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Experiments in Ethics

Experiments in Ethics

Kwame Anthony Appiah

ISBN 9780674034570

Publication date: 03/30/2010

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.

Praise

  • This dazzlingly written book argues for reconnecting moral philosophy with the sciences, both natural and social--and demonstrates that the reconnection, while in a sense overdue, reconnects philosophy with its ancient interest in empirical issues. Appiah's important argument promises to transform more than one field. It is not only wise and subtle; it is also inspiring.

    —Cass Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago and author of Worst-Case Scenarios

Author

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah writes the Ethicist column for The New York Times Magazine. A professor of philosophy and law at New York University, he is the best-selling, award-winning author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity; Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers; The Ethics of Identity; and The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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