As Thanksgiving rolls around, it’s time to pause and take stock of how you got to be who you are, at least as a moral/political philosopher, and what giant’s shoulders you’ve been standing on to see as far as you’ve seen. What’s the ONE moral/political philosophy book or article you’re most thankful for and how did it influence you?

8 Replies to “Cliched Thanksgiving Post: What moral philosophy are YOU thankful for?

  1. I’m gonna go with Reasons and Persons. I was early on in grad school and it gave me the impression that serious progress could be made and that Plato had not said everything worth saying. It was so engaging and exciting and important and wonderful.

  2. Different texts have influenced me in different ways. At best, I can pick one per way. Here are just two. With respect to my own philosophical interests and research, I’m thankful for Ben Bradley’s Well-Being and Death. It not only sparked my interest in a whole subfield of philosophy I had never thought about before, but it was also enormously influential on my own thought. With respect to the “practical” choices I make on a daily basis, I am thankful for Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, which fundamentally changed the way I think about (and act with respect toward) non-human animals.

  3. I know certain people will expect “Freedom and Resentment” out of me, but it’s got to be Reasons and Persons too, Part III. The short, sharp sentences, the amazing cases, the remarkable arguments. It helped me finally find a dissertation topic and run with it. Plus, my advisors weren’t sufficiently versed on Part III, so I could sneak some bad arguments and interpretations by them.

  4. I have to say “the sources of normativity” by Christine Korsgaard, which I think I first read during my third semester of philosophy. It was a tough read and it took some time for me to really appreciate it, but then it had a deep effect on me. Before reading that book, I was convinced that utilitarianism was the correct ethical theory and that there was no free will or moral responsibility. I was also really pessimistic about metaethics; the theories I had been presented with so far all seemed to have such HUGE problems. Not that Korsgaard’s own moral theory is problem free, but it’s still very good and thought-provoking.

  5. I would second “Source of Normativity,” which expressed and partly formed my ideas on metaethics more clearly than anything else. But unlike Sophia’s reaction, it left my own consequentialism firmly in place. I have Hare’s “Moral Thinking” to thank for more clearly expressing why moral universalizability combined with a more sensible value theory than Kant’s supports the same, although Hare’s metaethics was (IMO) far more confused than Korsgaard’s. Perhaps they are, respectively, my metaethical mother and normative father to my own thought.

  6. I’m thankful for the moral philosophy of what I guess could be called voluntaristic objectivism. The philosophers who have led me to this view are (in no particular order) Everett Hall, W.D. Lamont, Ralph Barton Perry, Frank Chapman Sharp, Barbara Wootton, and Simon Keller.

    I am also thankful for the works of many excellent philosophers whose arguments have needed to be addressed in order for me to frame something I could find congenial. I’m thinking of such as Moore, Foot, Sen, Ewing, Feldman, Sumner, Parfit, Sobel, Kraut, Arneson, and Dorsey.

    So, thanks to all!

  7. Oops, I see that my response was a wild whiff, since what was requested was ONE (in all caps yet!) work, and I provided a list of about fifty philosophers instead. Sorry about that.

    As an act of contrition, I now give one short, little known article: Everett W. Hall, “An Ethics for Today,” which appeared in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1943. I believe it was intended as a sort of precis to an intended book-length response to Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” Hall completed that longer work in 1945, but it was never published and exists today only as a rough typescript.

  8. I came expecting to answer a question about a philosophy, not a moral philosophy book. But since the question seems to be about the latter, I’m going to say Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism, by David Lyons. Admittedly, it’s a dryer read than, say, Parfit. However, I picked it up at a time when I was starting to question whether I wanted to continue with a career in philosophy. By the time I finished it, I had no doubt. I had already been hugely influenced by Lyons’s historical work on Mill, but his careful treatment of fundamental questions in utilitarian moral philosophy gave me a model for the kinds of work I wanted to do beyond historical scholarship.

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