Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers

Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers

Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers

Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers

Synopsis

Setting the Moral Compass brings together the (largely unpublished) work of nineteen women moral philosophers whose powerful and innovative work has contributed to the "re-setting of the compass" of moral philosophy over the past two decades. The contributors, who include many of the top names in this field, tackle several wide-ranging projects: they develop an ethics for ordinary life and vulnerable persons; they examine the question of what we ought to do for each other; they highlight the moral significance of inhabiting a shared social world; they reveal the complexities of moral negotiations; and finally they show us the place of emotion in moral life.

Excerpt

When I first thought about creating a collection of work in moral philosophy, this is not the collection I originally imagined. Hilde Lindemann Nelson had suggested to me that I put together an anthology of work in feminist ethics, and my first thought was to do one in feminist virtue ethics. But as I began the work of selecting contributors and writing a proposal, I found myself increasingly disinterested in that task. Instead, I began to think about all the women moral philosophers I have read since the early 1980s whom I have admired, been inspired by, and learned so much from, particularly how to write philosophy that speaks to ordinary moral experience. I wanted all of these women in one book so that I could honor (at least some of) the women who have made moral philosophy a place where women can work. and I wanted to see their work, finally, in one place because it seemed to me that there was some important way in which they are kindred philosophical minds. But there was one sizable obstacle to publishing such a collection: there didn't seem to be a rationale for bringing the diverse set of philosophers I had in mind into one collection. There was no obvious principle of unity. Some of the authors were doing explicitly feminist philosophical work addressed primarily to other feminist thinkers. Others were squarely engaged in nonfeminist philosophical conversations with other moral philosophers, most of whom were men. So this couldn't be a collection of feminist ethics. But there was no other obvious thematic unity to call upon because the sorts of moral philosophy they did were quite different. the only alternative was to envision the book as a kind of festschrift, honoring women who have contributed in important ways to moral philosophy. But this, too, was an unsatisfactory frame—not because the contributors didn't deserve to be honored (surely they do) but because what I wanted to bring into view was the nonaccidental fact that all of the philosophers I felt were kindred minds were women. So this, in the end, is the conviction that unifies this volume: gender makes a difference. the difference it makes is sometimes subtle, often unpredictable, and is compatible with deep philosophical dis-

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