email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, Biotechnology, and the FutureAlbert Schweitzer's Reverence for LifeAlphavilleAltruismAmerican EugenicsAmerican PsychosisAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy And a Time to DieAnimal LessonsAnimal RightsAnimals Like UsApplied Ethics in Mental Health CareAre Women Human?Aristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAssisted Suicide and the Right to DieAutonomyAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismAutonomy, Consent and the LawBabies by DesignBackslidingBad PharmaBad SoulsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBeauty JunkiesBefore ForgivingBeing AmoralBeing YourselfBending Over BackwardsBending ScienceBernard WilliamsBetter Humans?Better Than WellBeyond ChoiceBeyond GeneticsBeyond HatredBeyond Humanity?Beyond LossBeyond LossBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond the DSM StoryBias in Psychiatric DiagnosisBioethicsBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics at the MoviesBioethics Beyond the HeadlinesBioethics Critically ReconsideredBioethics in a Liberal SocietyBioethics in the ClinicBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical Research and BeyondBiosBioscience EthicsBipolar ChildrenBluebirdBodies out of BoundsBodies, Commodities, and BiotechnologiesBody BazaarBoundBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBraintrustBrandedBreaking the SilenceBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyCapital PunishmentCase Studies in Biomedical Research EthicsChallenging the Stigma of Mental IllnessCharacter and Moral Psychology Character as Moral FictionChild Well-BeingChildrenChildren's RightsChoosing ChildrenChoosing Not to ChooseClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical EthicsCloningClose toYouCoercion as CureCoercive Treatment in PsychiatryCognition of Value in Aristotle's EthicsCognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy Comfortably NumbCommonsense RebellionCommunicative Action and Rational ChoiceCompetence, Condemnation, and CommitmentComprehending CareConducting Insanity EvaluationsConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConflict of Interest in the ProfessionsConsuming KidsContemporary Debates In Applied EthicsContemporary Debates in Moral TheoryContemporary Debates in Social PhilosophyContentious IssuesContesting PsychiatryCrazy in AmericaCreating CapabilitiesCreatures Like Us?Crime and CulpabilityCrime, Punishment, and Mental IllnessCritical Perspectives in Public HealthCritical PsychiatryCrueltyCultural Assessment in Clinical PsychiatryCutting to the CoreCyborg CitizenDamaged IdentitiesDeaf Identities in the MakingDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDebating Same-Sex MarriageDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecoding the Ethics CodeDefining DifferenceDefining Right and Wrong in Brain ScienceDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDelusions of GenderDementiaDemocracy in What State?Demons of the Modern WorldDescriptions and PrescriptionsDesert and VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDrugs and JusticeDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic InnocenceErotic MoralityEssays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEthical Choices in Contemporary MedicineEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEthical Issues in Behavioral ResearchEthical Issues in Dementia CareEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEthical LifeEthical Reasoning for Mental Health ProfessionalsEthical TheoryEthical WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Propaganda WorksHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Make Opportunity EqualHow Universities Can Help Create a Wiser WorldHow We HopeHow We Think About DementiaHuman BondingHuman EnhancementHuman GoodnessHuman Identity and BioethicsHuman TrialsHumanism, What's That?Humanitarian ReasonHumanityHumanizing MadnessI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!I Was WrongIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf That Ever Happens to MeImproving Nature?In Defense of FloggingIn Defense of SinIn Love With LifeIn Our Own ImageIn the FamilyIn the Land of the DeafIn the Name of IdentityIn the Wake of 9/11In Two MindsInformed Consent in Medical ResearchInnovation in Medical TechnologyInside Assisted LivingInside EthicsIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIntensive CareIs Human Nature Obsolete?Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Is There a Duty to Die?Is There an Ethicist in the House?Issues in Philosophical CounselingJudging Children As ChildrenJust a DogJust BabiesJust CareJustice for ChildrenJustice for HedgehogsJustice in RobesJustice, Luck, and KnowledgeJustifiable ConductKant on Moral AutonomyKant's Theory of VirtueKids of CharacterKilling McVeighLack of CharacterLack of CharacterLaw and the BrainLearning About School ViolenceLeaving YouLectures on the History of Political PhilosophyLegal and Ethical Aspects of HealthcareLegal Aspects of Mental CapacityLegal ConceptionsLegalizing ProstitutionLet Them Eat ProzacLevelling the Playing FieldLiberal Education in a Knowledge SocietyLiberal EugenicsLife After FaithLife at the BottomLife, Sex, and IdeasListening to the WhispersLiving ProfessionalismLosing Matt ShepardLostLuckyMad in AmericaMad PrideMadhouseMaking Another World PossibleMaking Babies, Making FamiliesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of Freedom and ResponsibilityMalignantMasculinity Studies and Feminist TheoryMeaning and Moral OrderMeaning in LifeMeaning in Life and Why It MattersMeans, Ends, and PersonsMedical Enhancement and PosthumanityMedical Research for HireMedicalized MasculinitiesMedically Assisted DeathMeditations for the HumanistMelancholia and MoralismMental Health Professionals, Minorities and the PoorMental Illness, Medicine and LawMerit, Meaning, and Human BondageMetaethical SubjectivismMill's UtilitarianismMind FieldsMind WarsMind WarsModern Theories of JusticeModernity and TechnologyMoney ShotMonsterMoral Acquaintances and Moral DecisionsMoral ClarityMoral CultivationMoral Development and RealityMoral Dilemmas in Real LifeMoral DimensionsMoral EntanglementsMoral FailureMoral LiteracyMoral MachinesMoral MindsMoral OriginsMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMoral ParticularismMoral PerceptionMoral PsychologyMoral Psychology: Volume IVMoral RealismMoral RelativismMoral RepairMoral Responsibility and Alternative PossibilitiesMoral Status and Human LifeMoral StealthMoral Theory at the MoviesMoral TribesMoral Value and Human DiversityMoral, Immoral, AmoralMoralismMorality and Self-InterestMorality in a Natural WorldMorality, Moral Luck and ResponsibilityMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMore Than HumanMotive and RightnessMovies and the Moral Adventure of LifeMurder in the InnMy Body PoliticMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRefuting Peter Singer's Ethical TheoryRelative JusticeRelativism and Human RightsReligion ExplainedReprogeneticsRescuing JeffreyResponsibilityResponsibility and PsychopathyResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility from the MarginsResponsible GeneticsRethinking CommodificationRethinking Informed Consent in BioethicsRethinking Mental Health and DisorderRethinking RapeReturn to ReasonRevolution in PsychologyRightsRights, Democracy, and Fulfillment in the Era of Identity PoliticsRisk and Luck in Medical EthicsRobert NozickRousseau and the Dilemmas of Modernity Rule of Law, Misrule of MenRunning on RitalinSatisficing and MaximizingSchizophrenia, Culture, and SubjectivityScience and EthicsScience in the Private InterestScience, Policy, and the Value-Free IdealScience, Seeds and CyborgsScratching the Surface of BioethicsSecular Philosophy and the Religious TemperamentSeeing the LightSelf-ConstitutionSelf-Made MadnessSelf-Trust and Reproductive AutonomySentimental RulesSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in LifeThe Big FixThe Bioethics ReaderThe Biology and Psychology of Moral AgencyThe Blackwell Guide to Medical EthicsThe Body SilentThe BondThe Book of LifeThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Textbook of BioethicsThe Case against Assisted SuicideThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case Against PunishmentThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Challenge of Human RightsThe Code for Global EthicsThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe Common ThreadThe Connected SelfThe Constitution of AgencyThe Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Criminal BrainThe Decency WarsThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Disability PendulumThe Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to ConfrontationThe Domain of ReasonsThe Double-Edged HelixThe Duty to ProtectThe Emotional Construction of MoralsThe End of Ethics in a Technological SocietyThe End of Stigma?The Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical BrainThe Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health SciencesThe Ethics of BioethicsThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of SightseeingThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Ethics of the LieThe Ethics of TransplantsThe Ethics ToolkitThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Evolution of MoralityThe FamilyThe Fat Studies ReaderThe Forgiveness ProjectThe Form of Practical KnowledgeThe Fountain of YouthThe Freedom ParadoxThe Future of Assisted Suicide and EuthanasiaThe Future of Human NatureThe Good BookThe Good LifeThe Great BetrayalThe Handbook of Disability StudiesThe Healing VirtuesThe High Price of MaterialismThe History of Human RightsThe HorizonThe Idea of JusticeThe Ideal of NatureThe Illusion of Freedom and EqualityThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Importance of Being UnderstoodThe Insanity OffenseThe Joy of SecularismThe Language PoliceThe Last Normal ChildThe Last UtopiaThe Limits of MedicineThe LobotomistThe Love CureThe Lucifer EffectThe Manual of EpictetusThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of NiceThe Medicalization of SocietyThe Merck DruggernautThe Mind Has MountainsThe Modern Art of DyingThe Modern SavageThe Moral ArcThe Moral BrainThe Moral Demands of MemoryThe Moral FoolThe Moral MindThe Moral Psychology HandbookThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Good You Can DoThe Myth of ChoiceThe Myth of the Moral BrainThe Nature of NormativityThe New Disability HistoryThe New Genetic MedicineThe New Religious IntoleranceThe Offensive InternetThe Origins of FairnessThe Oxford Handbook of Animal EthicsThe Oxford Handbook of Ethics at the End of LifeThe Perfect BabyThe Philosophy of NeedThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of PsychiatryThe Politics Of LustThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Power of Religion in the Public SphereThe Price of PerfectionThe Price of TruthThe Problem of PunishmentThe Prosthetic ImpulseThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe PsychopathThe Purity MythThe Pursuit of PerfectionThe Relevance of Philosophy to LifeThe Right Road to Radical FreedomThe Right to Be ParentsThe Righteous MindThe Root of All EvilThe Rules of InsanityThe Second SexismThe Second-Person StandpointThe Silent World of Doctor and PatientThe Sleep of ReasonThe Social Psychology of Good and EvilThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Speed of DarkThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story of Cruel and UnusualThe Story WithinThe Stubborn System of Moral ResponsibilityThe Suicide TouristThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Therapy of DesireThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Triple HelixThe Trolley Problem MysteriesThe Trouble with DiversityThe Truth About the Drug CompaniesThe Ugly LawsThe Varieties of Religious ExperienceThe Virtues of HappinessThe Virtuous Life in Greek EthicsThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
"Morality" writes Cheryl Mendelson in The Good Life (2012),is that lovely invention that makes happiness the consequence of goodness" (292). A thoughtful reader might wish to ask how Mendelson reaches this sensible and self-assured conclusion and what does it really mean to be scrupulously and irrefutably moral?
Ought we confine morality to instinct, emotion, or reason? Is morality a universal aspiration or a socio-cultural construct? Is it a matter of virtuous character or situational contingency and pragmatism? Ought empirical sciences, as some sociobiologists and neuroscientists insist, play any role in informing our emotive compulsions and intuitive moral imagination, or does their involvement inevitably threaten to explain morality away, banish its value-laden assumptions, and reduce it to a mass of mere primordial biological impulses reinforced by evolutionary gene selection? Why do societies abound with narcissist egocentrism, utilitarianism, antimoralism and postmodern relativism, where self-importance and self-serving interests run rife and cruelty and exploitation blossom, never fail to engage us morally, evoke our revulsion, wound our intelligence and offend our conscience? Finally, what can be gained from continuing to invest our moral sensibilities with profoundly demanding questions of the right conduct and the good life, when our modern-day circumstances are ever more ambiguous, our commitments woefully impermanent and contingent, and our interests far too often shortsighted? To these and other deeply puzzling questions Mendelson promises, in her absorbing and eloquently argued 295-page opus, to turn the reader's attention.
The ten chapters which make up the volume's internal skeleton can be classified along five larger historical, political, and philosophical-psychological themes such as those concerning: (i) the social terrain upon which morality operates (Chapter 1), in particular, (ii) democracy and its need for a highly evolved individual moral capacity (Chapter 2), which can remedy the (iii) premoral and amoral pathologies (Chapter 3, 4) of modern Western societies, plagued, in no small measure, by the (iv) decline of essential public and private institutions (Chapter 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) and (v) the rise of the culture of "cool" indifference and alienation (Chapter 7). The Chapters collectively attempt to show pronounced deficits in the moral imagination of the modern individual, the mass civic and moral atrophy of the public, and their ubiquity in all facets of interpersonal and political life. Mendelson's book is a highly readable attempt at trying to reinvigorate the debate on difficult and often controversial moral questions, offer theoretical support and pragmatic steps for an institutional reform that is to culminate in a restoration of peaceful coexistence between three essential components of a well-ordered society: law, morality and democracy.
Embedded in the contemporary debates on the social, cultural and political contours of our civilization, this voluminous expose of moral goodness allows the author to reflect upon the contents and meanings of our moral aptitudes, estimate their value and establish their indisputable ties to psychology, law, science, and democracy. As illuminating as the substantive discussion of moral goodness qua "values and ideals of conduct" (21) is, the book's contribution to the timeworn analytical discussion of morality and its innate and acquired dispositions lies in the author's assertive and unabashed: (i) endorsement of "a system of values that is characteristically and historically Western; (ii) recognition that "values arise independently outside of the West"; and (iii) defense of morality and deploration of the politics and theories of today's rightists" (11). Mendelson's political alignment with the democratic left-of-center ideology, gives her the non-neutral moral high-ground for bewailing, as she contends, the "decades of contention about values" which "have resulted in a thorough politicization of the subject" (2), the history of which her book promises to re-examine and undo.
It is in the book's Introduction that Mendelson lays out the "map of those places in the moral realm" (17) that should assist the people with shared moral mentality in navigating the treacherous pathways of antimoralism fueled by all too-common modern experiences of selfish disregard, sadism, envy, ego, and covetousness. To remedy this premoral state of our social life, Mendelson recognizes, will require (i) turning a critical eye upon social mores and one's own personal behavior and (ii) a mature and well-developed sense of one's own worth and courage, which naturally enlarge the geographical terrain to which our moral sensibility must respond. Such capacity cannot evolve however, in societies where 'social habits' are lacking in moral goodness or otherwise impede the promotion of virtue and character. This is why, for Mendelson, morality is above all a product of a democratic ethos and is intimately involved in the cultivation and maintenance of a democratic mentality, or an inner disposition capable of bringing about the richly varied socio-political institutional designs and practices, which originate with the loving and secure family environment and end with a more humane legal system. Passivity, however, in the face of a moral decline of the West and the increasing visibility of amoral, antimoral, and premoral tendencies in the traditional incubators of moral thinking, particularly, in the academia, the legal system, the empirical sciences and the socio-political discourse, Mendelson warns, threaten to beget a public that is susceptible to greed and empty flattery and strongly averse to any expectations which "breed social trust, loyalty, and reduced motives for misbehavior" (37).
For Mendelson, civilizational moral decline has its roots in a highly individualized and personalized moral regress. Upstanding moral conduct, Mendelson contends, demands a good dose of healthy self-criticism, which issues from conscientious self-observation and self-knowledge. After all, "morality is about the self and the kind of judgment that implicates the self. It is about our own human worth, who we are and what we ought to be" (19). Without our willingness to soberly tap into the unvarnished fundamentals of what makes us human, the rudimentary drives of our psyche, we will lose, Mendelson contends, the psychological and intellectual compass necessary for discriminating between morality's preeminent adversaries - relativism and amoralism - and fall on the side of irresolute diffidence, rootless pretense, and dishonest playacting, the corrosive solvents of all social bonds.
Mendelson's The Good Life is a worthy intellectual endeavor that seeks to fine-tune the reader's sensibilities and evoke profound reflection with regard to the life's fundamental question, that of "What should I do?" in the face of perplexing moral quandaries. Her careful analysis of problems as diverse as those concerning authoritarian morality, polygamy, pathological narcissism, dissolution of the family, criminal liability and punishment, as well as altruism and happiness can become deeply challenging to those of the reading audience, who hold a view contrary to the author's own. Given the existential value of the subject matter, the book does not aim to be lukewarm and dispassionately neutral in its approach. As such, it can naturally run the risk of being either too offensive for the select few of the reading audience or too intellectually confining, selectively restrained, and narrow. Additionally, the reader might find the author's penchant for naming names (pages 41, 74, 95, 100, 105,153,163, 250) when laying out her case for a manifest presence of a well-defined moral consciousness in our encounters with the everyday a bit insensitive if not tactless, as it unfairly pigeonholes the named into a category against which they have no choice but to remain silently defenseless. The book's pages thus are inked with names of living and long-dead characters, whose often-questioned moral motivations constitute the material for the author's disapproving eye. Consequently, the "anomic types" -- those "rudderless" (96) fundamentalists who hold "megalomaniac fantasies of remaking the country" (97), or those unduly morally earnest who "veer into pointless asceticism" (41) or those "cooly" detached who are "afraid of feeling" (183) are closely linked to household names from the world of politics, entertainment, academia, and popular press. It is also rather unnerving to see Mendelson fail in maintaining internal consistency in her arguments, which in turn, send opaque and contradictory messages about the kind of morality she intends to propound and defend. I shall illustrate this subsequently.
Each of the book's ten chapters begins with the author drawing on a number of direct quotations, which are a brilliant technical addition to the polemic style employed, especially when they can at the same time summarily capture the very spirit and intent of the book itself. Henri Amiel's quote cited at length in Chapter 9 seems to do just that. It reads:
"...it is stifling to see scientific ...teaching used everywhere as a means of stifling all freedom of investigation as addressed to moral questions, under a dead weight of facts ... To crush what is spiritual, moral, human -- so to speak -- in man, by specializing him; to form mere wheels of the great social machine, instead of perfect individuals; to make society and not conscience the center of life, to enslave the soul to things, to depersonalize man -- this is the dominant drift of our epoch." (210).
Yet, Mendelson herself, despite acknowledging Amiel's concerns, shies away from an expansive use of a more wide-ranging theoretical arsenal and the rich intellectual output of the West when speaking on a number of contested subjects, particularly, abortion (Chapter 6). In view of Amiel's appeal for a more comprehensive perspective, Mendelson's largely scientific claims, which she interweaves into her moral deliberations on abortion, can befuddle any attentive reader. If humane societies and democracies, to which Amiel alludes and Mendelson espouses throughout her book, depend upon the moral sense of its citizen-body richly equipped with a reservoir of intellectual inventory that informs its moral character, then how does the author propose to reconcile her own preference for relying upon sterile scientific terminology when defending, supposedly from a moral standpoint, the right to an abortion. The question arises as to the proper place of science in moral reasoning and the ethicist's own aptitude or "mental equipment" (157) necessary for understanding objective scientific fact without stretching its application beyond its intended purpose.
Mendelson's own one-dimensional view unfortunately does nothing to resolve the unpleasant contentions about values which have unduly politicized not only scientific facts, but hijacked the moral conscience of the public, which she so eloquently bewails. By claiming that "the destruction of the conceptus, embryo, or early-stage fetus is not, morally speaking, murder because the fetus not only lacks a desire to live but lacks physical characteristics that would enable it to experience emotion, thought, sensation, and desire" (158) or that to "regard the destruction of insensate agglomerations of cells that contain human DNA as the destruction of a person's life is to step outside the moral into a brutal and dangerously irrational kind of thought ... It is a regression to quasi-magical thinking" (160) leads the author to dangerous equivocations and unfortunate contradictions, as on the one hand she bewails the crude anti-morality of academia, which tends to "promulgate junk science" (211) of evolutionary biologists, sociobiologists, neurologists, and psychologists (212) and silence voices of the more "penetrating social observers -- the historians, economists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers and literary scholars who once illuminated our moral lives" (211) and on the other hand comfortably forges ahead in shaping the "new scientifically grounded moral consensus" (242) which conjoins ethics with materialism and reductive scientism without giving due consideration to other just as worthy and fertile intellectual perspectives.
Surely, soberly minded ethicists would be wary of any inclination to unequivocally base their ethical stance and moral judgments solely on the purity of scientific facts and do well to recall Paul Feyerbabend's demurral:
"My criticism of modern science is that it inhibits freedom of thought. If the reason is that it has found the truth and now follows it, then I would say that there are better things than first finding, and then following such a monster." (Feyerabend, Paul. 1975. "How to Defend Society Against Science.")
Why, then, in order to inform her unadulterated moral sensibility, would Mendelson choose to discriminately and narrowly rely on strict scientific certainty with regard to pre-selected questions of moral value, while remaining intolerant of alternative sources of enlightened knowledge? "Morality, like all realms of human behavior" (227) may very well be "a proper subject of empirical study" (227). But is empirical science a necessary and sufficient condition of moral evaluation? Is morality reducible to scientific fact and empirical data alone?
It is also worth noting, that it has lied in the purview of many of the disciplines mentioned by Mendelson, to inevitably regress to the much deplored "quasi-magical thinking" in order to create a richer tapestry of human experience. Moreover, if morality as a social phenomenon constitutes a "repository of knowledge" (65), which, by Mendelson's own admission, expresses itself in "religions, stories, novels, paintings, songs and poems, and analyzed in philosophies" (65), then the author's strictly scientifically-informed morality is all the more mystifying. Naturally, we might wish to ask whether there might be any value in remaining just as vigilant of the ever-evolving nature of scientific facts, which Mendelson readily embraces, as about "magical thinking," which constitutes the very substrate of novels, paintings and philosophies. Perhaps, we would do well to pay heed to forewarnings and contentions that:
"We should be cautiously open to the spiritual and non-rational, and skeptical of the more invisible magical thinking--what we might call "magical reason"--pervading secular thought and experience in modern society. Science and technology are for most people a new religion, and their orthodoxies are believed with the same fervor." (David Watson, 1998. Against The Megamachine: Essays On Empire And Its Enemies)
To her credit Mendelson does bring morality to bear on contemporary problems facing modern societies, such as: (i) the irrationality of political discourse; (ii) the gross inequities in the criminal legal system with its proliferation of the ethos of vengeance that stretches the limits of criminal accountability and wreaks havoc on the notion of democratic equality and human dignity; (iii) the culture of the "cool" which transects the domains of popular entertainment, arts, music, literature, and politics, which not only "throw off moral restraints" and "discredit moral discourse", but promote an "inherently exclusive, sneering, detached, and tilted toward nihilism" (171) psychological attitude; (iv) insertion of sociobiological, neuroscientific, and pseudo-scientific explanations into the study of human character, virtue, and morality. For that very reason The Good Life is a required reading, which sheds an important perspective and nuanced view on what constitutes the right conduct and contributes to a life well lived. Due to the book's generalist character, its polemic and loosely connected chapters, I would imagine it holding a wide appeal to readers seeking an introductory-level guide to the underlying psychology of ethics. Among the many merits of the book is that it allows us to question more vigorously the very foundation of our social and political capacities and mores and assess their benefits to the fully flourishing and richly varied moral life.
© 2013 Joanna Rozpedowski
Joanna Rozpedowski is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Government & International Affairs at the University of South Florida, an LL.M Student at the University of Liverpool School of Law, and the 2013-2014 US-UK Fulbright Scholar.