Review Of "Moral Anatomy And Moral Reasoning" By R. V. Hannaford

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Published In



Hannaford's wide-ranging philosophical investigation of "moral anatomy"--i.e., the interplay of motives, reasons, and responsiveness in judging and acting--shows how sound, objective moral reasoning involves generalizing, yet can take place only when rooted in particular, moral communities. He rejects the kind of sophisticated Hobbesian egoism developed by David Gauthier (Morals by Agreement, CH, Dec'86) and Bernard Gert (The Moral Rules, 1970) because mutual concern is a precondition for reaching moral agreement, not a consequence. And, although we must pay attention to the network of community attitudes and practices, Hannaford shows that this does not lead to vulgar relativism. For in framing moral judgments, we must take persons as embedded in their circumstances and relationships to others. Because of our relationships, we come to want to do what is morally demanded of us. This is compatible with a version of the Golden Rule, for applications of this universal rule yield judgments based on particularities of abilities, expectations, and relationships, not universally applicable laws of nature. In reaching this conclusion, Hannaford skillfully weaves together strands drawn both from philosophers, classical and contemporary, and from psychologists. His original yet accessible inquiry deserves careful attention, not only for its incisive argumentation, but also for its clear vision, common sense, and humanity. Highly recommended for all libraries.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

This document is currently not available here.