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Perspectives from anthropology and history

This book examines the importance of rules for many of the world’s great moral traditions. Ethical systems characterised by detailed rules – Islamic sharia and Christian casuistry are notable examples – have often been dismissed as empty formalism or as the instrument of social control. This book demonstrates, on the contrary, that rules often enable, rather than hinder, personal ethical life. Here anthropologists and historians explore cases of rule-oriented ethics and their dynamics across a wide range of historical and contemporary moral traditions. Examples of pre-modern Hindu ethics, codes of civility from early modern England and medieval Christian casuistry demonstrate how rules can form an essential element of what Michel Foucault called ‘the care of the self’. Studies of Roman exemplary ethics, early modern Christian theology and the calculation of sin and merit in contemporary Muslim Palestine highlight the challenges posed by the coexistence of moral rules with other moral forms, not least those of virtue ethics. Finally, explorations of medieval and modern Islamic sharia, Christian moral theology and Jewish halakhah all highlight how such traditions develop complex meta-rules – rules about rules – for managing the tensions and dilemmas that the use of rules can entail. Together, these case studies and the theoretical framework proposed in the book’s Introduction offer a more nuanced, cross-cultural appreciation of the role of rules in moral life than those currently prevalent in both the anthropology of ethics and the history of morality.

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Empire, mutability, and moral philosophy in early modernity
Author: Andrew Wadoski

At the heart of Edmund Spenser’s moral allegory in The Faerie Queene is a problem that would become central to English intellectual life well into the modern era: understanding colonialism, and the coercive violence on which it depends, as a form of moral activity. Spenser’s ethics reads Spenser as a moral theorist whose ethics are significantly shaped by his experiences as a colonial administrator in Elizabethan Ireland. It illustrates how both his poetry and prose take up key shifts in early modern moral philosophy, while addressing the political project of colonial empire-building. This book is an essential study of Spenser as an ethicist grappling, on the one hand, with the decline and transformation of the classical and humanist virtue ethics tradition in the late sixteenth century, and on the other, with imagining new paradigms of heroic subjectivity for the early modern, imperial nation. It examines the ways Spenser draws on and reworks the Western ethical tradition during a period of tremendous cultural upheaval and political transformation, and illuminates that philosophical tradition’s evolution alongside early modern England’s wider political and economic transformation into a global nation-state built on the foundations of colonial expansion. Emphasizing the conceptual rigor, clarity, and coherence of Spenser’s moral vision, it depicts Spenser as a literary ethicist rigorously committed to discovering a politically and metaphysically viable account of moral life in an era that starkly reveals the ancient virtues’ conceptual and practical limitations.

Matthew Hunt, Sharon O’Brien, Patrick Cadwell, and Dónal P. O’Mathúna

. , Parra Escartín , C. , Roche , P. and Marlowe , J. ( forthcoming ), ‘ Engaging Citizen Translators in Disasters: Virtue Ethics in Response to Ethical Challenges ’, Translation and Interpreting Studies , 15 ( 1 ). Peled , Y. ( 2018

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
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Rules and ethics
Morgan Clarke and Emily

A ‘turn to ethics’ has been seen across the contemporary academic landscape (Garber et al. 2000 ). Within social and cultural anthropology, a wave of recent writing has sought to explore ethics and morality as a distinct but essential part of the human experience. In so doing, it has been inspired by a range of conceptual approaches, most prominently (but not exclusively) the later writings of Michel Foucault on ‘the care of the self’ and the neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics of Alasdair MacIntyre (e

in Rules and ethics
Roman exemplary ethics
Rebecca Langlands

Rebecca Langlands Roman exemplary ethics was an exemplar-based morality, associated with virtue ethics, and generating implicit injunctions for individuals to cultivate particular moral values and avoid others. 2 Yet it was not distinct from a rule-based morality. 3 First, the exempla tend to imply moral imperatives similar to the ‘v-rules’ identified by Rosalind Hursthouse as generated by the virtues and vices in virtue ethics (such as ‘be brave’, ‘don’t be rash’), which are

in Rules and ethics
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An alternative virtue for a fallen world
Andrew Wadoski

Areopagitica ’s arguments about the respect of individual reasons, Milton’s recollection of Guyon’s journey through the ‘bower earthly of bliss’ pits Spenser’s poetry against the virtue ethics tradition writ large, ‘daringly’ offering up Spenser as a ‘better teacher than’ those paradigms of medieval Aristotelian moral philosophy, ‘Scotus or Aquinas’. The tensions that Milton

in Spenser’s ethics
Mark Olssen

limited relevance of virtue ethics. The care of the self, ethics, and democracy: considering Ella Myers’s ‘worldly ethics’ Ella Myers challenges whether Foucault’s writings on the care of the self can constitute the basis for a renewed ethics. Myers argues, extending from her concern that Foucault’s approach is relativistic, that it inadequately links individual character to social structure or politics. As she puts it, ‘unless the self’s reflexive relationship to itself is driven from the start by a concern for a worldly problem, there is no reason to believe that

in Constructing Foucault’s ethics
The First Commandment and sacramental confession in early modern Catholic Europe
Nicole Reinhardt

Aristotelian understanding of virtue ethics (Sweeney 2012 ). Aquinas discussed the Decalogue and its difficulties twice in the Summa theologiae ( prima secundae ): first under the different types of law in qq. 90–7, and again more prominently in q. 100, dedicated to its understanding as an expression of the Law of Moses (R. B. Smith 2013 ). Shortly before his death in 1273, Aquinas devoted a series of vernacular Lenten homilies (Aquinas 2000 ) specifically to the Ten Commandments. They are indicative of the growing

in Rules and ethics
Virtuous discipline in the mutable world
Andrew Wadoski

expansion. While the narrative logic of this legend certainly invites readers to jump through through ornate interpretive and philological hoops to preserve the poem’s basic commitments to an Aristotelian account of temperance, this final scene of Book II places us far, indeed, from virtue ethics’ basic assumptions about both moral action and the good life. What, then, does it mean to be ‘safe and sound

in Spenser’s ethics
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Emptying the virtuous middle in Elizabethan Ireland

classical virtue ethics at the threshold of early modernity. I thus challenge accounts of Spenser as a revanchist champion of an exhausted humanist tradition, or as someone whose frustrations with contemporary political life make him increasingly disenchanted with, even alienated from, the project of moral instruction. Rather, I depict a literary ethicist rigorously committed to discovering a politically

in Spenser’s ethics