The premier political philosopher of his day, John Rawls, in three decades of teaching at Harvard, has had a profound influence on the way philosophical ethics is approached and understood today. This book brings together the lectures that inspired a generation of students--and a regeneration of moral philosophy. It invites readers to learn from the most noted exemplars of modern moral philosophy with the inspired guidance of one of contemporary philosophy's most noteworthy practitioners and teachers.
Central to Rawls's approach is the idea that respectful attention to the great texts of our tradition can lead to a fruitful exchange of ideas across the centuries. In this spirit, his book engages thinkers such as Leibniz, Hume, Kant, and Hegel as they struggle in brilliant and instructive ways to define the role of a moral conception in human life. The lectures delineate four basic types of moral reasoning: perfectionism, utilitarianism, intuitionism, and--the ultimate focus of Rawls's course--Kantian constructivism. Comprising a superb course on the history of moral philosophy, they also afford unique insight into how John Rawls has transformed our view of this history.
Rawls is, of course, one of the major moral and political philosophers of the 20th-century. These essays center on Kant's moral philosophy as influenced by Hume's and Leibniz's and as it influenced Hegel. Throughout, Rawls tries to understand the distinctive questions each philosopher posed to himself and the specific answers he gave...Rawls's deep, tightly argued, and lucidly presented analyses warrant close attention by students on the subject.
Rawls's 'Kant Lectures' have enjoyed a cult status so great that it has propelled dog-eared copies of his notes across campuses and generations. After being guided by Rawls's able hand through the rigors of such texts as Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Hume's Treatise on Human Nature, readers will appreciate how Rawls's generosity, both to students and subject, earned these Harvard lectures a place in legend.
This volume draws together the final version of Rawls' lecture notes on the history of modern moral philosophy. It offers probing discussions of Hume, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel and of the four basic types of moral reasoning--perfectionism, utilitarianism, intuitionism, and Kantian constructivism. Readers could hardly find a more enlightening (if sometimes challenging) companion in exploring key historical approaches to life's most fundamental moral and philosophical questions.
What names would we want to place next to Wittgenstein and Heidegger? No thinker, I believe, has a greater right to stand alongside them than John Rawls. Rawls's A Theory of Justice, which appeared in 1971, changed forever the landscape of moral and political philosophy. Like Wittgenstein and Heidegger, Rawls has shown a remarkable capacity for self-criticism. Like them, he has gone on to revise in significant ways the doctrines that first established his fame...The publication of the Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy is thus a major event, since here we find the conception of modern ethics as a whole, the understanding of its characteristic themes and problems, that has inspired Rawls's political thought.
Rawls has an enormously authoritative and interesting way of thinking and writing about the history of philosophy. His approach and tone is that of a world-class athlete watching old films to analyze the technique of his great predecessors. It is a pleasure to listen in.
- 416 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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