Metaethics from a First Person Standpoint: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy
Catherine Wilson, University of York
Copyright Year: 2016
ISBN 13: 9781783742004
Publisher: Open Book Publishers
Conditions of Use
The book provides a unique and thorough consideration of some of the key questions of metaethics, such as whether moral claims (this is good/right, that is bad/wrong) describe something real or are rather expressions of our likes or feelings, how... read more
The book provides a unique and thorough consideration of some of the key questions of metaethics, such as whether moral claims (this is good/right, that is bad/wrong) describe something real or are rather expressions of our likes or feelings, how we can know what is good, and whether we have obligations to others, including strangers. This book is not a traditional overview of ethical theories such as Kantianism, utilitarianism, natural law theory, etc., but instead considers the philosophical questions that must be answered before these theories can be evaluated. The book considers Kantianism, utilitarianism, and virtue theory in the final chapter, evaluating how they might fit with the reflections in the previous chapter. The book also includes a very helpful list of suggested readings, both primary and secondary sources, that could be paired with each chapter.
The book provides very crisp and clear reflections on complex philosophical questions in a down to earth, understandable style. One of the pleasures of the book is that someone well-versed in philosophical ethics can hear the voices of major figures in the tradition in the background of the first-person Enquirer's reflections. The book provides a very accurate and accessible introduction to these ongoing discussions while leaving the door open for an instructor to introduce students to these major figures through further readings.
The book covers relatively timeless questions of philosophical ethics and therefore runs no risks of becoming quickly outdated. Similarly, because the book is written in the form of a first-person monologue rather than as a traditional textbook covering major figures and schools of thought, there would be less need to revise the book in light of new developments in the field of ethics.
The book is exceptionally clear and down to earth. As already mentioned, it presents complex philosophical discussions in a way that is accessible and understandable. The book makes the editorial choice to avoid philosophical jargon and historical references to authors and schools of thought, leaving it to an instructor to supplement this text with others if needed. But this text stands alone as a well-crafted text that could be used in an introductory ethics course or in an introductory course on critical reasoning or inquiry.
The book is very consistent, maintaining a coherent line of thought from beginning to end and maintaining the same accessible yet reflective tone throughout.
The book is divided into nine different chapters or "enquiries," each covering different topics or questions that arise over the course of the first-person narrator's reflections. Each chapter is relatively short and manageable. The book could easily be divided up and used over the course of a term and paired with other readings. On the other hand, each chapter would be difficult to use as a stand-alone text, since each is part of the larger monologue. Instructors would be advised that if they adopt this text, they will likely need to use it in its entirety.
The text has a logical and clear organization. The questions covered in later chapters clearly follow from the reflections in earlier chapters.
The book has a clear and simple interface.
I noted no grammatical or spelling errors in the text.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. The text only has a single character, the "Enquirer" engaged in a reflective monologue on the nature of morality. The Enquirer reflects a vaguely Western culture, although the author's own apparent British background sometimes comes through. The text quite explicitly takes on the question of whether we should take for granted that the cultural beliefs and norms we inherit from our own culture are true, or whether we should turn to some other standard of determining what is right and wrong. The fact that the first-person narrator reflects a particular culture should therefore not be considered a flaw of the text, but rather a necessary part of the ethical reflections presented in the text.
A fabulous read. Metaethics has never been so entertaining. read more
A fabulous read. Metaethics has never been so entertaining.
Metaethics is not easy to teach, and this book is a wonderful addition to available texts.
The book weaves contemporary topics in applied ethics into the story line through the main character's though process, from the use of drugs and eating anymals to physician assisted death and suicide--entertaining and up to date. Author shows up-to-date understanding of ethics across the board, but perhaps more importantly, an understanding contemporary students.
Extremely well written.
I found no inconsistencies.
The book would benefit from more subheadings, but it is also easy to see why the author has presented the book as it is presented., since it is the musings of a character.
Clear and sensible--outlined in the intro.
no interface problems.
I found no errors.
This is my favorite part of the book--a female philosopher offering a decidedly fresh and different version of metaethics that is sensitive to contemporary issues such as genders and anymal ethics. The character she features is female, the kitten mentioned is female, the author uses "they" and "them" as a matter of gender-identity sensitivity, and the main character owns being an anymal, and ponders vegetarianism--author does an excellent job of writing to today's students. My only request would have been to add more in-depth visions from other cultures, perhaps to exemplify cultural relativity. How about contrasting ahimsa or wuwei with Greco-diaspora moral norms? Still, a very fresh, up-to-date, comprehensive text that feels different from conventional philosophical writings in important ways. Would love to try this text if i get to teach metaethics anytime soon.
Creative, bold, sensitive, interesting, engaging--a great way for students to learn metaethics.
Table of Contents
- Introduction and Acknowledgements
- Enquiry I
- Enquiry II
- Enquiry III
- Enquiry IV
- Enquiry V
- Enquiry VI
- Enquiry VII
- Enquiry VIII
- Enquiry IX
About the Book
Metaethics from a First Person Standpoint addresses in a novel format the major topics and themes of contemporary metaethics, the study of the analysis of moral thought and judgement. Metathetics is less concerned with what practices are right or wrong than with what we mean by ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’
Looking at a wide spectrum of topics including moral language, realism and anti-realism, reasons and motives, relativism, and moral progress, this book engages students and general readers in order to enhance their understanding of morality and moral discourse as cultural practices. Catherine Wilson innovatively employs a first-person narrator to report step-by-step an individual’s reflections, beginning from a position of radical scepticism, on the possibility of objective moral knowledge. The reader is invited to follow along with this reasoning, and to challenge or agree with each major point. Incrementally, the narrator is led to certain definite conclusions about ‘oughts’ and norms in connection with self-interest, prudence, social norms, and finally morality. Scepticism is overcome, and the narrator arrives at a good understanding of how moral knowledge and moral progress are possible, though frequently long in coming.
Accessibly written, Metaethics from a First Person Standpoint presupposes no prior training in philosophy and is a must-read for philosophers, students and general readers interested in gaining a better understanding of morality as a personal philosophical quest.
About the Contributors
Catherine Wilson is the Anniversary Professor of Philosophy at the University of York. Catherine has worked in the history of philosophy, moral theory and aesthetics and has taught and published extensively in these fields. Her publications include A Very Short Introduction to Epicureanism, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity (2008 and 2010), Moral Animals: Ideals and Constraints in Moral Theory (2004 and 2007) and (with C. Wilson and D. Clarke), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe (2011).