Plural and conflicting values are often held to be conceptually problematic, threatening the very possibility of ethics, or at least rational ethics. Rejecting this view, Stocker first demonstrates why it is so important to understand the issues raised by plural and conflicting values, focusing on Aristotle's treatment of them. He then shows that plurality and conflict are commonplace and generally unproblematic features of our everyday choice and action, and that they do allow for a sound and rational ethics.
This 1996 book is the result of a uniquely productive union of philosophy, psychoanalysis and anthropology, and explores the complexity and importance of emotions. Michael Stocker places emotions at the very centre of human identity, life and value. He lays bare how our culture's idealisation of rationality pervades the philosophical tradition and leads those who wrestle with serious ethical and philosophical problems into distortion and misunderstanding. Professor Stocker shows how important are the social and emotional contexts of ethical dilemmas and (...) inner conflicts, and he challenges philosophical theories that try to overgeneralise and over-simplify by leaving out the particulars of each situation. In offering a realistic account of emotions and an in-depth analysis of how psychological factors affect judgments of all kind, this book will interest a broad range of readers across the disciplines of philosophy and psychology. (shrink)
Stocker intends this book to redress the common failures of contemporary moral philosophers to see the importance of emotions for their field. His aim is not merely to point out deficiencies in current thinking about emotions and their place in ethics, however. It is also to show how emotions are important for ethics. The book is divided into ten chapters, four of which are written in collaboration with Elizabeth Hegeman, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst. The first seven present criticisms of current (...) thinking and argue for some general theses about the way emotions are related to values. The last three examine specific emotions, notably, compassion, pity, pride, shame, and anger. They serve to substantiate the general theses about the way emotions are related to values that the first seven chapters promote. In this review I will concentrate on the material in these first seven chapters. Though some of it is jointly authored, I will for convenience' sake mostly refer just to Stocker as the author. (shrink)
RECENT STUDIES IN NORMATIVE ETHICS have concentrated on act evaluations, neglecting, almost ignoring, agent evaluations. A partial explanation of this defect is found in two related ones: the neglect of act evaluations other than the obligation notions, and the failure to do justice even to them. In each case, neglecting the "other" concepts is implicated in serious misunderstandings of what is considered—or more accurately, what is over-considered. Take, for example, the view that it is obligatory to obtain for oneself the (...) greatest good one can, e.g., pleasure. Even a cursory study of prudence and other primarily self-regarding notions could have saved Moore, Ross, Ewing, and many others from holding or committing themselves to this silly view. (shrink)
What I have just said strikes me as not only paradoxical but true. In what follows I shall try to show that it is not all that paradoxical and that it is true. In order to show this, and in order to discuss some important and neglected features of act and duty individuation, I shall contrast the concepts of perfect duty and imperfect duty.
Does a woman's being repeatedly battered by her husband excuse her killing him while he was asleep? This and similar questions are often dealt with by asking a more general question, “Should we accept abuse excuses? ” These questions engender a lot of heat, but little light, in the media and other public forums, and even in the writings of many theorists. They have been discussed as if there is a typical abuse excuse we can examine in order to examine (...) abuse excuses in general. Similarly, the question of whether we should accept abuse excuses has often been discussed as if it is simple and straightforward. But there is no one typical abuse excuse, and the question of whether to accept such excuses is neither simple nor straightforward. There are many different abuse excuses, many different circumstances in which they are deployed, and many different sorts of concerns motivating their use. In this, abuse excuses are just like other, well-accepted excuses, such as self-defense. (shrink)
Neu's work is splendid. In addition to offering wonderfully illuminating characterizations of various emotions, it helps show that these individual characterizations, rather than an overall characterization of emotions or affectivity, have always been Neu's main concern. Nonetheless he is concerned with specific instances of, and often the general nature of, affectivity: what differentiates mere thoughts, desires, and values from emotions where the complex is affectively charged. I argue that his accounts of affectivity do not succeed — in that they can (...) be satisfied by what is affectless. (shrink)
Confucius, Plato, and Aristotle would agree on three propositions: genuine virtue represents a kind of second nature, a result of education such that patterns of choice become natural and predictable that would not be natural and predictable for the average person; there are patterns of gratification attendant on genuine virtue, that involve deeper values than most of the things that people pursue in life; and because of these, genuine virtue is always in a person's self-interest. The word “gratification” here is (...) deliberately broad. There can be brief periods of satisfaction, with performances that enjoyably are going well; these would amount to refined pleasures. But there also can be an agreeable sense of having come to terms with oneself, with no sense of self-disapproval or keen regret. This can be an important element in happiness. (shrink)