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By Peter Singer

During this quantity, a few of brand new such a lot exotic philosophers survey the total box of ethics, from its origins, during the nice moral traditions, to theories of ways we should reside, arguments approximately particular moral matters, and the character of ethics itself. The e-book will be learn immediately via from starting to finish; but the inclusion of a multi-layered index, coupled with a descriptive define of contents and bibliographies of appropriate literature, signifies that the amount additionally serves as a piece of reference, either for these coming afresh to the examine of ethics and for readers already acquainted with the topic.

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Might a morality be found which was the mirror-image of our own, counting our virtues as vices and our vices as virtues, and demanding generally that we should do to others just what we would least want done to ourselves (a suggestion for which also Nietzsche sometimes wished to make room)? Now it is of course true that cultures vary vastly, and since Darwin’s day we have become much more aware of that variation. Yet anthropologists, who did the world a huge service by demonstrating that variability, are now pointing out that it should not be exaggerated (Konner, 1982; Mead, 1956).

I know I am being horrid but feel safe in the anonymity of traffic. Are the Ik a people without society and thus disqualified from generalizations about universal ethical and moral values? That would be special pleading leading to the circularity: no society without morality, therefore all societies have morals. They do have social order but it is fragile and unstable, being based on the exploitation of the weak by the momentarily strong, who forbear to exploit to extinction only because the weak will be needed again tomorrow for more exploitation.

These are not to be found formulated in a unitary doctrine, nor are they necessarily explicitly stated as values or principles. The anthropologist studying a small-scale society must go through the slow process of discovering and learning the content, and vernacular view of its members’ joint cultural and social creations before finding the ethical meanings carried in, to us, unconventional vehicles like pro14 2 • ETHICS IN SMA LL -SC A LE SOCIETIES verbs, riddles, folktales or myths, which initially seem to have significances quite other than the ethical.

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A Companion to Ethics by Peter Singer

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