Owen Flanagan

The Geography of Morals

Varieties of Moral Possibility

Oxford University Press 2017

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What is it to be moral, to lead an ethically good life? From a naturalistic perspective, any answer to this question begins from an...

What is it to be moral, to lead an ethically good life? From a naturalistic perspective, any answer to this question begins from an understanding of what humans are like that is deeply informed by psychology, anthropology, and other human-directed perspectives as these are constrained by evolution. In The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility (Oxford University Press, 2017), Owen Flanagan sets out to clarify the landscape of moral possibility for actual human beings. He defends a perspective on human morality that he describes as an “oughtology” based in naturalism, gleaned from comparing Western, Chinese, and Indian moral traditions. Flanagan, a professor of philosophy at Duke University, considers how diverse moral traditions converge on some features basic to moral psychology, such as compassion, yet differ in other ways, such as whether anger is a justified and beneficial moral emotion or whether it should be extirpated. He also examines different views of the self, including the Buddhist view in which there is no self.

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