Between Universalism and Skepticism: Ethics as Social Artifact

Hardcover | February 1, 1994

byMichael Philips

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Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories andsome familiar approaches to concrete moral questions that presuppose them (most appeals to intuitions, respect for person's moralities, and versions of contractarianism and wide reflective equilibrium). He goes on to criticize major recent attempts to develop nonuniversalist alternatives toskepticism, arguing that they rely on excessively abstract and philosophically indefensible preference satisfaction theories of the good. According to Philips's positive alternative, moral standards are justified to the extent that they support reasonably valued ways of life. He devotes considerableattention to clarifying this idea and draws conclusions from it about the role and limits of reason in ethics. Philips's theory provides us with a theoretical basis for dealing with actual moral controversies and for approaching questions of applied and professional ethics in a systematicway.

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From Our Editors

Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories and of certain familiar approaches to concrete...

From the Publisher

Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories andsome familiar approaches to concrete moral ...

From the Jacket

Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories and of certain familiar approaches to concrete...

Michael Philips is at Portland State University.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9.49 × 6.34 × 0.87 inPublished:February 1, 1994Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195086465

ISBN - 13:9780195086461

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From Our Editors

Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories and of certain familiar approaches to concrete moral questions that presuppose them (most appeals to intuitions, respect-for-persons moralities, and versions of contractarianism and wide reflective equilibrium). He goes on to criticize major recent attempts to develop nonuniversalist alternatives to skepticism, arguing that they rely on excessively abstract and philosophically indefensible preference satisfaction theories of the good. According to Philips's positive alternative, ethics as social artifact, moral codes are social instruments and they are justified to the extent that they effectively do their jobs, which is to promote reasonably valued ways of life. Accordingly, he argues that different standards may be justified for different societies, depending on their circumst

Editorial Reviews

"A balanced and thought-provoking book. the clarity and depth of the exposition and argument are impressive; it is well worth reading, especiallu by those who, like myself, are not likely convinced."--Ethics