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What We Owe to Each Other [Paperback]

By T. M. Scanlon (Author)
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Item description for What We Owe to Each Other by T. M. Scanlon...

How do we judge whether an action is morally right or wrong? If an action is wrong, what reason does that give us not to do it? Why should we give such reasons priority over our other concerns and values? In this book, T. M. Scanlon offers new answers to these questions, as they apply to the central part of morality that concerns what we owe to each other. According to his contractualist view, thinking about right and wrong is thinking about what we do in terms that could be justified to others and that they could not reasonably reject. He shows how the special authority of conclusions about right and wrong arises from the value of being related to others in this way, and he shows how familiar moral ideas such as fairness and responsibility can be understood through their role in this process of mutual justification and criticism.

Scanlon bases his contractualism on a broader account of reasons, value, and individual well-being that challenges standard views about these crucial notions. He argues that desires do not provide us with reasons, that states of affairs are not the primary bearers of value, and that well-being is not as important for rational decision-making as it is commonly held to be. Scanlon is a pluralist about both moral and non-moral values. He argues that, taking this plurality of values into account, contractualism allows for most of the variability in moral requirements that relativists have claimed, while still accounting for the full force of our judgments of right and wrong.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Pages   432
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.32" Width: 6.19" Height: 1.07"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 15, 2000
Publisher   Belknap Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  067400423X  
ISBN13  9780674004238  

Availability  0 units.

More About T. M. Scanlon

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! T. M. Scanlon is Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University.

T. M. Scanlon has an academic affiliation as follows - Harvard University, Massachusetts Harvard University Harvard Universit.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General

Reviews - What do customers think about What We Owe to Each Other?

Attractive contractualism  Apr 28, 2005
A stunning text - beautifully written and argued; very difficult to poke holes in it (which is not surprising given the big name philosopher friends who commented on drafts). I am most attracted to the chapter on values: it is a brave attempt to put consequentialists on a leash. Does Scanlon succeed? Some consequentialists - namely, the Australian philosopher Philip Pettit- would say no, not because Scanlon's account of the complexity of values is false, but because he overestimates what consequentialists must be committed to. Nonetheless, Scanlon's non-consequentialist axiology remains an attractive alternative to other deontological theories (eg. Kamm). All of this aside, Scanlon's book is an excellent example of sound analytical philosophy delivered with style. It is worth reading just to get a taste of the best in this kind of philosophising.
A precious book  Jun 19, 2003
This book lies somehow between contratualism and discourse theory, since it rests on contractarian assumptions but concentrates in the processes of reason giving between people that are willing to abide to principles that could be so justified. It has family resenblances with the works of authors such as John Rawls, Brian Barry, Jurgen Habermas, and Robert Alexy. It is based on a distinction between religious morality in a stric sense and the morality of what we owe to each other as free and equal persons fully capable of giving reasons for our behavior. It is a precious book for those willing to have a deeper understanding of the normative implications of freedom, equality, responsability and reciprocity. A precious book.
Class book  Aug 7, 2000
I had to read this book for a Philosophy class in college. My professor loves this book. I found it a little hard to follow at points. But since we discussed it in class I learned quite a bit from it. I would recommend "What We Owe to Each Other" to those interested in reading it. Or people just interested in more modern philosophy than just reading the same old dusty books.
Blah....  Dec 21, 1999
I found Scanlon to be quite wordy. He could have said what he wanted to say in half the space. The major frustration with the book is that while Scanlon presents his theory of contractualism, he does not answer the objections to it. For example, in Chapter 8 (relativism), he discusses the objection to his theory but never directly answers it. After you've read 300+ pages, it would be nice if he could defend his own theory.
Excellent, careful, except in crucial places. Buy it, still.  Oct 1, 1999
Fabulous philosophizing, five stars, were it not for the obvious alternative theory that when we say "I have no desire to take bitter medicine", we mean "no desire that I can palpably feel at the forefront of consciousness, even though I remember that I have a very strong desire to take the medicine because I strongly desire to get well"; and that when we say "the mere fact that I have a desire to get a new computer is no reason to get one (since I don't need a new one, old one's fine, etc.)", we mean "no reason to speak of" since that desire, although a reason, is vastly outweighed by my other desires. (E.g. we say that there's "no chance" the team will win - we mean "none worth mentioning", not literally "none"). With these and similarly disappointing arguments, Scanlon concludes that desires have only a negligible role in practical reasoning. But clearly practical reasoning is a matter of determining what the most coherent set of one's strongest desires decrees. Scanlon doesn't even mention that alternative theory. Also, the contract theory he offers is supposed to take fairness into account when deciding what counts as a reasonable contract and to do this without circularity. Scanlon says he'll get out of the circle (what is right in terms of what is a reasonable contract, what is a reasonable contract in terms of what is right), but he never gets out. So smart, so close, and yet so far, from 5 stars. Still, it's head and shoulders above most books in moral theory this decade, (so careful and painstaking in many places).

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