Review Of "Knowing What To Do: Imagination, Virtue, And Platonism In Ethics" By T. Chappell

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Chappell (The Open Univ.) argues against prevailing orthodoxies and approaches in ethics, whether consequentialist, deontological, or expressivist. He also focuses on highly stylized hypotheticals, nicely demolishing, for instance, the "ticking bomb" hypothetical used to justify torture. Chappell thinks that, of course, Mill, Kant, and others were onto something important, but rejects the temptation to let Kantian or consequentialist "insights" swallow up everything. In developing his argument the author takes up a variety of contemporary metaethical issues, in particular internalism versus externalism and realism versus "irrealism." His thoughtful discussion will leave readers not only better informed, but also skeptical of the overriding importance of many of the distinctions he discusses. Chappell is particularly interesting on the nature of moral imagination and its importance; reasons and persons; and, finally, moral certainties. Because he opposes system building, readers should not be surprised that he does not offer a candidate to, say, replace consequentialism. However, his own views find inspiration in Wittgenstein, Iris Murdoch, and Plato. With its easy, engaging style, this book would be an ideal complement to an undergraduate or graduate course in moral philosophy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.


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