Anti-Theory in Ethics and Moral Conservatism

Edited by Stanley G. Clarke & Evan Simpson

Series: SUNY series in Ethical Theory
Paperback : 9780887069130, 320 pages, May 1989
Hardcover : 9780887069123, 320 pages, June 1989

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Table of contents

Introduction: The Primacy of Moral Practice
Stanley G. Clarke and Evan Simpson

Part I. Anti-Theory in Ethics

1. Doing Without Moral Theory?
Annette Baier

2. Normative Ethical Theories
Cheryl N. Noble

3. The Scientific and the Ethical
Bernard Williams

4. Virtue and Reason
John McDowell

5. "Finely Aware and Richly Responsible": Literature and the Moral Imagination
Martha Craven Nussbaum

6. Morality and Conflict
Stuart Hampshire

Part II. Moral Conservatism

7. Solidarity or Objectivity?
Richard Rorty

8. The Tower of Babel
Michael Oakeshott

9. Freedom and Custom
Roger Scruton

10. The Diversity of Goods
Charlie Taylor

11. Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science
Alasdair MacIntyre

12. Realism and Imagination in Ethics
Sabina Lovibond

A Rationalistic Moral Theory Pro and Con: A Guide to Recent Literature
Stanley G. Clarke and Evan Simpson



This volume documents a movement from theory and rules in ethics to an account of morality based on local practice and perception of the particular case. The Introduction lays the foundation for this position, then the authors draw from the analytic tradition as they forcefully argue against theory derived from different philosophical ancestors. In the second half they examine moral conservatism, exhibiting how placing moral practice as primary does not restrict one to any form of political conservatism.

Stanley G. Clarke is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Carleton University. Evan Simpson is Professor of Philosophy at McMaster University.


"This is a timely collection of important papers. It gives focus to a new development in moral philosophy, by defining the problems it addresses, by identifying the similarities and differences among various representatives, and by articulating the common themes which run through the works of these people. " — John Kekes

"The book reveals an underlying unity to what might at first appear to be a diverse body of literature. The first section on "Anti-theory in Ethics" collects all of the most important contributions to the growing skepticism about moral theory as it is currently practiced. In itself it would make an interesting and useful collection. By combining it with the second section on moral conservatism, the editors reveal that the implications of the anti-theorists' arguments are not merely negative, and extend beyond the confines of methodological disputes in academic philosophy. The essays in part two both discuss moral conservatism and exemplify it; in so doing they reveal that attempting to build comprehensive theories is not the only way in which moral philosophy can be both rigorous and critical. " — Arthur Ripstein