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Moral Literacy

Moral Literacy

Barbara Herman

ISBN 9780674030527

Publication date: 09/15/2008

A distinguished moral philosopher and a leading interpreter of Kant's ethics, Barbara Herman draws on Kant to address timeless issues in ethical theory as well as ones arising from current moral problems, such as obligations to distant need, the history of slavery as it bears on affirmative action, and the moral costs of reparative justice.

Challenging various Kantian orthodoxies, Herman offers a view of moral competency as a complex achievement, governed by rational norms and dependent on supportive social conditions. She argues that the objectivity of duties and obligations does not rule out the possibility of or need for moral invention. Her goal is not to revise Kant but to explore the issues and ask the questions that he did not consider.

Some of the essays involve explicit interpretation of Kant, and others are prompted by ground-level questions. For example, how should we think about moral character given what we know about the fault lines in normal development? If ordinary moral life is saturated by the content of local institutions, how should our accounts of moral obligation and judgment accommodate this?

Praise

  • This is a remarkable book: remarkably impressive, remarkably subtle and imaginative, remarkably wide ranging in subject matter, and some of the time at least, remarkably maddening too… Barbara Herman is surely one of the most ambitious philosophers in moral theory today, and she pursues each of her many ambitions with a combination of good cheer and ferocity that cannot help but leave some readers panting and a bit out of breath… Throughout the work, in every chapter, Herman’s attunement to the contours of everyday moral life is undeniable. Indeed, one of the pleasures in reading Herman is that you often feel you are realizing, for the first time, just how subtle such contours in some particular case may be… [T]his is indeed an unusual, special work, and Herman has, I think, a very original and impressive philosophical sensibility.

    —Steven Ross, Essays in Philosophy

Author

  • Barbara Herman is Griffin Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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