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Philosophy > Ethics and Moral Philosophy

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For René Girard Cover

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For René Girard

Essays in Friendship and in Truth

Sandor Goodhart

In his explorations of the relations between the sacred and violence, René Girard has hit upon the origin of culture — the way culture began, the way it continues to organize itself. The way communities of human beings structure themselves in a manner that is different from that of other species on the planet.
     Like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, Martin Buber, or others who have changed the way we think in the humanities or in the human sciences, Girard has put forth a set of ideas that have altered our perceptions of the world in which we function. We will never be able to think the same way again about mimetic desire, about the scapegoat mechanism, and about the role of Jewish and Christian scripture in explaining sacrifice, violence, and the crises from which our culture has been born.
     The contributions fall into roughly four areas of interpretive work: religion and religious study; literary study; the philosophy of social science; and psychological studies.
     The essays presented here are offered as "essays" in the older French sense of attempts (essayer) or trials of ideas, as indeed Girard has tried out ideas with us. With a conscious echo of Montaigne, then, this hommage volume is titled Essays in Friendship and in Truth.
 

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Forging People

Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in Hispanic American and Latino/a Thought

edited by Jorge J. E. Gracia

Forging People explores the way in which Hispanic American thinkers in Latin America and Latino/a philosophers in the United States have posed and thought about questions of race, ethnicity, and nationality, and how they have interpreted the most significant racial and ethnic labels used in Hispanic America in connection with issues of rights, nationalism, power, and identity. Following the first introductory chapter, each of the essays addresses one or more influential thinkers, ranging from Bartolomé de Las Casas on race and the rights of Amerindians; to Simon Bolívar's struggle with questions of how to forge a nation from disparate populations; to modern and contemporary thinkers on issues of race, unity, assimilation, and diversity. Each essay carefully and clearly presents the views of key authors in their historical and philosophical context and provides brief biographical sketches and reading lists, as aids to students and other readers.

Freedom in the Workplace? Cover

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Freedom in the Workplace?

Are workers in the United States free? Gertrude Ezorsky traces the severe limits placed on their freedom by illegal coercion against organizing unions and by low wage offers-barely enough to feed their families-that workers are pressured to accept. Older, sick workers are forced to stay in exhausting jobs to be eligible for pensions.

Ezorsky shows that the notions of freedom held by most contemporary social scientists and philosophers are far too limited to account for the reality of the workplace, where a lack of freedom abounds. Students preparing to enter the workplace will be informed of that reality by reading this valuable book. In addition to her philosophical investigations Ezorsky provides valuable information on the specifics of labor relations, including employment at will; the NLRA and NLRB; OSHA; outsourcing; and the distinctions among closed, union, and agency shops. Readers interested in moral philosophy, applied ethics, and labor relations will find Ezorsky's arguments clear, forceful, and compelling.

Friendship Cover

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Friendship

Liberty, Equality, and Utility

In Friendship, James O. Grunebaum introduces a new conceptual framework to articulate, explain, and understand similarities and differences between various conceptions of friendship. Asking whether special preference for friends is morally justified, Grunebaum answers that question by analyzing a comprehensive comparison of not only Aristotle’s three well-known kinds of friendship—pleasure, utility, and virtue—but also a variety of lesser-known friendship conceptions from Kant, C. S. Lewis, and Montaigne. The book clarifies differences about how friends ought to behave toward each other and how these differences are, in part, what separate the various conceptions of friendship.

Friendship and Love, Ethics and Politics Cover

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Friendship and Love, Ethics and Politics

Studies in Mediaeval and Early Modern History

By Eva Osterberg

Today, friendship, love and sexuality are mostly viewed as private, personal and informal relations. In the mediaeval and early modern period, just like in ancient times, this was different. The classical philosophy of friendship (Aristotle) included both friendship and love in the concept of philia. It was also linked to an argument about the virtues needed to become an excellent member of the city state. Thus, close relations were not only thought to be a matter of pleasant gatherings in privacy, but just as much a matter of ethics and politics. What, then, happened to the classical ideas of close relations when they were transmitted to philosophers, clerical and monastic thinkers, state officials or other people in the medieval and early modern period? To what extent did friendship transcend the distinctions between private and public that then existed? How were close relations shaped in practice? Did dialogues with close friends help to contribute to the process of subject-formation in the Renaissance and Enlightenment? To what degree did institutions of power or individual thinkers find it necessary to caution against friendship or love and sexuality?

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From Warism to Pacifism: A Moral Continuum

Duane Cady views warism and pacifism as polar extremes on a continuum that embraces a full spectrum of ethical positions on the morality of war and peace. Realizing that he could not intellectually defend the notions of just-war theory, he found that he was a reluctant pacifist. In this new edition of From Warism to Pacifism, Cady continues to expose the pervasive, subconscious warism that is the dominant ideology in modern Western culture. He explores the changes over the last twenty years—from the end of the Cold War to the ongoing “war on terror,” as well as Barack Obama winning the Nobel Prize for Peace.

 

 Like racism and sexism, the uncritical presumption that war is morally justifiable, even morally required, misguides our attitudes and institutions. In its place, Cady proposes the development of a positive concept of peace. Citing common objections to pacifist values, he describes peace as something more than the mere absence of war and demonstrates that pacifism is a defensible position.  

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The Future of Ethics

Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity

Willis Jenkins

The Future of Ethics interprets the big questions of sustainability and social justice through the practical problems arising from humanity's increasing power over basic systems of life. What does climate change mean for our obligations to future generations? How can the sciences work with pluralist cultures in ways that will help societies learn from ecological change?

Traditional religious ethics examines texts and traditions and highlights principles and virtuous behaviors that can apply to particular issues. Willis Jenkins develops lines of practical inquiry through "prophetic pragmatism," an approach to ethics that begins with concrete problems and adapts to changing circumstances. This brand of pragmatism takes its cues from liberationist theology, with its emphasis on how individuals and communities actually cope with overwhelming problems.

Can religious communities make a difference when dealing with these issues? By integrating environmental sciences and theological ethics into problem-based engagements with philosophy, economics, and other disciplines, Jenkins illustrates the wide understanding and moral creativity needed to live well in the new conditions of human power. He shows the significance of religious thought to the development of interdisciplinary responses to sustainability issues and how this calls for a new style of religious ethics.

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Gender Thinking

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The Genesis of Desire

Jean-Michel Oughourlian

We seem to be abandoning the codes that told previous generations who they should love. But now that many of us are free to choose whoever we want, nothing is less certain. The proliferation of divorces and separations reveal a dynamic we would rather not see: others sometimes reject us as passionately as we are attracted to them.
     Our desire makes us sick. The throes of rivalry are at the heart of our attraction to one another. This is the central thesis of Jean-Michel Oughourlian's The Genesis of Desire, where the war of the sexes is finally given a scientific explanation. The discovery of mirror neurons corroborates his ideas, clarifying the phenomena of empathy and the mechanisms of violent reciprocity.
     How can a couple be saved when they have declared war on one another? By helping them realize that desire originates not in the self but in the other. There are strategies that can help, which Dr. Oughourlian has prescribed successfully to his patients. This work, alternating between case studies and more theoretical statements, convincingly defends the possibility that breakups need not be permanent.
 

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Giving an Account of Oneself

Judith Butler

What does it mean to lead a moral life?In her first extended study of moral philosophy, Judith Butler offers a provocative outline for a new ethical practice-one responsive to the need for critical autonomy and grounded in a new sense of the human subject.Butler takes as her starting point one's ability to answer the questions What have I done?and What ought I to do?She shows that these question can be answered only by asking a prior question, Who is this 'I' who is under an obligation to give an account of itself and to act in certain ways?Because I find that I cannot give an account of myself without accounting for the social conditions under which I emerge, ethical reflection requires a turn to social theory.In three powerfully crafted and lucidly written chapters, Butler demonstrates how difficult it is to give an account of oneself, and how this lack of self-transparency and narratibility is crucial to an ethical understanding of the human. In brilliant dialogue with Adorno, Levinas, Foucault, and other thinkers, she eloquently argues the limits, possibilities, and dangers of contemporary ethical thought.Butler offers a critique of the moral self, arguing that the transparent, rational, and continuous ethical subject is an impossible construct that seeks to deny the specificity of what it is to be human. We can know ourselves only incompletely, and only in relation to a broader social world that has always preceded us and already shaped us in ways we cannot grasp. If inevitably we are partially opaque to ourselves, how can giving an account of ourselves define the ethical act? And doesn't an ethical system that holds us impossibly accountable for full self-knowledge and self-consistency inflict a kind of psychic violence, leading to a culture of self-beratement and cruelty? How does the turn to social theory offer us a chance to understand the specifically social character of our own unknowingness about ourselves?In this invaluable book, by recasting ethics as a project in which being ethical means becoming critical of norms under which we are asked to act, but which we can never fully choose, Butler illuminates what it means for us as fallible creaturesto create and share an ethics of vulnerability, humility, and ethical responsiveness. Judtith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The most recent of her books are Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence and Undoing Gender.

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