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Arpaly, Nomy, , . Unprincipled Virtue: An Inquiry Into Moral Agency
2002, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: Nomy Arpaly rejects the model of rationality used by most ethicists and action theorists. Both observation and psychology indicate that people act rationally without deliberation, and act irrationally with deliberation. By questioning the notion that our own minds are comprehensible to us–and therefore questioning much of the current work of action theorists and ethicists–Arpaly attempts to develop a more realistic conception of moral agency.

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Manne, Kate, , . Internalism about Reasons, Sad but True?
2014, Philosophical Studies 167(1): 89-117.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Internalists about reasons following Bernard Williams claim that an agent’s normative reasons for action are constrained in some interesting way by her desires or motivations. In this paper, I offer a new argument for such a position – although one that resonates, I believe, with certain key elements of Williams’ original view. I initially draw on P.F. Strawson’s famous distinction between the interpersonal and the objective stances that we can take to other people, from the second-person point of view. I suggest that we should accept Strawson’s contention that the activity of reasoning with someone about what she ought to do naturally belongs to the interpersonal mode of interaction. I also suggest that reasons for an agent to perform some action are considerations which would be apt to be cited in favor of that action, within an idealized version of this advisory social practice. I then go on to argue that one would take leave of the interpersonal stance towards someone – thus crossing the line, so to speak – in suggesting that she do something one knows she wouldn’t want to do, even following an exhaustive attempt to hash it out with her. An internalist necessity constraint on reasons is defended on this basis.

Comment: I use this as one of the key pieces of reading whenever I discuss reasons internalism (alongside Williams’ original ‘Internal and External Reasons’). Gives a good overview and a good original argument.

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Olberding, Amy, , . Confucius’ Complaints and the Analects’ Account of the Good Life
2013, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (4):417-440.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

Abstract: The Analects appears to offer two bodies of testimony regarding the felt, experiential qualities of leading a life of virtue. In its ostensible record of Confucius’ more abstract and reflective claims, the text appears to suggest that virtue has considerable power to afford joy and insulate from sorrow. In the text’s inclusion of Confucius’ less studied and apparently more spontaneous remarks, however, he appears sometimes to complain of the life he leads, to feel its sorrows, and to possess some despair. Where we attend to both of these elements of the text, a tension emerges. In this essay, I consider how Confucius’ complaints appear to complicate any clean conclusion that Confucius wins a good life, particularly where we attend to important pre-theoretical sensibilities regarding what a ‘good life’ ought to include and how it ought to feel for the one who leads it.

Comment: A rich text that explains the role of complaints – and, more broadly, disappointment, regret, and sadness – in the moral life. Especially good for challenging the idea that the moral life will insulate a person from such negative affects. Also points out the tendency of some moral philosophers to downplay certain aspects of human beings when constructing their ideals.

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Sherman, Nancy, , . The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue
1989, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: John Baldari, Contributed by:

Publisher: Most traditional accounts of Aristotle’s theory of ethical education neglect its cognitive aspects. This book asserts that, in Aristotle’s view, excellence of character comprises both the sentiments and practical reason. Sherman focuses particularly on four aspects of practical reason as they relate to character: moral perception, choicemaking, collaboration, and the development of those capacities in moral education. Throughout the book, she is sensitive to contemporary moral debates, and indicates the extent to which Aristotle’s account of practical reason provides an alternative to theories of impartial reason.

Comment: This book is useful for ethics curriculum that focus on virtue or Aristotelian focused ethics courses.

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