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Rights and Goods

Justifying Social Action

Theories of justice, argues Virginia Held, are usually designed for a perfect, hypothetical world. They do not give us guidelines for living in an imperfect world in which the choices and decisions that we must make are seldom clear-cut.

Seeking a morality based on actual experience, Held offers a method of inquiry with which to deal with the specific moral problems encountered in daily life. She argues that the division between public and private morality is misleading and shows convincingly that moral judgment should be contextual. She maps out different approaches and positions for various types of issues, including membership in a state, legal decisions, political activities, economic transactions, interpersonal relations, diplomacy, journalism, and determining our obligation to future generations. Issues such as these provide the true test of moral theory, since its success is seen in the willingness of conscientious persons to commit themselves to it by acting on it in their daily lives.

336 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1989

Philosophy: Ethics

Political Science: Political and Social Theory, Public Policy

Table of Contents

About the Author
1. Introduction
2. The Revival of Ethics
3. The Division of Moral Labor: Roles
4. Moral Theory and Moral Experience
5. The Grounds for Social Trust
6. Acceptance or Rejection of the State
7. Laws and Rights
8. Rights to Equal Liberty
9. The Goals of Politics
10. Property and Economic Activity
11. Family and Society
12. Culture, Free Expression, and the Good Life
13. The Environment and the Future
14. The International Context
15. The Practice of Moral Inquiry

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