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Appiah, Kwame Anthony, , . Experiments in Ethics
2008, London: Harvard University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: In the past few decades, scientists of human nature—including experimental and cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary theorists, and behavioral economists—have explored the way we arrive at moral judgments. They have called into question commonplaces about character and offered troubling explanations for various moral intuitions. Research like this may help explain what, in fact, we do and feel. But can it tell us what we ought to do or feel?

In Experiments in Ethics, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah explores how the new empirical moral psychology relates to the age-old project of philosophical ethics. Some moral theorists hold that the realm of morality must be autonomous of the sciences; others maintain that science undermines the authority of moral reasons. Appiah elaborates a vision of naturalism that resists both temptations. He traces an intellectual genealogy of the burgeoning discipline of “experimental philosophy,” provides a balanced, lucid account of the work being done in this controversial and increasingly influential field, and offers a fresh way of thinking about ethics in the classical tradition.

Appiah urges that the relation between empirical research and morality, now so often antagonistic, should be seen in terms of dialogue, not contest. And he shows how experimental philosophy, far from being something new, is actually as old as philosophy itself. Beyond illuminating debates about the connection between psychology and ethics, intuition and theory, his book helps us to rethink the very nature of the philosophical enterprise.

Comment: This is a great work for any ethics course, insofar as it interrogates the traditional mode of doing ethics through an experimental lens. Also good for courses on experimental philosophy, suitable for both undergraduates and early stage graduate students.

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Sreenivasan, Gopal, , . Disunity of Virtue
2009, Journal of Ethics 13 (2-2):195 – 212.
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Abstract: This paper argues against the unity of the virtues, while trying to salvage some of its attractive aspects. I focus on the strongest argument for the unity thesis, which begins from the premise that true virtue cannot lead its possessor morally astray. I suggest that this premise presupposes the possibility of completely insulating an agent’s set of virtues from any liability to moral error. I then distinguish three conditions that separately foreclose this possibility, concentrating on the proposition that there is more to morality than virtue alone—that is, not all moral considerations are ones to which some virtue is characteristically sensitive. If the virtues are not unified, the situationist critique of virtue ethics also turns out to be more difficult to establish than some have supposed.

Comment: This paper offers a discussion of some strong objections against virtue ethics, and as such it is best used to support modules focusing on this neo-Aristotelian view. Further, it addresses problems which seem to follow from empirical research into virtues and character, which makes it particularly useful in teaching students who tend to confuse moral psychology and philosophy.

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