The Limits of Morality

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byShelly Kagan

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Most of us believe that there are limits to the sacrifices that morality can demand of us. We also think that certain types of acts are simply forbidden, even when necessary for promoting the overall good. Here Kagan argues that attempts to defend these sorts of moral limit are inadequate.In thus rejecting two of the most fundamental features of commonsense morality, the book offers a sustained attack on our ordinary moral views.

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Most of us believe that there are limits to the sacrifices that morality can demand of us. We also think that certain types of acts are simply forbidden, even when necessary for promoting the overall good. Here Kagan argues that attempts to defend these sorts of moral limit are inadequate.In thus rejecting two of the most fundamental...

Shelly Kagan is at University of Illinois, Chicago.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:428 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.87 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198239165

ISBN - 13:9780198239161

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Customer Reviews of The Limits of Morality

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Devil in the Details The Limits of Morality is an intense, complex series of considerations that raises doubts about the moral system that we live by. Referring to this morality as "ordinary morality", Kagan sets off on a dense, often convoluted journey to show that those subscribers of ordinary morality have a vexing task of justifying why they can choose to do good things, rather than be compelled to do good. Kagan defends a view of utilitarianism that he calls "extremist", and as distasteful a view as it is, he shows how the ideological purities of the extremist and the minimalist strain ordinary morality. The major drawback to The Limits of Morality is Kagan's blurring of the border between 'descriptive' and the 'prescriptive.' This is a normative work, but Kagan makes allusions to the everyday experience of ordinary morality by all of us. As he has constructed it, Kagan has avoided any reference to sociological, psychological or anthropological considerations about why we choose the way we do. This is a comprehensive journey through moral thought, both in detail and in the demands on the reader. This book requires an advanced understanding of philosophy, but for this audience -- it is an essential text.
Date published: 2001-03-07

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Editorial Reviews

`The two points to stress about this book are: it is full of arguments that are themselves formidable. And it gives proper attention to pivotal but largely neglected issues.' Mind