Cover image for Good and evil
Good and evil
Taylor, Richard, 1919-2003.
Personal Author:
Revised edition.
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
336 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Subject Term:

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BJ1012 .T37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The discussion of good and evil must not be confined to the sterile lecture halls of academics but related instead to ordinary human feelings, needs, and desires, says noted philosopher Richard Taylor. Efforts to understand morality by exploring human reason will always fail because we are creatures of desire as well. All morality arises from our intense and inescapable longing. The distinction between good and evil is always clouded by rationalists who convert the real problems of ethics into complex philosophical puzzles.
In the first part of Good and Evil, Taylor looks for a more meaningful conception by reexamining and rejecting the whole rationalistic tradition that dominates philosophical ethics. The second part provides an empirical explanation of good and evil, noting that one does not have to look too far to find prime examples of the failure of fixed moral rules.
Including important commentary on Joseph Fletcher's groundbreaking situation ethics, and Aristotle's virtues (e.g., magnanimity and pride), Taylor rounds out the book by developing a philosophy of aspiration--personal worth as an ethical ideal--to replace the morality of duty. He offers a modified form of situation ethics to fit the contemporary problems we face.

Author Notes

Richard Taylor has held professorships in philosophy at Brown University, the graduate faculty of Columbia University, and the University of Rochester.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 13
Part 1 The Background: Reason and Will
1. Ethics and Human Naturep. 17
The Importance of Our Questionp. 18
Three Traditional Answersp. 19
The Greeks and the Idea of What Is Goodp. 20
Human Goodness and Reasonp. 23
Rationalism vs. Voluntarismp. 24
Moral Rationalismp. 26
Moral Voluntarismp. 30
2. Nature vs. Conventionp. 33
True Moralityp. 34
What Is and What Ought to Bep. 35
The Emergence of Ethics in Greek Philosophyp. 36
Nature vs. Conventionp. 37
The Problem of Morality in Sophistic Philosophyp. 41
Thrasymachus and the Will of the Strongp. 43
Glaucon and Adiemantusp. 45
Polus and the Rewards of Injusticep. 47
3. The Issue Joined: True vs. Pragmatic Moralityp. 52
The True Morality According to Calliclesp. 53
Protagoras and the Doctrine of Pragmatisp. 56
Protagorean Ethicsp. 59
The Socratic Questionsp. 61
The Significance of Protagorasp. 66
4. Socratic Ethicsp. 68
The Character of Socrates' Thoughtp. 69
Some Socratic Questionsp. 72
Vulgar vs. Philosophical Virtuep. 74
The Involuntary Character of Wickednessp. 76
Virtue as Knowledgep. 79
What Power Isp. 80
Virtue and Happinessp. 81
Justice as a State of the Soulp. 84
5. Is Justice Good for Its Own Sake?p. 86
The Testp. 86
Is There a True or Natural Justice?p. 93
6. Hedonism, the Doctrine of Pleasurep. 101
Moral Empiricismp. 102
Empiricism and the Doctrine of Pleasurep. 103
Epicurean Empiricismp. 104
Pleasure as the Natural Goodp. 107
The Problem of Ethicsp. 109
The Cyrenaic Philosophyp. 110
The Epicurean Modificationsp. 113
The Moderation of Desiresp. 116
The Sources of Goodnessp. 117
Justice and Dutyp. 118
The Significance of Epicurusp. 120
7. A Modern Version of Hedonismp. 121
J. S. Mill's Hedonismp. 121
The Greatest Happiness Principlep. 123
Duty and Motivep. 124
The Quality of Pleasurep. 127
The Presuppositions of Hedonismp. 129
The Double Meanings of Pleasure and Painp. 132
Pleasure and Happinessp. 136
8. Kantian Moralityp. 139
The Background of Kantian Moralityp. 140
The Basic Ideas of Conventional Moralityp. 142
Lawsp. 143
Justicep. 145
Kantian Moralityp. 147
Duty and Lawp. 149
The Good Willp. 150
The Categorical Imperativep. 151
Rational Nature as an Endp. 153
The Significance of Kantp. 154
Part 2 Good and Evil
9. Good and Evilp. 159
Conative Beingsp. 160
Conation as the Precondition of Good and Evilp. 163
The Emergence of Good and Evilp. 167
The Emergence of Right and Wrongp. 170
Right and Wrong as Relative to Rulesp. 172
The World as It Isp. 174
10. The Common Goodp. 177
Conflicts of Aimsp. 180
The Nature of the Common Goodp. 182
The Moral Evaluation of Institutionsp. 184
11. Some Fundamental Questions Revisitedp. 189
Nature vs. Conventionp. 189
Justicep. 196
Can Virtue Be Taught?p. 200
Two Shortcomingsp. 202
Part 3 Human Goodness
12. Casuistryp. 207
The Futility of Justifying Conductp. 209
Samples of Casuistryp. 211
The Significance of These Examplesp. 220
The Function of Principlesp. 221
13. Judicial Casuistryp. 228
Moralists as Lawmakersp. 229
Judicial Decision by Persuasive Definitionp. 234
Moral and Judicial Casuistry Comparedp. 236
14. The Incentives of Actionp. 238
The Incentive to Justicep. 240
The Incentive of Compassionp. 243
The Incentive of Malicep. 246
Egoismp. 248
The Moral Neutrality of Egoismp. 251
The Ugliness of Egoismp. 254
Four Possible Incentivesp. 257
Self-Hatred as an Incentivep. 259
15. The Virtue of Compassionp. 262
Malice: The First Class of Actionsp. 264
Compassion: The Second Class of Actionsp. 268
The Significance of These Storiesp. 273
The Scope of Compassionp. 275
Incentives and Consequencesp. 277
Compassion and Justicep. 280
16. Love and Friendshipp. 284
Varieties of Love and Friendshipp. 285
Philia, or Friendshipp. 287
Friendship in Aristotelian Ethicsp. 288
Eros, or the Love of the Sexesp. 292
Absolute Lovep. 299
17. Love and Aspirationp. 305
Possessive Lovep. 306
Love as a Dutyp. 307
Love as a Blessingp. 310
Moral Rules and Aspirationsp. 312
Love as Aspirationp. 315
18. The Meaning of Lifep. 319
Meaningless Existencep. 320
The Meaninglessness of Lifep. 324
The Meaning of Lifep. 330
Indexp. 335