When speaking of society’s role in ethics, one tends to think of society as regimenting people through its customs. Ethics and Social Survival rejects theories that treat ethics as having justification within itself and contends that ethics can have a grip on humans only if it serves their deep-seated need to live together. It takes a social-survival view of ethical life and its norms by arguing that ethics looks to society not for regimentation by customs, but rather for the viability of society. Fisk traces this theme through the work of various philosophers and builds a consideration of social divisions to show how rationalists fail to realize their aim of justifying ethical norms across divisions. The book also explores the relation of power and authority to ethics—without simply dismissing them as impediments—and explains how personal values such as honesty, modesty, and self-esteem still retain ethical importance. Finally, it shows that basing ethics on avoiding social collapse helps support familiar norms of liberty, justice, and democracy, and strives to connect global and local ethics.
"Fisk's approach is thought-provoking and challenging, especially for many schools of contemporary ethics. Anyone interested in contemporary ethics, and its relation to political activism, will find much to ponder in this very readable book." —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Milton Fisk explores one of the core questions of ethics in this important book: why be moral? This question is fundamentally connected to the long term stability of a well-ordered society. Fisk makes a valuable contribution in his sustained argument for social viability as the driving reason to be moral." —Dale T. Snauwaert, University of Toledo, USA
"Fisk offers an intriguing account of the necessity and actuality of ethics. He takes into account the modern ambivalence about ethical norms prompted by cultural diversity and change, not to mention conflict and questions of power, and yet he offers a constructive conceptualization of the universality and validity proper to ethical life. This book should awaken new debates by philosophers interested in ethics, but it also raises themes of major concern to those thinking about politics." —Richard Peterson, Michigan State University, USA
Preface: Why be ethical? Part I: Basics 1. Social Viability as the Goal of Ethical Life 2. The Role of Emotions in Ethical Life 3. Power in Ethical Life 4. Social and Personal Ethics 5. Conflicts and Universals Part II: Alternatives 6. Ethics: Religious and Secular 7. Freedom in Liberal Ethics 8. The Place of Reasons and Authority 9. Our Democratic Modernity 10. Social Change and Ethical Transcendence Part III: Extensions 11. Market Values in Ethical Life 12. Common Goods in Ethical Life 13. Practical Ethics: Public Goods and Cooperation 14. Justice as Balancing 15. Local and Global Ethics