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Conversations on Ethics Hardcover – 22 Oct 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (22 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199215375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199215379
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 2.3 x 14.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 966,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


The dialogue is always insightful. The interviewees turn out to be genuine philosophers, diligent and enormously intelligent but nonetheless struggling and fallible. The value of Voorhoeve's book is that it shows how great minds come to their ideas and come to disagree on fundamental issues... I can recommend it to anyone who wants to delve deeper into ethics. (Bart Engelen, Ethical Perspectives)

[A] beautifully produced collection... A pleasure to read as well as philosophically valuable. Overall, it is an excellent book, providing something different, involving and very welcome. (Hugh Upton, Philosophical Investigations)

Voorhoeve has a real gift for detecting the vulnerable parts in any thinker's argumentation and exposing them in a manner that forces the philosopher to produce a more comprehensive account of her or his views... [A]n excellent illustration of the two desiderata that have inspired philosophical inquiry since the time of Socrates... a special ability for critical thinking [and] a demand for honesty and authenticity. (Cristian Iftode, Public Reason)

Voorhoeve succeeds in making the conversations accessible to and even potentially thrilling for the non specialist... [He] excels in many conversations at probing the ideas of his interlocutor... All in all, a great contribution to the field, which will not only prove of interest to the student of ethics but also to the novice and the historian. (Francois Claveau, Ethics & Economics)

Alex Voorhoeve's intellectually stimulating and highly entertaining collection of interviews serves as a perfect introduction to the thoughts of several important contemporary moral philosophers... Professional philosophers will also find the interviews rewarding, since Voorhoeve has a knack for teasing out revealing answers. His probing questions often bring our the weakest or most revealing parts of the interviewed philosophers' views... Exciting. (Krister Bykvist, The Philosophers' Magazine)

A delight, both in conception and in execution. Voorhoeve's engagement with each thinker is informed, precise, clear, and insightful. Each interview is a pleasure to read. I can highly recommend Conversations on Ethics as worthwhile for anyone interested in ethics. (Lauren Tillinghast, Philosophical Practice)

A superb collection of interviews with leading figures in moral philosophy: Voorhoeve deftly limns the broad outlines of their thought and paints a physical picture of the setting, before interrogating his subjects' theories... There are dramatic moments, too, when an interlocutor turns the tables and begins to question the interviewer, who scrupulously records his own pauses and concessions... [A]n exemplary demonstration of philosophical discussion in action. (Steven Poole's Non-Fiction Choice, The Guardian)

The book is both richly instructive and delightful to read. Voorhoeve has a sophisticated command of his interlocutors' philosophical views, and his questions often hit the nail on the head. He has the talent to ask difficult questions in a welcoming way, setting the stage for his interviewees to explain their positions as clearly as they can. For the reader interested in moral theory this is a true asset, since Voorhoeve managed to assemble quite a few of the figures that have shaped the face of moral philosophy in the past generation to discuss fundamentals of their moral views... [It] provides the most valuable insights on the nature of ethics. (Shlomo Cohen, Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly)

Voorhoeve probes positions in a precise and clear way... The conversational form is refreshing when compared with other textual forms, like the monograph... It provides readers not only with an outline of each interviewee's position, but also offers a personal impression of each thinker... Exciting for anyone who wants to embed questions in applied ethics in a larger anthropological-philosophical context. (Uta Bittner, Zeitschrift fuer medizinische Ethik)

I have rarely enjoyed a philosophy book as much. Voorhoeve's bold effort really works. He cunningly brings ethical theory to life through insightful conversations with key philosophers and scientists. Not only do the issues come alive, but the participants do as well. Don't miss the chance to eavesdrop on these conversations. (Norman Daniels, Harvard University)

This volume is an extraordinarily rich resource. Alex Voorhoeve has interviewed many of the most interesting and influential recent thinkers on ethical topics, expertly focusing on their core positions and arguments in a series of insightful philosophical dialogues. In doing so he has produced not only a comprehensive introduction to contemporary ethical thought, but also a real sense of the human beings behind the writings. (Jonathan Wolff, University College London)

In the introduction to his first interview, Voorhoeve cites Nietzsche's dictum that all great problems demand great love... Nietzsche was a hard man to please. But he would have felt some satisfaction had he encountered Voorhoeve's eleven interviews. His philosophers are passionate devotees of their own moral systems. They fight for their theories, defending them ferociously and lovingly... Each of them argues his or her case convincingly. Almost always, one falls in with their reasoning - at least, this is what happened to me. But, of course, this leads to inconsistency. For the difference in their views is far too great. This is bewildering, and teaches us a good lesson: not to be unmovable in one's attachments to one's moral views... As the book progresses, Voorhoeve shows how difficult moral calculation and justification of one's views to others is... Puzzling and fascinating. (Jan Greven, Trouw)

About the Author

Alex Voorhoeve is Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the London School of Economics. In 2008-9 he was a Fellow at Harvard University's Centre for Ethics. He has written on ideals of equality and responsibility, on well-being, and on the theory of rational choice. His articles have appeared in Philosophy & Public Affairs, Economics and Philosophy, and The Journal of Political Philosophy, among others.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Each chapter is the report of an interview with a major philosopher and, thanks to the interviewer's well chosen questions and comments, the reports are interesting and illuminating. A huge bonus for the beginner in philosophy are footnotes explaining technical concepts and excellent guidance at the end of each chapter on sources of the material covered. I think the book should be on the core reading list of every philosophy student.
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Format: Paperback
The philosophers and scientists interviewed in this book really are at the top of their game: extremely bright, rigorous, and each arguing for very different values and explanations of our moral judgements.

What I found extraordinary in this book (and I'm a philosophy Masters student now)is how Voorhoeve has forced them - just so subtly and respectively - to state their arguments in clear, succinct language. Some of the interviews 'enact' whole sections of their major works, with the twists and turns of debate from different angles.

This is the best entry into serious moral philosophy (ethics, meta-ethics, moral methodlogy, moral psychology) I have come across yet. And while it's an introduction at one level, I've found it indispensable for pinning down some of the interviewees when grappling with their papers.

Voorhoeve's done an impressive job. I agree with the other reviewee who asks for more. More thinkers, more doorways! PLEASE!!!
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