The Ethics of Identity

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2007-01-02
  • Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr

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Race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality: in the past couple of decades, a great deal of attention has been paid to such collective identities. They clamor for recognition and respect, sometimes at the expense of other things we value. But to what extent do "identities" constrain our freedom, our ability to make an individual life, and to what extent do they enable our individuality? In this beautifully written work, renowned philosopher and African Studies scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah draws on thinkers through the ages and across the globe to explore such questions. The Ethics of Identitytakes seriously both the claims of individuality--the task of making a life---and the claims of identity, these large and often abstract social categories through which we define ourselves. What sort of life one should lead is a subject that has preoccupied moral and political thinkers from Aristotle to Mill. Here, Appiah develops an account of ethics, in just this venerable sense--but an account that connects moral obligations with collective allegiances, our individuality with our identities. As he observes, the questionwhowe are has always been linked to the questionwhatwe are. Adopting a broadly interdisciplinary perspective, Appiah takes aim at the clicheacute;s and received ideas amid which talk of identity so often founders. Is "culture" a good? For that matter, does the concept of culture really explain anything? Is diversity of value in itself? Are moral obligations the only kind there are? Has the rhetoric of "human rights" been overstretched? In the end, Appiah's arguments make it harder to think of the world as divided between the West and the Rest; between locals and cosmopolitans; between Us and Them. The result is a new vision of liberal humanism--one that can accommodate the vagaries and variety that make us human.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
The Ethics of Individualityp. 1
The Great Experiment
Liberty and Individuality
Plans of Life
The Soul of the Servitor
Social Choices
Invention and Authenticity
The Social Scriptorium
Ethics in Identity
Individuality and the State
The Common Pursuit
Autonomy and Its Criticsp. 136
What Autonomy Demands
Autonomy as Intolerance
Autonomy Agonistes
The Two Standpoints
Agency and the Interests of Theory
The Demands of Identityp. 162
Learning How to Curse
The Structure of Social Identities
Millet Multiculturalism
Autonomism, Pluralism, Neutralism
A First Amendment Example: The Accommodationist Program
Neutrality Reconsidered
The Language of Recognition
The Medusa Syndrome
Limits and Parameters
The Trouble with Culturep. 114
Making up the Difference
Is Culture a Good?
The Preservationist Ethic
Negation as Affirmation
The Diversity Principle
Soul Makingp. 155
Souls and the State
The Self-Management Card
Rational Well-Being
Irrational Identities
Soul Making and Stereotypes
Educated Souls
Conflicts Over Identity Claims
Rooted Cosmopolitanismp. 213
A Worldwide Web
Ruthless Cosmopolitans
Ethical Partiality
Two Concepts of Obligation
Cosmopolitan Patriotism
Confrontation and Conversation
Rivalrous Goods, Rivalrous Gods
Traveling Tales--Globalizing Human Rights
Cosmopolitan Conversation
Acknowledgmentsp. 273
Notesp. 277
Indexp. 341
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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