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Kindness and the Good Society

Connections of the Heart

William S. Hamrick

Publication Year: 2002

Kindness and the Good Society utilizes phenomenology and a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional sources to provide the first comprehensive account of kindness in any genre of philosophy. Remarkably rich in descriptive detail and drawing upon a wide range of examples, including literary sources, current affairs, and traditional philosophical texts, Hamrick’s book rescues kindness from the purposeful neglect of deontological and utilitarian ethical theories. Beginning with an account of the personal and social areas of ethical and moral comportment, Hamrick addresses what is not intuitively obvious about kindness and its opposite, details a critical kindness that avoids both naiveté as well as popular cynicism, and guides us toward a new notion of aesthetic humanism.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

It would be the unkindest cut of all not to express my gratitude to several people and organizations that have helped me in various ways to complete this book. Sincere thanks are due, first, to Professor Wolfe Mays, Editor of the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, for permission to quote short passages from some of my articles published therein. They are listed in the...

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pp. xi-xxvi

Up until about twenty-five years ago, deontological and utilitarian moral theories dominated Anglo-American ethics. These theories took various forms, of course, and still greatly influence the contents of textbooks used in university ethics courses, the deliberations of hospital ethics committees, the writings of professionals in diverse fields of “applied” ethics and—in the case of Kant—the...

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Chapter 1 Acts and Omissions

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pp. 3-26

All of us have a “perceptual faith” in the world as we perceive it, and our beliefs about this world “rest on a fundamental basis of mute ‘opinions’ implied in our life” (Merleau-Ponty 1968, 3). In a similar fashion, we assume kindness as a given in our cultural world.We believe that it exists, at least sometimes, and we also hold “mute” as well as, very occasionally, explicitly formulated opinions...

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Chapter 2 Personal Kindness

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pp. 27-62

We saw in the previous chapter that kindness is really present in the gesture, the speech act, or silence—in each case, a sensuousness pregnant with intelligibility. Kindness is not a meaning hovering behind or above the phenomena but rather inscribed in them, credited in the present through a perceptual faith, and awaiting, when available, confirmation in subsequent experiences. In a similar...

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Chapter 3 The Agency Of Kindness

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pp. 63-93

The previous chapter described and illustrated three main qualities essential to being a kind person: habits of doing kind acts, an active disposition to perform them—one’s prêt à servir—and a warm generosity transcending a perfunctory, “metallic” charity. There is at least one additional characteristic essential to personal kindness, self-withdrawal, which is best described from the agent’s...

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Chapter 4 Social Atmospheres, Technology, and Nature

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pp. 95-130

A descriptive phenomenology of kindness culminates with society itself, because individual acts and omissions and particular individuals in intimate, friendly, or casual relationships do not exhaust the ways in which the phenomenon of kindness appears to us. Accordingly, the following two chapters will attempt to provide an account of the main features of kindness as a social phenomenon. We...

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Chapter 5 Institutions and Community

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pp. 131-168

In any given society, the values embedded in indeterminate social atmospheres take determinate forms of customs, traditions, taboos, and the like. They are also inscribed in social institutions through their procedures, rules, policies, and own traditions and customs. These diverse phenomena can present themselves with varying degrees of kindness or unkindness for reasons analogous to those that...

Part II

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pp. 169

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Chapter 6 The Hermeneutic Challenge

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pp. 171-197

The aim of the first part of this book has been to describe and understand the meanings of all the types of kindness of which we are conscious in the social world. Accordingly, at the interpersonal level, we examined acts and non-acts of kindness as well as kind persons. At the social level, we considered indeterminate social atmospheres, technology, and our relationships with nature,...

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Chapter 7 Ideologies

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pp. 199-235

The object of this chapter is to resume and extend the analysis of false consciousness in terms of self-deception, dogma, or principle blindness, and the desire for power. Marx’s word for dogma, or principle blindness, is, of course, ideology. In the same light, I will extend his analysis to the work of Carol Gilligan, who has also effectively advanced a hermeneutics of suspicion about...

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Chapter 8 Critical Kindness:Toward an Aesthetic Humanism

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pp. 237-258

Schlick’s energetic “apostrophe,” completely uninterested in the origins of kindness that evolutionary psychologists are studying, comes at a price. Nowhere in his major work on ethics does he consider, let alone critically discuss, the types of challenges and concerns of a hermeneutics of kindness. His praise of the virtue and his defense of an ethics of kindness float above the suspicions detailed across...


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pp. 259-292


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pp. 293-310


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pp. 311-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780791489147
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791452653
Print-ISBN-10: 0791452654

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2002