Rethinking Goodness

By Michael A. Wallach & Lise Wallach

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ethical Theory
Paperback : 9780791403006, 156 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791402993, 156 pages, July 1990

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Table of contents


1. The Minimalist Predicament

  • The Legacy of Liberalism
  • Calls to Abridge Autonomy
  • Another Way

2. Student Voices on Values

  • Work and Effort
  • Pairing Off
  • Living in Society

3. Virtue Desired

  • Greece before Plato and Aristotle
  • Plato and Aristotle
  • Buddha and Confucius

4. The Mystification of Goodness

  • The Good as God's Commands
  • The Severing of Virtue from Human Desire
  • The Philsophers

5. What the Humanist Forgot

  • The Good on Our Genes
  • The Insufficiency of Spontaneous Goodness

6. Dealing with Differences

  • Respect and Relativism
  • Can Ethical Beliefs Be Justified?

7. Some Thoughts for Feminists, Communitarians, and Moral Educators

  • Feminism
  • Community
  • Moral Education




Arguing that a psychological basis for ethics can be found in human motivation, Rethinking Goodness proposes a naturalistic ethics that transcends the conflict between liberalism and authoritarianism—the conflict between freedom at the price of narcissism and morality at the price of coercion. The authors offer a third option, an ethic broader than liberalism's pursuit of the personal, that avoids jeopardizing, as do authoritarian positions, the centrality of individual autonomy.

Michael A. Wallach is Professor of Psychology and Lise Wallach is Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Duke University.


"This is a persuasive, scholarly case for the desirability and feasibility of concern for the common good—a fully serious and assessable answer to the 'minimalist' morality decried by culture critics like Lasch and Bloom, that avoids the authoritarian trap, and it offers an example of 'secular humanism' at its best. A psychologically and philosophically imaginative and sound response to the moral and morale disorder of our times. " — M. Brewster Smith, University of California at Santa Cruz