“The best book in ethics in the last two hundred years”

Brian Leiter is running this interesting poll.

Let me add this probably very obvious point:  people who feel outsiders to the profession may be less inclined to participate in something like this poll, but it is important that women’s preferences shape the results too.  That said, of course the candidates, of whom only two are women, reflect the absence of women from the field and/or its canon..

15 thoughts on ““The best book in ethics in the last two hundred years”

  1. I did not see a single title concerning the Ethics of Care. Carol Gilligan’s “In a Different Voice”, Virginia Held’s work, Annette Baier’s work, to name a few, are all arguably very important as well.

  2. All those women are alive, ram adrian. :-) The poll stipulated only dead ‘uns.

    I found that poll playing havoc with my mind, since he asked for ‘best or most important,’ and I basically found myself alternating rankings between influential books and books that I consider best but not influential. I think Schopenhauer outdoes Rawls in fundamental ethical theory, but there are few dimensions on which Schopenhauer was more formative of conversations in ethics. Hm. So as a result, my rankings continually zig-zagged between the best and the most important to, e.g., future philosophical debates.

  3. As far as I know, Gilligan, Held, and Baier are all living. So their work does not qualify for the poll.

  4. I’m sorry; I should have repeated the qualification. Still, one might have thought of Murdoch or Beauvoir.

  5. I’d include Hannah on my personal list of crucial authors, but she herself would have rejected the notion that she wrote a work in philosophical ethics.

  6. Why no John Dewey? “Human Nature and Conduct”, Dewey and Tufts, “Ethics”

  7. It would have been nice to see Sarah Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking on the list (if one is careful with one’s counterfactual conditions, that is).

  8. Why oh why do we have to rank order everything in the US? even works in ethics?

  9. It’s sad that this book should be eligible so soon, but Susan Hurley’s Natural Reasons deserves serious consideration. Lots of really brilliant and original thoughts, and infused with an exploratory spirit that I found really inspiring when I read it as a grad student. It’s definitely in *my personal* top 10 of all time, any area of philosophy.

  10. Donna: Cuz it’s a good procrastination technique? Perhaps people in other countries have a better work ethic :-/

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