Morality and Agency: Themes from Bernard Williams

Published 18 August 2022
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Morality and Agency: Themes from Bernard Williams
Edited by Andr√°s Szigeti and Matthew Talbert 
ISBN 9780197626566
Bernard Williams (1929-2003) was one of the great philosophical figures of the second half of the 20th century and remains deeply influential. This edited volume brings together new articles from prominent scholars that focus on the innovative ideas and methods that Williams developed as part of his distinctive outlook in ethics.

The chapters in the first section examine Williams's attempts to explore theoretical options beyond the confines of what he called the morality system. The contributors show how, through a critical confrontation with this system, Williams found new ways to think about moral obligation, morally relevant emotions such as shame, the relevance of the history of philosophy, and also how these new ways of thinking are linked to Williams's novel metaethical ideas concerning the possibility and limits of moral knowledge.

In the second section, contributors explore Williams's discussions of freedom and responsibility, the role of luck in our moral lives, and the reasons that agents can be said to have. Williams's concerns about the morality system still loom large here. For example, Williams was skeptical about the prospects of putting our responsibility practices, and the conception of free will with which they are associated, on a firm footing. But as more than one contributor shows, Williams's skepticism is largely confined to conceptions of free will and responsibility that are conditioned by the morality system's uneasiness with luck. Williams has a more vindicatory story to tell about the prospects for freedom and responsibility once these concepts have been untethered from the assumptions of this system.

With a cast of well known contributors, and an introduction by the editors placing Williams's work in broad context, this volume should appeal to a wide range of ethicists and moral philosophers.

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