The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition

The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition

The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition

The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition

Synopsis

In The Morality of Everyday Life, Thomas Fleming offers an alternative to the enlightened liberalism espoused by thinkers as different as Kant, Mill, Rand, and Rawls. Philosophers in the liberal tradition, although they disagree on many important questions, agree that moral and political problems should be looked at from an objective point of view and a decision made from a distant perspective that is both rational and universally applied to all comparable cases. Fleming instead places importance on the particular, the local, and moral complexity. For Fleming, postmodernism, which began with Nietzsche, is not the answer to moral dilemmas either. Fleming advocates a return to premodern traditions, such as those exemplified in the texts of Aristotle, the Talmud, and the folk wisdom in ancient Greek literature, for a solution to ethical predicaments. In his view, liberalism and postmodernism ignore the fact that human beings by their very nature refuse to live in a world of universal abstractions wherein the attachments of friends, neighbors, family, and country make no difference. Premodern thinkers, unlike those since the seventeenth century, recognized that particular obligations arise from specific circumstances and experiences. While such modern philosophers as Kant and Kohlberg have regarded a mother's self-sacrificing love for her children as beneath their level of morality, folk wisdom tells us it is nearly the highest morality, taking precedence over the duties of citizenship or the claims of humanity. Fleming believes that a modern type of "casuistry" should be applied to these hard cases--moral conflicts in which the line between right and wrong is rarely clear. Casuistry, as it was practiced in the Middle Ages, was a case-by-case analysis of each dilemma. Genuine casuistry is based on two principles: that there are general and universally applicable moral laws governing human conduct, and that these laws may not be applied simplistically and uniformly to the great variety of human circumstances and situations. Fleming uses examples from history, literature, and religion to explain his idea of modern casuistry--a type of moral ecology that refuses to divorce organisms from their interactions with each other and with their environment. The Morality of Everyday Life offers an alternative vision to the moral philosophy of liberalism. This volume will appeal to students of ethics and classics, as well as the general educated reader, who will appreciate Fleming's jargon-free prose. Teachers will find this text useful because each chapter is a self-contained essay that could be used as the basis for classroom discussion.
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