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The geography of morals - Owen J. Flanagan

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The geography of morals - varieties of moral possibility
Owen J. Flanagan
Paperback / softback
Oxford University Press
UK Publication Date

The Geography of Morals is a work of extraordinary ambition: an indictment of the parochialism of Western philosophy, a comprehensive dialogue between anthropology, empirical moral psychology, behavioral economics, and cross-cultural philosophy, and a deep exploration of the opportunities for self, social, and political improvement provided by world philosophy. We live in multicultural, cosmopolitan worlds. These worlds are distinctive moral ecologies in which people enact and embody different lived philosophies and conceive of mind, morals, and the meaning of life differently from the typical WEIRD - Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic - person. This is not a predicament; it is an opportunity. Many think that cross cultural understanding is useful for developing a modus vivendi where people from different worlds are not at eachother's throats and tolerate each other. Flanagan presses the much more exciting possibility that cross-cultural philosophy provides opportunities for exploring the varieties of moral possibility, learning from other traditions, and for self, social, and political improvement. There are ways ofworldmaking in other living traditions - Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Amerindian, and African - that citizens in Western countries can benefit from. Cross-cultural learning is protection against what Alasdair MacIntyre refers to as being "imprisoned by one's upbringing." Flanagan takes up perennial topics of whether there is anything to the idea of a common human nature, psychobiological sources of human morality, the nature of the self, the role of moral excellence in a good human life, and whether and how empirical inquiry into morality can contribute to normative ethics. The Geography of Morals exemplifies how one can respectfully conceive of multiculturalism and global interaction as providing not only opportunities for business and commerce, butalso opportunities for socio-moral and political improvement on all sides. This is a book that aims to change how normative ethics and moral psychology are done.

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Owen Flanagan was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. He is the author of the classics Varieties of Moral Personality (1991) and Consciousness Reconsidered (1992). He lives in Durham, NC, where he is currently James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Co-director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy at Duke University.

Owen Flanagan presents a thorough and well-developed discussion on the subject of moral possibilities in a culturally diverse world.

Catherine Monnet, Philosophical Practice

The Geography of Morals is an excellent example of multidisciplinary, comparative, cross-cultural moral philosophy in action. I highly recommend it

Owen Flanagan, Reading Religion

In this extraordinary book, Owen Flanagan does it right. His exploration of our moral lives is informed by both a deep understanding of the science and a rich and critical engagement with philosophical traditions from around the world. Flanagan is lucid, insightful, brave, and often very funny. This is an exciting and transformative book, of great value to anyone interested in moral feelings and moral judgment.

Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University

In his readable tour de force the renowned philosopher Owen Flanagan draws our attention to the huge gaps in our understanding of morality in a diverse, interdependent and rapidly globalizing world. Drawing on both moral psychology and comparative moral philosophy allows Flanagan to point to the huge deficits in our public discourse and schooling in morality and ethics. Flanagan's elegant and inclusive intellectual toolkit, drawn from a diverse tableau of lived
experiences, enables us to retrieve lived worlds we had ignored as resources for our common good and will undoubtedly spark much needed debate.

Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies and Religion, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame

Flanagan offers a compelling and richly textured account of what it means to take human moral diversity seriously.
He shows that there is more than one way to lead a good human life and that, whatever the natural, cultural or historical sources of any particular 'way,' it is always possible to have morally enlightening conversations that transcend cultural boundaries.
He also reminds us that the best moral inquiry will draw on a variety of sources,
including the
empirical sciences and the study of history and culture, as well as familiar and unfamiliar traditions of philosophical inquiry.

Michele Moody-Adams, Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory, Columbia University

The core thesis of this remarkable book is that in our capacities as moral agents, teachers, and thinkers we need to take equally seriously the diversity of moral thinking around the globe and the recent progress in modern moral psychology. Flanagan argues that cross-cultural philosophy and empirical psychology exhibit important areas of convergence, from which we should learn, and also support broad areas of continued difference, which we should celebrate.

Stephen C. Angle, Professor of Philosophy and East Asian Studies, Wesleyan University

The book does an excellent job of stretching the acknowledged possibility space of morality. Flanagan convincingly shows that we cannot responsibly conduct ethical inquiry in ignorance of cultural diversity.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Keyword Index
Ethics.|Psychology and philosophy.
Country of Publication
New York (State)
Number of Pages

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