Selected Essays

Selected Essays

Selected Essays

Selected Essays

Synopsis

In Selected Essays Michael Slote collects some of the most important papers of his career, articles that were both influential as well as those that remain relevant to philosophical debates today. The papers range over a number of important topics--not all of them within or having to do with ethics. Three of the papers have to do with ways in which one might fill out or expand upon traditional utilitarian views--while remaining within the utilitarian tradition. Two of the papers focus on free will, and another pair discuss rational choice and argue that traditional views about individual rationality unduly limit our possibilities. The papers outside ethics deal with such topics as counterfactuals; Wittgensteinian accounts of "cluster terms;" some familiar concepts we use that cannot apply to reality; and a paradox about the possibility of circumstances where it is linguistically inappropriate to assert what one believes. In addition to the previously published essays, Slote includes more recent and unpublished papers that deal with the uses of empathy in the context of global issues of justice; the limitations of the "moral reasoning" model of normal moral thinking; and the relevance of empathy to the epistemic ideal of objectivity. The final paper of the volume speaks about recent developments in ethical theory and what they may tell us about the possibilities of future progress or lack of progress in that field.

Excerpt

The present volume contains a selection from among papers and reviews that I have published and papers that I haven’t previously published. the principle of selection has been my sense of the interest papers might hold for contemporary discussion. Some of these papers were published around forty years ago, and others that I have chosen not to reprint were also published (at least) that long ago, so I have had to be choosy in my selection—at least I hope that I have been. I would like here to introduce the papers that appear in this book. in some cases I shall compare them with other people’s ideas/publications; in others I shall indicate how I think they might be further developed in contemporary terms; in still others I make what I hope are useful comparisons among the essays that appear in this volume. Again, my choice of what to say in this Introduction has been determined by my sense of what might be useful to contemporary philosophy or philosophers. and let me just mention before I begin that the order in which the papers appear in this book and are discussed in this Introduction is (roughly) chronological.

The first paper in this volume is “The Theory of Important Criteria” (from the Journal of Philosophy), not the first thing I ever published, but something that did come from my doctoral dissertation on Certainty and Language (Harvard University, 1965). This article and the dissertation it comes from reflect the preoccupation with Wittgenstein that animated philosophical discussion during the early 1960’s. Such work may appear, at least from a typical American standpoint, to be somewhat dated, but I have included it here because I believe it has something to say today. Wittgenstein had a theory about “cluster concepts,” concepts that have a variety of criteria for their application, that was widely accepted at the time. That theory, the . . .

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