Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality

Hardcover | December 15, 2014

byLisa Tessman

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Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality asks what happens when the sense that "I must" collides with the realization that "I can't." Bringing together philosophical and empirical work in moral psychology, Lisa Tessman here examines moral requirements that are non-negotiable andthat contravene the principle that "ought implies can." In some cases, it is because two non-negotiable requirements conflict that one of them becomes impossible to satisfy, and yet remains binding. In other cases, performing a particular action may be non-negotiably required - even if it isimpossible - because not performing the action is unthinkable. After offering both conceptual and empirical explanations of the experience of impossible moral requirements and the ensuing failures to fulfill them, Tessman considers what to make of such experience, and in particular, what role such experience has in the construction of value and of moralauthority. According to the constructivist account that the book proposes, some moral requirements can be authoritative even when they are impossible to fulfill. Tessman points out a tendency to not acknowledge the difficulties that impossible moral requirements and unavoidable moral failures create in morallife, and traces this tendency through several different literatures, from scholarship on Holocaust testimony to discussions of ideal and nonideal theory, from theories of supererogation to debates about moral demandingness and to feminist care ethics.

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Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality asks what happens when the sense that "I must" collides with the realization that "I can't." Bringing together philosophical and empirical work in moral psychology, Lisa Tessman here examines moral requirements that are non-negotiable andthat contravene the principle that "ought impl...

Lisa Tessman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Binghamton University. Her previous publications have been in ethics, feminist philosophy, and related areas. Her more recent work integrates philosophical ethics with empirical moral psychology. She is the author of Burdened Virtues: Virtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggles.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9.21 × 6.42 × 0.71 inPublished:December 15, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199396140

ISBN - 13:9780199396146

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart I: Are There Impossible Moral Requirements?1. Moral Dilemmas and Impossible Moral Requirements2. Moral Intuition and Moral Reasoning3. Risking ConfidencePart II: Evasions4. Witnessing Moral Failure5. Idealizing MoralityPart III: Endless Demands6. Minimizing the Demands of Morality7. On Having an Inexhaustible Source of Moral RequirementsConclusionReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In this remarkably original book, metaethics, empirical moral psychology, political philosophy, and feminist theory fall into place like puzzle pieces, revealing a neglected and profound problem for moral agency: the inevitability of our own moral failure. The message is sobering, but neverdespairing, and it serves as a welcome corrective to theories of moral deliberation that are overly idealistic or simplistic. Tessman sets an exemplary standard by forging a theory that is attentively and insightfully grounded in actual evaluative practices." --Jesse Prinz, The Graduate Center, City University of New York