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Awfully Questionable Approach
on 12 December 2009
Oh dear, this is no better than the approved AS version, which the reviewers are unanimous in decrying as complex and unhelpful. I have been attempting to use this book to teach the new syllabus A2 (Chapter 4, Moral philosophy) but the task is proving beyond me. Here is a sample sentence: 'Now if you hold the belief that people should consider their own interests, then you are committed to the universalisation that other people may consider their own interests too, but you are not committed to the impartial consideration of other people's interests.' Er, right. It doesn't help that pages 171-186 are printed upside down in the copy I have in front of me but the reabability is not significantly altered by this inversion.
The authors seem to assume that A2 students have learned an awful lot in their AS year as no attempt is made to re-examine the basics, instead we are treated to a kind of murky moral pond traversed by means of random lily pads representing concepts such as normative relativism, prescriptivism and non-cognitism in no particular order that I can ascertain. From this we are told to figure out how students will answer monster 50 mark questions on subjects such as, 'Examine the difficulties moral realists face in explaining how our moral beliefs commit us to certain actions'. I've tried to work out just how this book, written by AQA examiners, helps with this sample AQA question but, just for the moment, it's eluding me.
Here's a quick solution for those now reconsidering Camus' assertion that the only true philosophical question is suicide: use the old 'Understanding Philosophy for AS Level' by Christopher Hamilton as the basis for moral philosophy with particular reference to Utilitarianism and Meta-ethics. I never thought I'd say it but it's a model of lucidity compared to the new book. Perhaps I have been unnecessarily harsh and other chapters may be better. I've just glanced at 'Epistemology and Metaphysics' and we've still got Williams' inferential contextualism to look forward to.