Moral Animals

Moral Animals : Ideals and Constraints in Moral Theory

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In Moral Animals Catherine Wilson develops a theory of morality based on two fundamental premises: first that moral progress implies the evolution of moral ideals involving restraint and sacrifice; second that human beings are outfitted by nature with selfish motivations, intentions, and ambitions that place constraints on what morality can demand of them. Normative claims, she goes on to show, can be understood as projective hypotheses concerning the
conduct of realistically-described nonideal agents in preferred fictional worlds. Such claims differ from empirical hypotheses, insofar as they cannot be verified by observation and experiment. Yet many, though not all, moral claims are susceptible of confirmation to the extent that they command the agreement of
well-informed inquirers.

With this foundation in place, Wilson turns to a defence of egalitarianism intended to address the objection that the importance of our non-moral projects, our natural acquisitiveness and partiality, and our meritocratic commitments render social equality a mere abstract ideal. Employing the basic notion of a symmetrical division of the co-operative surplus, she argues that social justice with respect to global disparities in well-being, and in the condition of women relative to men, depends on
the relinquishment of natural and acquired advantage that is central to the concept of morality.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 334 pages
  • 155 x 233 x 19mm | 521g
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0199228094
  • 9780199228096
  • 2,304,864

Table of contents

1. Morality as a System of Advantage-Reducing Imperatives ; 2. Paraworlds and Confirmation ; 3. Limits on Theory I: Costs to Agents ; 4. Limits on Theory II: Immanent Standpoints ; 5. The Anonymity Requirement and Counterweight Principles ; 6. The Division of the Co-operative Surplus ; 7. The Role of a Merit Principle in Distributive Justice ; 8. Moral Equality and 'Natural' Subordination ; Bibliography ; Index
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Review quote

Review from previous edition Wilson's book engages, in an energetic and constructive way, with many of the main theorists of moral philosophy . . . It is a thoughtful and well-written book. * Edward Johnson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * ...a carefully argued and ingeniously devised piece of normative ethics, which shows how much philosophical theory, reinforced with isights from anthropology and psychology, can contribute to the perennial problems of social justice. * TLS *
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