Ethics, Evil, and Fiction

Ethics, Evil, and Fiction

Ethics, Evil, and Fiction

Ethics, Evil, and Fiction

Excerpt

Probably the most pressing question about any area of philosophy is: how is it to be done? What is the right method to adopt in discovering something philosophically worthwhile? Here is where philosophical debate is apt to rage most fiercely. Many different methodological proposals have had their day: some have taken introspection to be the right method; some have favoured the methods of the physical sciences; some have seen mathematics as the appropriate basis; some have proposed a phenomenological approach, suspending the 'natural standpoint'; some have suggested that the analysis of language is the key; some have urged the merits of cognitive science. Most of the major revolutions in philosophy have been methodological, not theoretical—new ways of doing things, not new theories of things. No doubt this state of affairs carries a deep metaphilosophical lesson, which is perhaps not altogether sanguine. In any case, methodological anxiety is endemic to the subject.

Moral philosophy is no exception. Our aim is to shed light on aspects of life that involve moral notions (to put it as untendentiously as possible). Part of the problem here is knowing what to count as a moral notion; also what other notions need to be introduced in connection with moral notions. But, even once some decision has been made about these questions, there is still the question of what sort of method to adopt—of where, and how, to look for moral illumination. The tendency has been, naturally enough, to borrow whatever methodological assumptions have been made in other areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics and epistemology. This is not necessarily a sound procedure; it may well be that ethics calls for an approach that is distinctive to that subject-matter—that reflects its specific character. What we should certainly avoid is any preconceived method that excludes potentially fruitful avenues of reflection.

This book is written in the conviction that that is precisely what has happened with moral philosophy. In particular, the

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