Works Righteousness: Material Practice in Ethical Theory

ISBN : 9780197532232

Anna L. Peterson
264 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2020
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In Works Righteousness, Anna L. Peterson examines the place of practice in contemporary ethical theory. Peterson argues that rather than assuming that pre-established moral ideas guide action, ethicists should acknowledge and explore the relationship between ideas, actions, and results. Both an analysis of alternative models in which practice plays a stronger role and an argument for taking practice more seriously in broad questions of ethics as well as in concrete case studies, Works Righteousness contends that what we do generates and alters our values, just as often as expressed values motivate or guide the ways we act. Peterson here challenges prevailing philosophical and religious theories that ideas are what truly matter, underlining the value of attention to people's concrete experiences and highlighting the relevance of theoretical insights to contemporary social issues such as climate change, euthanasia, and hate speech. Through examinations of pragmatism, Marxism, and religious pacifism, all of which significantly highlight a practice-focused approach, Works Righteousness addresses the way social structures condition moral ideas and actions, the dangers of thinking about moral problems as polarized dilemmas, and the complex mutual shaping of ideas and actions.


1. Introduction: Ethical Theory and Practice
2. It's the Thought that Counts: The Triumph of the Will in Western Ethical Theory
3. The Embodied Good in Virtue, Catholic, and Feminist Ethics
4. The Path of Inquiry: Pragmatism and Ethics
5. Material Practice and Morality in Marx and the Marxist Tradition
6. Religious Pacifism: Peace as Means and End
7. The Lives that Matter: Racism, Free Speech, and the Moral Dilemmas of Richard Spencer
8. Euthanasia, Human and Other
9. Ideas, Practices, and Climate Change
10. Conclusion: Thinking In and Through Practice

About the author: 

Anna L. Peterson is a professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Florida. She received her AB from the University of California at Berkeley and her PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her research and teaching interests include social and environmental ethics, animal studies, and religion and social change.

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