Towards the end of the chapter Appiah remarks that the greatest works in ethics exhibit a deep, irrepressible heterogeneity, heterogeneity that reflects a richness and complexity of the ethical life he believes that many moral philosophers overlook in their quest for neat (even: intricate) theories. This last chapter is certainly heterogeneous: starting with remarks on happiness and flourishing, it shifts to a brief discussion of meta-ethics and different forms of naturalism, moves on to poke fun at ‘quandary ethics’ and its contemporary successors, and ends with, well, a reminder of the irreducible complexity of the ethical life, and a plea for pluralism, both evaluative and methodological.

First of all, it is a genuine pleasure to contribute to this forum: I only hope my comments will not lag too far behind the quality of previous posts! Now to Experiments in Ethics . . .

Chapter four is entitled “The Varieties of Moral Experience” and my discussion will follow the sections of this chapter in order in an effort to provide an outline of the argument and substantive points, before concluding with some reflections.

In this chapter, Appiah presents experimental studies that seem to challenge our use of intuitions. He then outlines some responses to these studies. I shall begin with a summary of the chapter, using Appiah’s subheadings for easy navigation. I shall then offer some commentaries on this chapter.

The second chapter of Experiments in Ethics (E in E) is entitled ‘The Case against Character’, and it focuses on a recent critique of virtue ethics due to Gilbert Harman, John Doris and some other philosophers. The inspiration for their attack on virtue ethics is a body of experimental work produced by ‘situationists’, members of an influential school of thought in social psychology.

Chapter One is essentially a ground clearing exercise. Appiah’s aim is to argue that experimental philosophy is not the innovative and threatening enterprise that it might seem: instead, it is a return to philosophy’s roots. Philosophy has traditionally been closely informed by scientific work, and the best philosophers have often engaged in science themselves. It is the era of conceptual analysis divorced from mere empirical engagement that is the aberration, not the turn to the empirical.

The Appiah Reading Group will start in early March. In each session, a commentator will provide a summary of a chapter and some points for consideration. The post will then be open for discussion, and we welcome your thoughts on any aspect of the chapter.

Some ‘off-line’ sessions will also be held in Oxford during this time. Please contact me if you are interested in attending the off-line sessions, as the numbers will be limited to ensure a smooth running of the reading group. ** Note: It is NOT necessary to have attended the off-line sessions in order to contribute to the online sessions. **

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