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Appiah Reading Group
By S. Matthew Liao

experimentsinethics.jpg Following the successful Kamm Reading Group, Ethics Etc will shortly be holding another reading group on Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah’s book, Experiments in Ethics. Professor Appiah is Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Human Values at Princeton University and the current President of the American Philosophical Association. The content of his book is as follows:

1. Introduction: The Waterless Moat
2. The Case against Character
3. The Case against Intuition
4. The Varieties of Moral Experience
5. The Ends of Ethics

The reading group will begin in early March and will take place every other week. In each session, one of us will give a brief summary of a chapter of the book and provide some points for discussion. The post will then be open for discussion. A schedule will be posted shortly.

Do join us for the discussions! You can get a copy of the book here from Amazon.

Here is a description of the book from Harvard University Press:

In the past few decades, scientists of human nature–including experimental and cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, evolutionary theorists, and behavioral economists–have explored the way we arrive at moral judgments. They have called into question commonplaces about character and offered troubling explanations for various moral intuitions. Research like this may help explain what, in fact, we do and feel. But can it tell us what we ought to do or feel? In Experiments in Ethics, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah explores how the new empirical moral psychology relates to the age-old project of philosophical ethics.

Some moral theorists hold that the realm of morality must be autonomous of the sciences; others maintain that science undermines the authority of moral reasons. Appiah elaborates a vision of naturalism that resists both temptations. He traces an intellectual genealogy of the burgeoning discipline of “experimental philosophy,” provides a balanced, lucid account of the work being done in this controversial and increasingly influential field, and offers a fresh way of thinking about ethics in the classical tradition.

Appiah urges that the relation between empirical research and morality, now so often antagonistic, should be seen in terms of dialogue, not contest. And he shows how experimental philosophy, far from being something new, is actually as old as philosophy itself. Beyond illuminating debates about the connection between psychology and ethics, intuition and theory, his book helps us to rethink the very nature of the philosophical enterprise.


  1. 1. Posted by Jussi Suikkanen | February 1, 2008 9:17 am


    That’s a great idea. Do you think that we could do the same in Oxford ‘live’ simultaneously? I’m quite sure there would be quite a few people interested.

  2. 2. Posted by Thom Brooks | February 1, 2008 11:31 am

    I can hardly wait!

  3. 3. Posted by S. Matthew Liao | February 1, 2008 1:37 pm

    Jussi, Excellent idea. I’ll look into it to see who is interested, and I’ll get back to you.

    Big thanks to Thom for proposing this! I’m looking forward to it very much as well.

  4. 4. Posted by Simon Kirchin | February 4, 2008 1:59 pm

    Hi guys. I missed out on the Kamm group because of other commitments, but my copy of EiE arrived today. Looking forward to it. (By the way is ‘EiE’ too dreadful? Apologies.)

  5. 5. Posted by S. Matthew Liao | February 4, 2008 2:35 pm

    Great that you’ll be joining us, Simon!

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