Moral Animals: Ideals and Constraints in Moral Theory

Paperback | July 5, 2007

byCatherine Wilson

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In Moral Animals Catherine Wilson develops a theory of morality based on two fundamental premises: first that moral progress implies the evolution of moral ideals involving restraint and sacrifice; second that human beings are outfitted by nature with selfish motivations, intentions, andambitions that place constraints on what morality can demand of them. Normative claims, she goes on to show, can be understood as projective hypotheses concerning the conduct of realistically-described nonideal agents in preferred fictional worlds. Such claims differ from empirical hypotheses,insofar as they cannot be verified by observation and experiment. Yet many, though not all, moral claims are susceptible of confirmation to the extent that they command the agreement of well-informed inquirers. With this foundation in place, Wilson turns to a defence of egalitarianism intended to address the objection that the importance of our non-moral projects, our natural acquisitiveness and partiality, and our meritocratic commitments render social equality a mere abstract ideal. Employing the basicnotion of a symmetrical division of the co-operative surplus, she argues that social justice with respect to global disparities in well-being, and in the condition of women relative to men, depends on the relinquishment of natural and acquired advantage that is central to the concept of morality.

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In Moral Animals Catherine Wilson develops a theory of morality based on two fundamental premises: first that moral progress implies the evolution of moral ideals involving restraint and sacrifice; second that human beings are outfitted by nature with selfish motivations, intentions, andambitions that place constraints on what morality...

Catherine Wilson is in the Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9.17 × 6.14 × 0.75 inPublished:July 5, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199228094

ISBN - 13:9780199228096

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Table of Contents

1. Morality as a System of Advantage-Reducing Imperatives2. Paraworlds and Confirmation3. Limits on Theory I: Costs to Agents4. Limits on Theory II: Immanent Standpoints5. The Anonymity Requirement and Counterweight Principles6. The Division of the Co-operative Surplus7. The Role of a Merit Principle in Distributive Justice8. Moral Equality and 'Natural' SubordinationBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`...a carefully argued and ingeniously devised piece of normative ethics, which shows how much philosophical theory, reinforced with isights from anthropology and psychology, can contribute to the perennial problems of social justice.'TLS