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Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for Our Country

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ISBN-13: 000-0226066347
ISBN-10: 0226066347
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Real American Ethics is original and truly impressive. In many ways it is a summation of Albert Borgmann’s lifetime project, with the emphasis on a philosophy and ethics that is neither liberal nor conservative but instead invested in a concrete reality and human satisfaction. His understanding that consumerism is the great enemy of reality in our time is profound, nonideological, and deeply helpful to any readers concerned not only about their country, but about their own lives.”--Bill McKibben
(Bill McKibben 2006-07-06)

“The key word in the title of Albert Borgmann’s new book is ‘real.’ He shows us how an increasing tendency for Americans to live in a virtual world undermines our very understanding of ethical responsibility. In a dangerous world and an often unhappy society we need to face reality (or ‘get real’ as current jargon would put it) if we are to do the right thing. Reading this book can be a major step in the right direction.”

(Robert Bellah 2006-07-06)

"This delightful reflection on American ethics has a double appeal. On the one hand is Borgmann's clear articulation of the predominant Kantian theoretical base and the desire for a workable practical ethics. On the other is his incisive criticism of the way ethical theory and practical ethics misses the heart of the American enterprise. . . . Highly recommened."
(Choice 2007-07-01)

"Solid and insightful. . . . Real American Ethics supports, enriches, and deepens important directions being taken in contemporary American ethics."
(Leonard J. Weber Technology and Culture)

From the Inside Flap

America is a magnificent country that affords its citizens the broadest freedoms and the greatest prosperity in the world. But it also has its share of warts. It is embroiled in a war that many of its citizens consider unjust and even illegal. It continues to ravage the natural environment and ignore poverty both at home and abroad, and its culture is increasingly driven by materialism and consumerism. But America, for better or for worse, is still a nation that we have built. So why then, asks Albert Borgmann in this most timely and urgent work, are we failing to take responsibility for it?

            In Real American Ethics, Borgmann asks us to reevaluate our role in the making of American values. Taking his cue from Winston Churchill—who once observed that we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us—Borgmann considers the power of our most enduring institutions and the condition of our present moral makeup to propose inspired new ways in which we, as ordinary citizens, can act to improve our country. This, he shows, includes everything from where we choose to live and what we spend our money on to daunting tasks like the reshaping of our cities—habits and actions that can guide us to more accomplished and virtuous lives. Using prose that is easy and direct throughout, Borgmann’s position is grounded in neither conservative nor liberal ideology, but in his understanding that he is a devoted citizen among many.

            In an age in which the blame game is the only game in town, this patriotic book is an eloquent reminder of the political strength we all wield when we work together.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (January 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226066347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226066349
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Doctor Moss on November 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a different kind of a book by Albert Borgmann. Although he has previously written about contemporary issues (see esp., Crossing the Postmodern Divide or Holding Onto Reality), this book is a very direct and personal statement about the direction he believes American politics and personal ethics should go.

Borgmann's book takes its guidance from a 1943 quote from Winston Churchill: "We shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us." Borgmann believes that, in contemporary American culture, we haven't taken Churchill's point sufficiently to heart. American ideology is nothing if not individualistic, but morality, in Borgmann's interpretation of Churchill's point, is inescapably public. The environment we build for ourselves together -- our physical environment, our environment of cultural and political institutions, our economic structures, the structures of our communities -- shape the kinds of persons we can become. Our individualistic ideology tends to discard that environment as a kind of neutral basis for our ethical and political choices, failing to deliberate about how to design and build an environment that will best afford our living good lives, lives of virtue.

Paying proper attention to how we together shape the lives that we can live places a much brighter light on the public -- not only public politics, but also community practices, family structures and practices, and many other environmental variables that are more informal than formal. Borgmann's critiques of technology in his other works, strongly influenced by Heidegger, have always carried this emphasis on the life of the community.
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By peter neuman on November 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
absolutely remarkable.
good philosophy text, even if i do not feel like agreeing with some of the findings.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michele Watson on December 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terrible book. Author speculates and opinionates.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C Prong on July 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Liberal propaganda
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