Philosophers have long suspected that thought and discourse about what we ought to do differ in some fundamental way from statements about what is. But the difference has proved elusive, in part because the two kinds of statement look alike. Focusing on judgments that express decisions—judgments about what is to be done, all things considered—Allan Gibbard offers a compelling argument for reconsidering, and reconfiguring, the distinctions between normative and descriptive discourse—between questions of “ought” and “is.”
Gibbard considers how our actions, and our realities, emerge from the thousands of questions and decisions we form for ourselves. The result is a book that investigates the very nature of the questions we ask ourselves when we ask how we should live, and that clarifies the concept of “ought” by understanding the patterns of normative concepts involved in beliefs and decisions.
An original and elegant work of metaethics, this book brings a new clarity and rigor to the discussion of these tangled issues, and will significantly alter the long-standing debate over “objectivity” and “factuality” in ethics.
Everywhere in Gibbard’s impressive book opponents as well as allies have much to learn… His book is a pleasure to read, crafted with admirable care and clarity while minimizing technicality. The arguments are concise, and much has been packed into a relatively short compass, but there is a wealth of rich and suggestive detail. It is a book that deserves close study, and will stimulate and reward reflection.
In this fascinating book, Gibbard applies his development of the tools of traditional Anglo-American metaethical theory to the questions about that most basic philosophical concern: How should one live?… Gibbard’s arguments are clear and illustrated with helpful examples. His final result is sure to generate disagreement, but theorists in this area must contend with his arguments.
Gibbard writes elegantly, and the theory he develops is innovative, philosophically sophisticated, and challenging. Gibbard defends his theory vigorously and with admirable intellectual honesty.
This is a remarkable book. It takes up a central and much-discussed problem—the difference between normative thought (and discourse) and ‘descriptive’ thought (and discourse). It develops a compelling response to that problem with ramifications for much else in philosophy. But perhaps most importantly, it brings new clarity and rigor to the discussion of these tangled issues. It will take some time to come to terms with the details of Gibbard’s discussion. It is absolutely clear, however, that the book will reconfigure the debate over objectivity and ‘factuality’ in ethics.
- 320 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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