James Griffin asks how, and how much, we can improve our ethical standards not lift our behaviour closer to our standards but refine the standards themselves. To give an answer to this question it is necessary to answer most of the questions of ethics. So Value Judgement includes discussion of what a good life is like, where the boundaries of the `natural world' come, how values relate to that world, how great human capacitiesthe ones important to
ethicsare, and where moral norms come from. Throughout the book the question of what philosophy can contribute to ethics repeatedly arises. Philosophical traditions, such as most forms of
utilitarianism and deontology and virtue ethics, are, Griffin contends, too ambitious. Ethics cannot be what philosophers in those traditions expect it to be because agents cannot be what their philosophies need them to be. This clear, compelling, and original account of ethics will be of interest to anyone concerned with thinking about values: not only philosophers but legal, political, and economic theorists as well. L
a fine contribution to an active field ... metaphysical and ethical, logical and illuminating, argued but not argumentative, above all intelligent but also wise ... a fine and finely restrained display of a maturity that has no need to show off. While the concision of the text spares the reader's time, the range of reference of the endnotes may occupy a student with time enough and to spare. Little is imposed, and much is made accessible. Oxford moral
philosophy is in safe hands.' A. W. Price, Philosophical Books
`Value Judgement is remarkable in its critique of the dubious dualisms that nourish moral philosophy: reason and desire, objective and subjective, descriptive and prescriptive. When these dualisms cease to exist, most of the problems they create also cease to exist. Griffin argues convincingly that practical reason has to mesh with characteristic human motivation, because it grasps certain desirability features linked to
Times Literary Supplement
interesting and suggestive .../ ... a subtle and elegantly written sketch of some promising paths which ethical theorizing might take. / Stephen Darwall, University of Michigan, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 49, No. 195, April 1999.
1: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs
2: The Good Life
3: The Boundaries of the Natural World
4: Value and Nature
5: A Simple Moral Thought
7: Some Complex Moral Ideas
8: How Can We Improve Our Ethical Beliefs?