the virtuous person to the influence of modern discussions about norm-governed practices, thus helping us to a more complete acceptance of the phenomenon of morality as "part of our natural history."
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Table of contents

Preface Acknowledgements PART I: FORM 1. The Practical Reason View of Ethics 2. Practical Wisdom Scrutinized 3. Form, Formlessness, and Rule-Following PART II: TELEOLOGY 4. Why Be "Serious"? The Natural Basis of Our Interest in a "Rational Self" 5. On Being the Author of a Moral Judgement 6. The "Intelligible Ground of the Heart" PART III: COUNTER-TELEOLOGY 7. The Determinate Critique of Ethical Formation 8. The Violence of Reason? 9. Reason and Unreason: A Problematic Distinction Index
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Review quote

This is an intricate and stimulating argument that is impressive in its coherence and subtlety, and in the insightful way it engages with issues that are right at the centre of contemporary philosophical debate. -- John Cottingham * Times Literary Supplement *
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About Sabina Lovibond

Sabina Lovibond is a Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Worcester College, Oxford, and the author of Realism and Imagination in Ethics.
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