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Ethics without Morals: In Defence of Amorality (Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory) [Hardcover]

Joel Marks

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Book Description

26 Oct 2012 041563556X 978-0415635561

In this volume, Marks offers a defense of amorality as both philosophically justified and practicably livable. In so doing, the book marks a radical departure from both the new atheism and the mainstream of modern ethical philosophy. While in synch with their underlying aim of grounding human existence in a naturalistic metaphysics, the book takes both to task for maintaining a complacent embrace of morality. Marks advocates wiping the slate clean of outdated connotations by replacing the language of morality with a language of desire.

The book begins with an analysis of what morality is and then argues that the concept is not instantiated in reality. Following this, the question of belief in morality is addressed: How would human life be affected if we accepted that morality does not exist? Marks argues that at the very least, a moralist would have little to complain about in an amoral world, and at best we might hope for a world that was more to our liking overall. An extended look at the human encounter with nonhuman animals serves as an illustration of amorality’s potential to make both theoretical and practical headway in resolving heretofore intractable ethical problems.

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More About the Author

Joel Marks is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of New Haven ("UNH"). He received the B.A. in psychology from Cornell University and the M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Connecticut ("UConn"). Between his stints at UConn and UNH, Marks also taught at the Portland (Maine) School of Art, St. John Fisher College, and the University of Rochester. In addition to the authored and edited books of philosophy shown at this site, Marks co-edited a scholarly Festschrift of the musical humorist Gerard Hoffnung with David E. E. Sloane in 1992 (Essays in Arts and Sciences, vol. 21). Marks has written numerous articles for professional journals and scores of op-eds and columns for newspapers and magazines on both ethics and astronomy (sharing, as he does, Immanuel Kant's "ever new and increasing admiration and awe [of] the starry heavens above ... and the moral law within ....)." Since 2000 Marks has been a regular columnist for Philosophy Now magazine. In addition to his own speaking engagements, Marks has organized and chaired scores of symposia, panels, and colloquia. For many years Marks also hosted an interview program on radio station WNHU, 88.7 FM, West Haven, Connecticut. Marks's main areas of scholarly interest are theoretical and applied ethics, and both have come together recently in his thinking about animal ethics. Marks is currently a Bioethics Center Scholar at Yale University. His Website is

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'In clear, plainspoken, engaging prose, Joel Marks presents the case for abandoning belief in morality. Anyone who wants to defend the practice of making moral judgments will have to confront the issues Marks raises, and the alternative to morality he proposes.'Mitchell Silver, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA

'Sitting down with Marks over a few cups of coffee and two afternoons was an enjoyable experience that provoked a lot of philosophical thought. It was an experience that had the virtues that conversations with interesting philosophers can have. And that is something to be said for the book.'Timothy Schroeder, Ohio State University in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

'Ethics without Morals is not written in academic jargon and is quite accessible – indeed, it is a pleasure to read. Furthermore, it raises an important issue: Why do so many people who have been prepared to reject claims about the existence of a god [...] hold on to the idea of an objective morality, a notion that seems scarcely coherent? [...Marks's] book is a significant and useful contribution to a very important debate.'Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle, Australia in Free Inquiry

"Joel Marks's work is both a deeply personal and public book: deeply personal insofar as it recounts Marks's conversion to a new philosophical outlook and adoption of a new ethical disposition; public insofar as Marks seeks to make a substantial contribution not just to ethical thought, but to public discourse about common issues of pressing concern, such as the (in)human treatment of animals." -Steven Johnston, University of Utah in Public Integrity

"I would definitely recommend this book to others. It generates discussion and reflection. The book would be fantastic to get those not familiar with ethical theory or metaethics thinking deeply about the foundations of ethics and understanding what a nihilistic view might amount to." - James McBain, Pittsburg State University, USA, in Teaching Philosophy

About the Author

Joel Marks is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New Haven, USA and a Bioethics Center Scholar at Yale University, USA.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read for any secular humanist 21 Jun 2013
By William Irwin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Joel Marks made news when, after many years as an advocate of Kantian ethics, he "came out" as an amoralist is his column for the magazine PHILOSOPHY NOW and again later in a piece for THE NEW YORK TIMES. This book explains why. Marks presents the case that an atheist cannot justifiably believe in objective morality. In place of morality Marks offers the philosophy of desirism, which suggests that we examine our desires, affirm those we truly want to have, and then act to the fulfill them. This is an important book, a must read for any secular humanist, as it exposes morality as the final (or at least next) delusion.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Commits The Worst Of Logical Fallacies... 6 Nov 2013
By Douglas - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
In short, it begs the question and uses circular logic. The very things Marks finds wrong with religion and the idea of objective morality. The entire premise runs "there is no God, and only God can have the property of objective morality, therefore..." It begs the question that there is no God, to start, but, even given that, the book goes on to argue that objective morality can only be attributed to a Divine Being (I don't know how he gets there--objective morality could be hardwired into humans with no divine intervention). Then it just sinks into relativism, a torpedo that sinks its own ship in circularity: is relativism, then, objective, or relative itself?
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