- Paperback: 447 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; 3rd Printing edition (August 1, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 069102247X
- ISBN-13: 978-0691022475
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #585,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice 3rd Printing Edition
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"First Things is, without question, an important essay in moral philosophy. . . . A powerful counterattack on the decayed, sophistic moral reasoning of our time."--Crisis
"Here [Arkes] shows an unusual grasp of everyday realities. A sharp, savvy argument for quasi-eternal verities in a relativistic world."--Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Back Cover
An Inquiry into the first principles of morals and justice: This book restores to us an understanding that was once settled in the 'moral sciences': that there are propositions, in morals and law, which are not only true but which cannot be otherwise.
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To work through this soul-activity of arriving at the apprehension of the truth of those "of courses" is an important exercise that needs to be accomplished by a larger number of members of this polity. There is sufficient evidence to make a logical connection from the argument Lincoln and Douglas contested over slavery to the current public debate about the definition of human life - not in just abortion, but in cloning and euthanasia too.
That argument is succinct: Simply having a plurality of popular opinion in one's favor does not finally establish the moral vindication of a position. Just because the voters in one state "legalize" euthanasia - or "legalize" property rights over other human beings - does not make it right.
There's an interesting discussion in _First Things_ about the morality of pacifism and our society's acceptance of the refusal of certain groups to participate in military service.
Now is a good time to recall that argument - that refusing to serve is not necessarily a more moral position than serving, that there is a moral good in performing a duty that the nation has called one to.
"Conscientious objectors" may be good people - but "conscientious riflemen" may be good people, too.
As a student at Amherst College I have had the experience of debating the issues discussed in "First Things" with Prof. Arkes. Contrary to the rhetoric of this book, his views do not cohere with some 'moral logic', and neither does he. Given a formal argument against his position he neither rejects premises nor accuses the argument of being invalid, but rather does a rhetorical song and dance, appealing to common sensibilities and emotional attachment to moral values: 'I mean come on, really, of course there are objectively true moral principles'. This is as illogical as it gets.
There may be a tenable version of moral realism but this book contains no such view. For those seriously interested in the issue of moral realism and anti-realism see Alexander Miller's excellent and accessible book "An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics" (Cambridge: Polity, 2003). In closing, I must recognize that Prof. Arkes' extrapolations from ethics to politics are, at times, nothing short of brilliant. But this is of little consolace given the extremely suspect ethical theses held by Prof. Arkes.