Ruling Passions : A Theory of Practical Reasoning, Paperback

Ruling Passions : A Theory of Practical Reasoning Paperback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Simon Blackburn puts forward a compelling original philosophy of human motivation and morality.

He maintains that we cannot get clear about ethics until we get clear about human nature.

So these are the sorts of questions he addresses: Why do we behave as we do?

Can we improve? Is our ethics at war with our passions, or is it an upshot of those passions?

Blackburn seeks the answers in an exploration of guilt, shame, disgust, and other moral emotions; he draws also on game theory and cognitive science in his account of the structures of human motivation.

Many philosophers have wanted a naturalistic ethics a theory that integrates our understanding of human morality with the rest of our understanding of the world we live in.

What is special about Blackburn's naturalistic ethics is that it does not debunk the ethical by reducing it to the non-ethical.

At the same time he banishes the spectres of scepticism and relativism that have haunted recent moral philosophy.

Ruling Passions sets ethics in the context of human nature: it offers a solution to the puzzle of how ethics can maintain its authority even though it is rooted in the very emotions and motivations that it exists to control.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 348 pages, bibliography, index
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Philosophy of mind
  • ISBN: 9780199241392



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This is a masterpiece of philosophy. Blackburn sets out a very impressive theory of ethics and meta-ethics - his 'quasi-realism'. But as well as setting out the theory, he goes on a great survey of lots of different ideas in the field which are relevant to his ideas. The appendix, with questions and answers the author gave during a lecture, is perhaps the best place to start for someone who needs to write an essay on this meta-ethical theory. This is a book for people with quite a background (a degree?) in philosophy already.

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