Review Of "Varieties Of Moral Personality: Ethics And Psychological Realism" By O. Flanagan

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How does psychology matter to moral philosophy? Flanagan argues that philosophers continually appeal to “human nature” in defending their theories, yet seldom pay attention to what psychologists have learned about it. This is equally true of virtue ethics as of kantianism and consequentialism. Flanagan shows how a psychological realistic ethical sheds light on a series of contemporary controversies about the self, morality and gender, liberalism and community, and the connections among health, happiness, and goodness. More particularly, he argues that there is no single ideal of moral personality suited for all times and places. Flanagan also wends his way artfully between communitarians (M.J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 1982, A.C. MacIntyre, After Virtue, CH, Feb'82) and liberals (J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, CH, Sep'72), siding qualifiedly with the latter. He discusses helpfully integrity, gender, and identity by providing a thoughtful guide through the writings of L. Kohlberg, Essays on Moral Development, 2 v. (1981-1892); C. Gilligan, In a Different Voice (CH, Oct'82); N. Noddings, Caring: A Feminist Approach to Ethics (CH, Nov'84); and B.A.O. Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (CH, Oct'85). Varieties of Moral Personality expands and enriches our understanding of moral life, and compares favorably with J. Stout's Ethics After Babel (CH, Jan'89) by its inclusion of psychological findings. Highly recommended for all academic libraries.


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