The Puritan Smile

A Look Toward Moral Reflection

By Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Metaphysics
Paperback : 9780887065439, 248 pages, September 1987
Hardcover : 9780887065422, 248 pages, September 1987

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Table of contents


Chapter 1. Metaphysics and Irony: New Twists on Moral Reflection

Chapter 2. Modeling the Moral Life

Chapter 3. Social Obligation, Personal Responsibility, and Moral Identity

Chapter 4. The Metaphysics of Chaos, Totalization, and Normative Description

Chapter 5. Suffering, Experience, and Politics

Chapter 6. Moral Discernment and the Reality of Value

Chapter 7. Moral Science in a Normative Cosmos

Chapter 8. Authority

Chapter 9. Freedom and Privacy

Chapter 10. Responsibilities in Conflict

Chapter 11. A Taste of Death




This book develops a contemporary metaphysics of morals. Currently the liberal tradition defines the field of moral and political theory. It contains the popular utilitarian, the deontological, and the virtue-ethics approaches to normative theory; and by a broad dialectical negation, it also defines the historical materialism of Marx. The Puritan Smile circumvents the Liberalism-Marxism dialectic with the Puritan emphasis on responsibility and their social definition of individuality. To this core of classical puritanism is added the deeply rooted sense of culture and the vast historical experience of Confucianism with which it resonates strongly.

The need for tolerance and the celebration of liberty is asserted by Neville in order to offset the tendencies toward dogmatism and totalitarianism inherent within the Puritan and Confucian views. The book integrates a Puritan sense of participation with a Confucian sense of moral obligation and a liberal appreciation of freedom and tolerance.

Robert Cummings Neville is Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Theology at Boston University. He is the author of Reconstruction of Thinking and The Tao and the Daimon: Segments of a Religious Inquiry, and editor of New Essays in Metaphysics, all published by the State University of New York Press.