The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

ISBN : 9780199357741

William Damon; Anne Colby
240 Pages
162 x 242 mm
Pub date
May 2015
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Cynicism often seems a smarter choice than idealism, and there are seemingly good reasons for this. Politicians have disappointed us time and again, trusted institutions have proven silf-serving and corrupt, and social inequities persist and increase, unabated by even the grandest of charitable efforts. Moreover, trends in contemporrary moral psychology support this bleak view of the human condition. Famous studies have shown that we have an almost unlimited potential for cruelty when placed in the wrong situations. Other studies imply that our moral responses are dictated by inborn biological intuitions, or that people do little more than act out conventional cultural scripts when confronted with moral chices. The Power of Ideals presents a different vision, supported by a different kind of evidence. It examines the lives and work of six 20th century moral leaders who pursued moral causes ranging from world peace to social justice and human rights. Using these six cases to illustrate how people can make choices guided by their moral convictions, rather than by base emotion or social pressures, authors William Damon and Anne Colby explore the workings of three virtues: inner truthfulness, humility, and faith. Through their portrayal of the noble lives of moral leaders, the authors argue that everyone -including those of us with ordinary lives - can exercise control over important life decisions and pursue ideals that inspire us. The Power of Ideals offers a hopeful and much-needed vision for moral progress in the worl. This message flies in the face of contemporary thought in moral psychology, much of which has drawn mainstream media coverage in recent years. But the more accurate, constructive, and inspiring view in The Power of Ideals provides a sound basis for helping all people achieve their moral potentials. The Power of Ideals offers a needed and hopeful vision for personal well-being, for rebuilding trust among disillusioned citizens, for the flourishing of democracy, and for moral progress in the world.


Chapter 1: Wrong Turns in the New Science of Morality
Chapter 2: The Active, Ideal-Seeking, Motivated Moral Self
Chapter 3: Towards A Moral Psychology in Full
Chapter 4: Truthfulness
Chapter 5: Humility
Chapter 6: Faith
Chapter 7: The Universal Search for Moral Truth

About the author: 

William Damon is Professor of Education and Director of the Center on Adolescence at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. He is the author of eighteen books, including Greater Expectations, which won the Parent's Choice Book Award. Damon's reserach has been covered in many national publications, including the Boston Globe, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.; Anne Colby is Consulting Professor at Stanford University. Previously, she was director of the Henry Murray Research Center at Harvard University and Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Colby is the recipient of the Kuhmerker Award from the Association of Moral Education for life-time achievement in the fieldof moral development, and is an author of nine books, including Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education which won the Frederick W. Ness Book Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Her research has been covered in national publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, and the Wall Strees Journal.

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