cover of book

Wise Choices, Apt Feelings: A Theory of Normative Judgment
by Allan Gibbard
Harvard University Press, 1992
Cloth: 978-0-674-95377-2 | Paper: 978-0-674-95378-9 | eISBN: 978-0-674-26376-5
Library of Congress Classification BJ1012.G53 1990
Dewey Decimal Classification 170.42


This book examines some of the deepest questions in philosophy: What is involved in judging a belief, action, or feeling to be rational? What place does morality have in the kind of life it makes most sense to lead? How are we to understand claims to objectivity in moral judgments and in judgments of rationality? When we find ourselves in fundamental disagreement with whole communities, how can we understand our disagreement and cope with it?

To shed light on such issues, Allan Gibbard develops what he calls a “norm-expressivistic analysis” of rationality. He refines this analysis by drawing on evolutionary theory and experimental psychology, as well as on more traditional moral and political philosophy. What emerges is an interpretation of human normative life, with its quandaries and disputes over what is rational and irrational, morally right and morally wrong. Judgments of what it makes sense to do, to think, and to feel, Gibbard argues, are central to shaping the way we live our lives.

Gibbard does not hesitate to take up a wide variety of possible difficulties for his analysis. This sensitivity to the true complexity of the subject matter gives his treatment a special richness and depth. The fundamental importance of the issues he addresses and the freshness and suggestiveness of the account he puts forward, along with his illuminating treatment of aspects of sociobiology theory, will ensure this book a warm reception from philosophers, social scientists, and others with a serious interest in the nature of human thought and action.

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