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We must all make choices about how we want to live. We evaluate our possibilities by relying on historical, moral, personal, political, religious, and scientific modes of evaluations, but the values and reasons that follow from them conflict. Philosophical problems are forced on us when we try to cope with such conflicts. There are reasons for and against all proposed ways of coping with the conflicts, but none of them has been generally accepted by reasonable thinkers. The constructive aim of The Nature of Philosophical Problems is to propose a way of understanding the nature of such philosophical problems, explain why they occur, why they are perennial, and propose a pluralist approach as the most reasonable way of coping with them. This approach is practical, context-dependent, and particular. It follows from it that the recurrence of philosophical problems is not a defect, but a welcome consequence of the richness of our modes of understanding that enlarges the range of possibilities by which we might choose to live. The critical aim of the book is to give reasons against both the absolutist attempt to find an overriding value or principle for resolving philosophical problems and of the relativist claim that reasons unavoidably come to an end and how we want to live is ultimately a matter of personal preference, not of reasons.
John Kekes has for many years been Professor at the State University of New York and is now Research Professor at Union College. He is the author of many books, most recently Enjoyment (OUP, 2008) and The Human Condition (2010). He has received fellowshps from the Canada Council, NEH, and the Woodrow Wilson, Rockefeller, and the Earhart Foundations. He has been Visiting Professor in Canada, Estonia, Hungary, Portugal, Singapore, and the United States Military Academy.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: FROM MODES OF UNDERSTANDING TO PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS
1. MODES OF UNDERSTANDING: A GENERAL ACCOUNT
2. MODES OF UNDERSTANDING: PARTICULAR ACCOUNTS
3. CONFLICTS AND PROBLEMS
4. THE PROBLEMS AND THEIR CONTEXTS
PART TWO: PROBLEMATIC PROPOSALS
5. HISTORY AND GENEALOGY
6. MORALITY AND MORALISM
7. POLITICS AND IDEOLOGY
8. SCIENCE AND SCIENTISM
PART THREE: TOWARD A PLURALIST APPROACH
9. GOOD REASONS
10. THE PLURALIST APPROACH TO GOOD LIVES, PROVIDENTIAL ORDER, AND THE IDEAL STATE
11. THE PLURALIST APPROACH TO CONTROL, REASONABLE HOPE, AND MORAL ABSOLUTES