Review Of "Values And Valuing: Speculations On The Ethical Life Of Persons" By G. Nerlich

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Nerlich grounds his moral "speculations" in philosophical psychology, so a reader of Anthony J.P. Kenny's The Metaphysics of Mind (1989) will be at home. Ethics is fundamentally about what we should be, not what we should do. He thus sides with contemporary neo-Aristotleans like Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue, 1st ed, CH, Feb'82; 2nd ed., 1984) in ignoring the place of duties, rights and obligations in moral life. Ethical reflection centers instead on leading the good life; i.e., on becoming a person--someone who is a minimally rational, self-conscious, language-user sharing a culture. Nerlich profitably develops the views of C. Taylor in regarding persons as "strong evaluators" ("What Is Human Agency?" in The Self: Psychological and Philosophical Issues, ed. by T. Mischel, CH, Jan'78). Valuing occurs quite naturally because language and cultural life require self-appraisal, which dialectically transforms desires into values. Using sexual desire as his example, Nerlich shows convincingly that, contra Hume, reason normally is not the slave of the passions. Values remain subjective, however, unless they are "authentic" and become "objective." Here Nerlich's speculations outrun his argument. This important book deserves a wide audience of those advanced undergraduates and graduates already familiar with current theories in philosophical psychology and contemporary moral philosophy.


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