Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy

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Harvard University Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 384 pages
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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.

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LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY

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An examination of the philosophies of Hume, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel—all nicely burnished by contemporary great Rawls (A Theory of Justice, 1971) over three decades at Harvard.Rawls's "Kant Lectures ... Read full review

Lectures on the history of moral philosophy

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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 ... Read full review

Contents

The Main Problem of Greek Moral Philosophy
3
The Relation between Religion and Science
11
On Studying Historical Texts
17
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

John Rawls, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, had published a number of articles on the concept of justice as fairness before the appearance of his magnum opus, A Theory of Justice (1971). While the articles had won for Rawls considerable prestige, the reception of his book thrust him into the front ranks of contemporary moral philosophy. Presenting a Kantian alternative to conventional utilitarianism and intuitionism, Rawls offers a theory of justice that is contractual and that rests on principles that he alleges would be accepted by free, rational persons in a state of nature, that is, of equality. The chorus of praise was loud and clear. Stuart Hampshire acclaimed the book as "the most substantial and interesting contribution to moral philosophy since the war."H. A. Bedau declared: "As a work of close and original scholarship in the service of the dominant moral and political ideology of our civilization, Rawls's treatise is simply without a rival." Rawls historically achieved two important things: (1) He articulated a coherent moral philosophy for the welfare state, and (2) he demonstrated that analytic philosophy was most capable of doing constructive work in moral philosophy. A Theory of Justice has become the most influential work in political, legal, and social philosophy by an American author in the twentieth century.

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

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