The Limits of Morality
The Limits of Morality (Kagan) Most people believe that there are limits to the sacrifices that morality can demand. Although it would often be meritorious, we are not, in fact, morally required to do all that we can to promote overall good. What’s more, most people also believe that certain types of acts are simply forbidden, morally off limits, even when necessary for promoting the overall good. In this provocative analysis Kagan maintains that despite the intuitive appeal of these views, they cannot be adequately defended. In criticizing arguments for limited moral requirements as well as those for unconditionally prohibited acts, Kagan offers a sustained attack on two of the most basic features of ordinary commonsense morality.

 

Normative Ethics
Normative Ethics (Kagan) Providing a thorough introduction to current philosophical views on morality, Normative Ethics examines an act’s rightness or wrongness in light of such factors as consequences, harm, and consent. Shelly Kagan offers a division between moral factors and theoretical foundations that reflects the actual working practices of contemporary moral philosophers.The first half of the book presents a systematic survey of the basic normative factors, focusing on controversial questions concerning the precise content of each factor, its scope and significance, and its relationship to other factors. The second half of the book then examines the competing theories about the foundations of normative ethics, theories that attempt to explain why the basic normative factors have the moral significance that they do. Intended for upper-level undergraduates or philosophy graduate students, this book should also appeal to the general reader looking for a clearly written overview of the basic principles of moral philosophy.

 

Death
Death (Kagan) There is one thing we can be sure of: we are all going to die. But once we accept that fact, the questions begin. In this thought-provoking book, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan examines the myriad questions that arise when we confront the meaning of mortality. Do we have reason to believe in the existence of immortal souls? Or should we accept an account according to which people are just material objects, nothing more? Can we make sense of the idea of surviving the death of one’s body? If I won’t exist after I die, can death truly be bad for me? Would immortality be desirable? Is fear of death appropriate? Is suicide ever justified? How should I live in the face of death? Written in an informal and conversational style, this stimulating and provocative book challenges many widely held views about death, as it invites the reader to take a fresh look at one of the central features of the human condition—the fact that we will die.

[For more information, and other translations, visit the death page.]

 

The Geometry of Desert
The Geometry of Dessert (Kagan) People differ in terms of how morally deserving they are. And it is a good thing if people get what they deserve. Accordingly, it is important to work out an adequate theory of moral desert. But while certain aspects of such a theory have been frequently discussed in the philosophical literature, many others have been surprisingly neglected. For example, if it is indeed true that it is morally good for people to get what they deserve, does it always do the same amount of good when someone gets what they deserve? Or does it matter how deserving the person is? If we cannot give someone exactly what they deserve, is it better to give too much-or better to give too little? Does being twice as virtuous make you twice as deserving? And how are we to take into account the thought that what you deserve depends in part on how others are doing? The Geometry of Desert explores a number of these less familiar questions, using graphs to illustrate the various possible answers. The result is a more careful investigation into the nature of moral desert than has ever previously been offered, one that reveals desert to have a hidden complexity that most of us have failed to recognize.