The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge

willardI spied this soon to be released volume of Willard’s just today: The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge. I’m a big fan of Willard’s. I don’t mind forking over hard-earned cash to get an exceptional volume, but at $152.00 (I’m not linking to the Amazon page – Why?), I’ll have to admire this book from the very distant margins of those who haven’t read it and can only suppose it’s exceptional rather than from within its pages. Happily, links to Willard’s lectures given under the same title can be found here.

Besides wondering what artistic competence is left among the cover-design folk at Routledge (one might guess based on this design that the title would better be The Disappearance of Design Sense), I did have a reaction to the summary that’s found on Amazon:

Based on an unfinished manuscript by the late philosopher Dallas Willard, this book makes the case that the 20th century saw a massive shift in Western beliefs and attitudes concerning the possibility of moral knowledge, such that knowledge of the moral life and of its conduct is no longer routinely available from the social institutions long thought to be responsible for it. In this sense, moral knowledge―as a publicly available resource for living―has disappeared. Via a detailed survey of main developments in ethical theory from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries, Willard explains philosophy’s role in this shift. In pointing out the shortcomings of these developments, he shows that the shift was not the result of rational argument or discovery, but largely of arational social forces―in other words, there was no good reason for moral knowledge to have disappeared. The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge is a unique contribution to the literature on the history of ethics and social morality. Its review of historical work on moral knowledge covers a wide range of thinkers including T.H Green, G.E Moore, Charles L. Stevenson, John Rawls, and Alasdair MacIntyre. But, most importantly, it concludes with a novel proposal for how we might reclaim moral knowledge that is inspired by the phenomenological approach of Knud Logstrup and Emmanuel Levinas….

My reaction: Emmanuel Levinas? Noooooooo!