In the past few decades, scientists of human nature--including experimental and cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary theorists, and behavioral economists--have explored the way we arrive at moral judgments. They have called into question commonplaces about character and offered troubling explanations for various moral intuitions. Research like this may help explain what, in fact, we do and feel. But can it tell us what we ought to do or feel?
In Experiments in Ethics, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah explores how the new empirical moral psychology relates to the age-old project of philosophical ethics. Some moral theorists hold that the realm of morality must be autonomous of the sciences others maintain that science undermines the authority of moral reasons. Appiah elaborates a vision of naturalism that resists both temptations. He traces an intellectual genealogy of the burgeoning discipline of 'experimental philosophy,' provides a balanced, lucid account of the work being done in this controversial and increasingly influential field, and offers a fresh way of thinking about ethics in the classical tradition. Appiah urges that the relation between empirical research and morality, now so often antagonistic, should be seen in terms of dialogue, not contest. And he shows how experimental philosophy, far from being something new, is actually as old as philosophy itself. Beyond illuminating debates about the connection between psychology and ethics, intuition and theory, his book helps us to rethink the very nature of the philosophical enterprise.
©2008 Kwame Anthony Appiah (P)2008 Caravan
Some people may be put off by the academic language and many references to history (which a widely-read person will recognize), especially early in the book. For me, my patience was pretty quickly rewarded. Listening to the sample will give a good sense of this. This author is digging through (and mapping out) something absolutely vital: what we see as good, right, wrong, by ourselves and in groups, and then, how we really act in situations that challenge us in these ways. The author takes us through history and all kinds of ways of thought from ancient times through the present (spanning philosophy, various branches of science, folkways and religions, tracing right up into the recent cognitive psychology) showing the sort of grab-bag we use, in arriving at who to be, what to do, and how to react. I find the language to be crackling English prose with an ideally English narrator, but I admit I do have a high verbal IQ and lots of education. If you like to take apart what you and others feel and do, and you like a bigger context in history and various ways of thought, it's ideal.
The choices people make in certain circumstances were very interesting, but the book dove into the circumstances to deep. Also throughout the entire book the author used big and complex words, where the point could have been made better with common language. Finally, the narrator had an accent which was very hard to understand.
Report Inappropriate Content