Common Morality: Deciding What to Do

Oxford University Press (2004)
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Abstract

Moral problems do not always come in the form of great social controversies. More often, the moral decisions we make are made quietly, constantly, and within the context of everyday activities and quotidian dilemmas. Indeed, these smaller decisions are based on a moral foundation that few of us ever stop to think about but which guides our every action. Here distinguished philosopher Bernard Gert presents a clear and concise introduction to what he calls "common morality" -- the moral system that most thoughtful people implicitly use when making everyday, common sense moral decisions and judgments. Common Morality is useful in that -- while not resolving every disagreement on controversial issues -- it is able to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable answers to moral problems. In the first part of the book Gert lays out the fundamental features of common morality: moral rules, moral ideals, and a two-step procedure for determining when a violation of a moral rule is justified. Written in a non-technical style, the ten general moral rules include rules on which everyone can agree, such as "do not kill," "do not deceive," and "keep your promises." The moral ideals include similarly uncontroversial precepts such as "Relieve pain" and "Aid the needy." In the second part of the book Gert examines the underlying concepts that justify common morality, such as the notions of rationality and impartiality. The distillation of over 40 years of scholarship, this book is the most accessible version of Gert's influential theory of morality as well as an eye-opening look at the moral foundations of our everyday actions. Throughout the discussion is clear enough for a reader with little or no philosophy background.

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