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Ethics of Identity

by Kwame Anthony Appiah Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
01/2007
ISBN:
9780691130286
Format:
Pbk 384 pages
Price:
AU$82.00 NZ$84.35
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Instructors
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Gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality: all the elements of our social identities play a central role in the choices by which we make our lives. Ethics of Identity explores the ethical significance of identity for our obligations to others and ourselves. The arguments in the book respond both to Mill’s ideal of individuality and to the age old notion that to ask who we are is also to ask what we are.


PREFACE ix

Chapter One: The Ethics of Individuality 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

Chapter Two: Autonomy and Its Critics 36

WHAT AUTONOMY DEMANDS--AUTONOMY AS INTOLERANCE--AUTONOMY AGONISTES--THE TWO STANDPOINTS--
AGENCY AND THE INTERESTS OF THEORY

Chapter Three: The Demands of Identity 62

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

Chapter Four: The Trouble with Culture 114

MAKING UP THE DIFFERENCE--IS CULTURE A GOOD?--THE PRESERVATIONIST ETHIC--NEGATION AS AFFIRMATION-- THE DIVERSITY PRINCIPLE

Chapter Five: Soul Making 155

SOULS AND THE STATE--THE SELF-MANAGEMENT CARD--RATIONAL WELL-BEING--IRRATIONAL IDENTITIES-- SOUL MAKING AND STEREOTYPES--EDUCATED SOULS--CONFLICTS OVER IDENTITY CLAIMS

Chapter Six: Rooted Cosmopolitanism 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

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 273

NOTES 277

INDEX 341

Appiah has written a remarkably impressive book, one that makes a number of important advances on the existing literature and stands as an important contribution to political and moral philosophy and moral psychology. It will be very widely read. Jacob Levy, University of Chicago The Ethics of Identity is a major overhaul of the vocabulary of contemporary political and critical thought--the vocabulary of identity, diversity, authenticity, cosmopolitanism, and culture. The load of hidden assumptions carried by these words had become overwhelming, and someone needed to take them to the shop and give them a thorough philosophical servicing. But Anthony Appiah has done more than that. He has returned those terms to us clarified, refreshed, and ready for use in a more sophisticated and flexible philosophy of Liberalism--and, along the way, he has provided us with a new reading of liberalism's old hero, John Stuart Mill. Appiah's writing is unparalleled in its elegance, its lucidity, and its humanity. Accept no substitutes. Louis Menand, Harvard University In the debates over diversity, rights, group identities or group conflict, The Ethics of Identity, is the land of lucidity. Appiah's elegant book resists the easy alternatives of universal liberalism and multiculturalism and instead defends--and illustrates on every page--a rooted cosmopolitanism. The sparkling prose, vivid examples, and probing questions navigate the choppy waters of personal and political constructions of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexuality. This fine and wise book invites readers to remain willing to distinguish tolerance and respect--and by engaging with both the lives people make for themselves and the communities and narratives that render them meaningful. Martha Minow, Harvard Law School and author of 'Identity, Politics, and the Law' The Ethics of Identity is wonderfully straightforward. It does just what it proposes to do. It explores the demands of 'individuality,' and rejects extreme understandings of what autonomy requires. It considers the relation of personal and group identity to morals and ethics. . . . It moves on to the links between identity and culture. . . . Appiah has some very wise and original things to say about the inevitability of a liberal state affecting the inner life of its citizens. He ends with a defense of rooted cosmopolitanism. Not only is the argument direct; it is untechnical, transparent, and unaggressive. . . . Appiah concentrates on a double question: how we acquire an individual identity by acquiring a social identity, and how we find--and make--an identity that is not a straitjacket. In pursuing this question, Appiah begins to explore one of the most fascinating and difficult questions in moral philosophy, the relationship between general principles and particular attachments. . . . shows just how to write about the intimate, formative relations that are central to a life, most strikingly in his epilogue, but as you realize when you reach that ending, he has been doing it, as well as a great deal else, throughout The Ethics of Identity. Alan Ryan The New York Review of Books Suave and discerning. . . . Appiah seeks to reorient political philosophy by returning to the example set by John Stuart Mill. . . . For all of Appiah's philosophic precision, his writing often resembles not Mill's but that of Oscar Wilde--to my mind, the finest prose stylist of the 19th century. . . . he superb rhetorical performance of this book offers the most persuasive evidence for his case. . . . To read The Ethics of Identity is to enter into the world it describes; it is also to imagine what it might be like to live in so urbane and expansive a place. Jonathan Freedman New York Times Book Review Kwame Anthony Appiah undertakes to combine a form of liberalism that aspires to universal validity with a full recognition and substantial acceptance of the important cultural and ethical diversity that characterizes our world. Thomas Nagel New Republic impressive book. . . . thorough exploration of moral concepts such as authenticity, tolerance, individuality, and dignity, and how they are all connected to the task of making a life. . . . It is hard to know what to admire most about this book: the urbane elegance of Appiah's prose, the reach of his knowledge, or the sheer philosophical sharpness of his analysis. Carl Elliott The American Prospect This book, with its fluid, inviting phrasing, is exceptionally well written. . . . It is effective, insightful, and thought-provoking. . . . Appiah clears the way for a justification of a narrative, pragmatic, particular relations-based cosmopolitanism, which is universal without the necessity of theoretical agreement. Choice This new book aims to lay the groundwork for a new version of liberal theory adequate to the challenges of our time. . . . I find Appiah's overall conception of liberalism very congenial. . . . If Appiah succeeds in attenuating the force of such claims by undermining the theoretical conceptualizations and arguments supporting them, and integrating the valid claims of identity into liberal theory, he will have contributed very significantly to the reconstruction of liberalism. Leonard J. Waks Education and Culture The conclusion Appiah eloquently affirms is spot on: the key to living a moral life is clearly not to seek to forego identity. On the contrary, it is to put identity in the service of becoming ethical human beings. Joshua Jelly-Schapiro Tikkun Kwame Anthony Appiah, a man of multiple cultures and languages who is able to question culture itself, leaves us better able to contemplate how to lead life well and to relate ethically to others in the process. E. James Lieberman PsycCritiques Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Ethics of Identity is a wonderful book. It is as rigorous as one expects the best philosophy to be, yet it is whitty, humane, and engaging in ways that academic philosophy is only rarely. It is the best account of the ethics of liberal society that we possess. Daniel Weinstock Ethics Appiah, . . . an elegant writer, observes that we are not simply members of groups or products of culture. Individuality and autonomy, he argues, are fundamental to personhood in all social and cultural contexts. David Moshman Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Kwame Anthony Appiah is Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University. His books include two monographs in the philosophy of language as well as the widely acclaimed 'In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture', 'Cosmopolitanism' [Norton], and, with Amy Gutmann, 'Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race'. He has also edited or co-edited many books, including (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) 'Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience'. His most recent book is 'Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy'.