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The Enlargement of Life: Moral Imagination at Work 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0801445118
ISBN-10: 0801445116
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Editorial Reviews


"The Enlargement of Life develops an elaborate account, using detailed case studies, of how people can change (or fail to change) what they are like. It presents this life-changing enterprise as principally cognitive in nature. One needs to understand strengths and weaknesses of what one has been, and also to understand the possibilities of change. 'Exploratory' and 'corrective' imagination play a major role, although Kekes argues that the imagination needs to be disciplined for the process to work. He also argues that there are moral constraints, related to personal responsibility, on what can qualify as acceptable change."―Mind

"There is a great deal that is interesting and provocative in Kekes's criticism of the voluntarist ideal of the good life, and his proposed alternative is developed with care. There is much to disagree with in this book, too, but certainly much to admire in Kekes's characteristically bold and engaging style."―Philosophical Quarterly

"In The Enlargement of Life, John Kekes continues his project of defending a view of lives that are responsible and fulfilling. He does so by focusing on 'the balanced ideal,' which relies on the role played by imagination. This book is very well written and clearly organized; Kekes is to be congratulated for his commitment to writing for a broadly humanistic audience while maintaining high scholarly standards."―Charles Guignon, University of South Florida

"In this beautifully written book, John Kekes works back and forth between rigorous analytic distinctions on the one hand and thought-provoking examinations of literary and historical figures on the other. This ensures that somewhat abstract claims are always back up by vividly described characterizations of concrete lives. Kekes is one of the most engaging and clear-headed writers on the philosophical scene today."―George W. Harris, Chancellor Professor of Philosophy, College of William and Mary

About the Author

John Kekes is the author of many books, including The Roots of Evil, The Illusions of Egalitarianism, and The Art of Life, all from Cornell.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (November 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801445116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801445118
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,895,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Moral thinking plays an important role in my intellectual life. In this context, moral means a concern with living a good life, as you define it. Responsibility concerns how our important desires may be detrimental to the good lives of others. It is our imagination, and the enlargement of it, that enables us to reflect not only on ourselves, but on how others might be affected by our actions. While Kekes' concern is with our very personal and individualistic possibilities, he emphasises our limitations, responsibilities and obligations. He draws a contrast between himself and other thinkers in his field. He contrasts himself with thinkers who emphasize the 'voluntaristic ideal' of autonomy. For example, Kekes says of Bentham's life, that it was 'impoverished because he was morally obtuse about the possibilities of life other than the simple minded pursuit of utility'. Kekes' conception of reason and his path to clarity coalesce in his description of the 'balanced ideal'. Genuinely new ways of looking at the world flow from cultivating a moral attitude based on imagination.
There are three branches of Kekes' moral imagination. These modes he calls, the corrective, the exploratory, and the disciplined. Throughout his book, Kekes uses various examples from a multiplicity of sources. His aim is to get us to imagine more than we have imagined to date. Of course, his ultimate goal is that we pursue good lives with the implementation of the 'balanced ideal' as our guide. By cultivating our moral imagination, as Kekes suggests, we will enlarge the depth and satisfaction of our lives. I believe I have!
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