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Ethics

Book Reviews: 'Secularisation and Moral Change', & 'A Short History of Ethics'

What's right and wrong

'Secularisation and Moral Change', by Alasdair MacIntyre, Oxford University Press, 12s.6d.

'A Short History of Ethics', by Alasdair MacIntyre, Routledge Paperback, 15s.

What's right? What's wrong? At some periods in history these questions called forth firm, confident, even unanimous replies. Today there is a lot of uncertainty about even the most basic moral ideas. These two concise and useful books help us to understand why.

Pathfinders: Caring and Sharing

You have a pie, and you have to share part of it with someone else. The question is, how much should you offer? Logically, not much, and logically, the recipient should be happy to accept any amount, no matter how small, since it’s better than nothing. But here’s the rub. If that someone thinks you’re being stingy they might refuse your offer, in which case neither of you gets anything.

In the human version of this ‘ultimatum game’, where the pie is replaced with money, the players tend  to make roughly equal or ‘fair’ offers, showing that human concepts of fairness can override the logic of economics. Exactly why this happens is uncertain. It may be that the donor is motivated by some internalised moral framework, or it may be that the donor feels nothing of the sort but is simply responding to the fear that the recipient is fundamentally irrational and will ruin everything by throwing their proverbial toys out of the pram in response to a perceived injustice.

Book Reviews: 'Where Do My Values Come From?', 'A Guide to Marx's Capital', & 'No Local'

Values

Where Do My Values Come From? - And How To Attain Social Sustainability. By Thomas M.V. Hallatt & Dale M.R. Hallatt. Kindle eBook.

Instead of chasing the chimerical 'values' that may lurk inside the heads of private individuals, the focus of this book is human behaviour as it is shaped by and shapes the cultural referents that make up a 'value system'. The authors undertake their investigation using an interdisciplinary approach with case studies to illustrate their argument. The focus is on four fields from the human sciences: genetics, neuroscience, physiology and environmental psychology.

Belfort Bax and the Ethics of Socialism

Part of the series 'Socialist Thinkers: People Who History Made'

Islington Branch

Recorded: 
Sunday, 28 November 1982

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