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Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
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If you are interested in exploring ethics at a deeper level than in today's profusion of shallow-blog-and-cabdriver-ethical-musings, but are not accustomed to reading academic analytic ethical philosophy, you will enjoy this book, as I did. Unless you already spend a great deal of time thinking in detail about questions such as this, the book will unquestionably inspire new thinking and clarify distinctions. For example, it had never occurred to me to separate moral judgment into action, outcome, and character aspects (and indeed the failure to make that distinction is one component of how the problem of moral luck arises).
I rated the book four stars rather than five, only because it attempts to strike a very difficult compromise between accessibility for lay readers and academic philosophy, making it mildly unsatisfying from either perspective. For example, it avoids questions of determinism and other penumbral aspects of its many example scenarios - as good analytic philosophy should, but as a popular work probably should not.
The fact is not of great consequence, but I am largely in agreement with the book's conclusions. We humans make choices and are morally responsible for doing our best to foresee the consequences of those choices, both in the external world and upon our own characters. We should praise or blame those who do or fail to do this, as long as they are in a position to do so. However, in its zeal to support a regime of moral judgment, the book minimizes the actual psychological difficulty of changing vicious habits developed during childhood, particularly if they are supported by an inertial temperament. I would be inclined toward greater mitigation of those judgments than would Hsieh. But this is primarily an analysis of a contextual gradient rather than the fundamental conclusion.
I had not previously studied the Nicomachean ethics, only hearing of it briefly. This book does not spend much time on the contents of Aristotle's work and that may be a good thing, but I think it adequately demonstrates that Aristotle did present the fundamentals.
Diana writes clearly and puts much effort into covering the topics more extensively then I have ever found in my prior readings.
At times I did struggle a bit with maintaining the differences between the various types of moral judgement. I can't help but think that there may have been some way to make that easier for the amateur. However, I eventually memorized the difference by the third or fourth chapter. I think this memorization issue is the one that makes me most confident in saying that this book is not for beginners and as such approaches being a philosophy book for philosophers as apposed to the average person. I think the uninitiated would need to be very motivated and patient to make their way through the book. Before you read this book you should have at least a weak grasp of the history of western philosophy.
Sometimes - maybe it is my lack of familiarity with this issue - I found this quite a hard book to follow closely. But what is great about the book is how Hsieh uses lots of practical examples (car accidents make a regular appearance) to flesh out her points.
I would add that no discussion of this "moral luck" issue can be intelligently engaged in if one hasn't first of all nailed down the fact that humans have free will. Human consciousness is, by its nature, volitional (of course this is an obvious point to an objectivist such as the author). But as we know only too well, it is now a commonly held view in philosophy, especially among those who like to think of themselves as people of science, to state that free will is incompatible with modern science. Hsieh does allude to some of the errors involved in this way of thinking in her book, but it might have been useful to see her make the case more fully and plainly.
This is not the easiest book in the world to read, but for its general tone, clarity and message, I can certainly recommend it. It ought to be ready by anyone interested in issues such as the application of criminal and civil law, the issue of torts, etc.