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The Moral Sense | [James Q. Wilson]

The Moral Sense

Wilson admits in the preface of his book that "virtue has acquired a bad name". However, people make some kind of reference to morality whenever they discuss whether or not someone is nice, dependable, or decent; whether they have a good character; and the aspects of friendship, loyalty, and moderation that are all informed by morality.
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Publisher's Summary

Wilson admits in the preface of his book that "virtue has acquired a bad name". However, people make some kind of reference to morality whenever they discuss whether or not someone is nice, dependable, or decent; whether they have a good character; and the aspects of friendship, loyalty, and moderation that are all informed by morality. Although we may disguise this language of morality as a language of personality, it is, in Wilson's words, "the language of virtue and vice" which he uncovers in his book. He goes on to say, "This book is an effort to clarify what ordinary people mean when they speak of their moral feelings and to explain, insofar as one can, the origins of those feelings."

©1993 James Q. Wilson; (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Lucid, elegant, magisterial." (Publishers Weekly)
"Utterly intriguing....A refreshing and timely work." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (28 )
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3.8 (13 )
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3.5 (13 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jamie New Haven, CT, USA 03-27-05
    Jamie New Haven, CT, USA 03-27-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "thick but satisfying"

    It's always refreshing to hear an author trash the argument that "everyone's morality is equally valid". At the same time being told it might be all the tiny "leaving things better than we found them" that could be a cornerstone of morality, is very interesting. The author also says morality only existing in our intellect is a fantasy of some intellectuals. The author relies on the argument that our moral sense, our better nature as it were, must exist below training and intellect and reinforcement, because if it didn't, we'd all be dead long ago. What is more gripping is the stories of individuals who defied fascist or morally bankrupt societies, and did so as much out as pure emotions like anger as higher leanings. The characters of such moral quandries become more human instead of walking polemics. Another point the author makes is that moral action (against the banality of evil) is often bolstered by consistent parenting where there was mutual respect, also very interesting. When the author makes higher moral action connect to basic emotion and motivation coming from sources within the society that's corrupt, that's when the book clicks.

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ulrich munich, NY, USA 04-25-05
    Ulrich munich, NY, USA 04-25-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "very interesting, too long for audio format"

    it's a very important subject and the author presents lots of perspectives on the issue; it's just hard to follow the detail just listening

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Max Hollmann Florida 07-10-12
    W. Max Hollmann Florida 07-10-12 Member Since 2008

    Non Fiction Reader

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    "Disappointing"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I've read some of Wilson's works, especailly reltated to politics, and have been impressed. I thought this book would take a global view and offer insights into large issues of today. Instead it discusses child development in various cultures. While the examples may be interesting, from an anthropological perspective, I would have liked to see some explicit connection about how adults make decisions. It never brings it into a larger (mature) context of how we act under various situations. I had a hard time understanding the reader. Her voice reminds me of a victorian school marm with an upper-crust English accent. After a while it sounded like chalk acratching on a board.I particuarly didn't like the use of the personal pronoun (as in "I") since Wilson is a man.


    Would you ever listen to anything by James Q. Wilson again?

    Likely, but I will carefully pay attention to the synopsis. I will not listen to him with the same reader.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Nadia May’s performances?

    Never!


    Did The Moral Sense inspire you to do anything?

    No. unless I can figure out how to return to my childhood.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Highland Park, IL, United States 05-01-12
    David Highland Park, IL, United States 05-01-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Discursive and mildly interesting"

    This book was a decent listen. Nadia May is a charming narrator, her lilting british accent providing a playful touch to this (at times) stuffy work. However, unless you're really interested in morality, I would skip this one. The author spends too much time on tangential topics, like self-control and attachment, and doesn't succeed in making a coherent point or cogent argument throughout the entire book. It basically reads like a compendium of information, albeit somewhat dated, as neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have advanced a great deal since this book came out. Unfortunately, there aren't really any other books on moral psychology available on audible, so if you're starving for an audiobook on that topic, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, I recommend Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal," even though evolutionary psychology is more the centerpiece of that book than morality per se. Jon Haidt's book "The Happiness Hypothesis" also has some information on morality in it, even though the book purports to be about happiness. Haidt's newest book "The Righteous Mind," though not on audible, is entirely about morality and highly recommended if you're willing to use your eyes.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lonnie Boulder, CO, United States 03-03-12
    Lonnie Boulder, CO, United States 03-03-12 Member Since 2001
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    "Good Book Poor Reader"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, this is a book that is excellent and needs to be contemplated. The reader sounds like she is on speed. Her words are so fast, you cannot absorb the ideas before she is three more points down the road. I had to stop after two chapters and download it to my Kindle so I could think about what he was saying. Somebody get her off her Caffeine


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Nadia May?

    Any one who was not just reading words as fast as possible, but thinking about what they were reading


    Any additional comments?

    I am sad that the reader made this wonderful book impossible for me to listen on audio.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 08-29-09
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 08-29-09 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "Great for six chapters"

    then veers wildly off course into rationalizations and square pegs into round holes.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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