Moral Philosophy After 9/11

By (author) Joseph Margolis

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 August 2004

Length of book:

168 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271024486

Were the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks courageous "freedom fighters" or despicable terrorist murderers? These opposing characterizations reveal in extreme form the incompatibility between different moral visions that underlie many conflicts in the world today, conflicts that challenge us to consider how moral disputes may be resolved. Eschewing the resort to universal moral principles favored by traditional Anglo-American analytic philosophy, Joseph Margolis sets out to sketch an alternative approach that accepts the lack of any neutral ground or privileged normative perspective for deciding moral disputes.This "second-best" morality nevertheless aspires to achieve an "objectively" valid resolution through a dialectical procedure of reasoning toward a modus vivendi, an accommodation of prudential interests that are rooted in the customs and practices of the societies in conflict.

In working out this approach, Margolis engages with a wide range of thinkers, from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel through Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas, Rawls, Habermas, MacIntyre, Rorty, and Nussbaum, and his argument is enlivened by reference to many specific moral issues, such as abortion, the control of Kashmir, and the continuing struggle between the Muslim world and the West.

“Margolis's book is a serious contribution to a new and valuable approach to moral philosophy. Rightly suspicious of approaches that attempt to ground morality in ultimate principles, Margolis seeks a way of understanding morality that heeds the data of the moral experience of individuals and groups of individuals. Focusing on intractable moral disputes, such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Margolis provides a conceptual framework for a mode of moral reasoning that can move toward a modus vivendi, as opposed to a final moral judgment.”

—J. Kellenberger, California State University, Northridge