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Enjoyment proceeds by the detailed examination of particular cases, shows how this kind of reflection can be reasonably conducted, and how the quest for universality and impartiality is misguided in this context. Central to the argument is a practical, particular, pluralistic, and yet objective conception of reason that rejects the pervasive contemporary tendency to regard reasons as good only if they are binding on all who aspire to live reasonably and morally.


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Reason in morality is neither theoretical nor general. Reasons for living and acting in particular ways are individually variable and none the worse for that.

Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life by John Kekes, Paperback | Barnes & NobleĀ®

Kekes aims to reorient moral thought from deontological, contractarian, and consequentialist preoccupations toward a reasonable but pluralistic reflection on what individuals can do to make their lives better. In the hands of an able philosopher, even the simplest assertion can sometimes be shown to conceal surprising and counterintuitive implications. A famous example is the claim that if you are justified in believing something true, then you know it. In the last century, philosophers showed this claim to have deeply counterintuitive implications.

And Kekes's thesis does have the capacity to surprise.

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When Kekes speaks of a "good life" he has in mind a morally good life. Thus Kekes's thesis implies for example that someone who always does the morally right thing, but never enjoys his life, does have a morally good life. Those familiar with a little philosophy will know that this implication is incompatible with the standard reading of Kant, according to which we are at our moral best when we do our moral duty without taking any enjoyment in it. Kekes considers Kant to be one of his opponents.

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The first part of the book is an explication of Kekes's conception of enjoyment. The notion of a "style of life" is important here.

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Styles life can be "admirable" if they contribute to the enjoyment of life or "deficient" if they make one's life miserable. To have an admirable style of life, one should at least have a "coherent" attitude to life -- that is, one's beliefs, attitudes, and motives ought to be in a state of "overlap. A style of life should also be "realistic" and "durable. The "personal evaluation" of one's style of life is crucial; crucial, too, is that one's actions usually but not necessarily always "reflect" one's style of life.

And conditions over which one has no control can hinder the enjoyment of one's life: a natural disaster can make one's life miserable no matter how admirable one's style of life is. Kekes stresses that, in his analysis, the enjoyment of life is specific to each individual; there is no single formula, or list of rules, that can be used to precisely determine what is required for the enjoyment of any one person's life. This is in very rough outline what enjoyment is, for Kekes.

The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Enjoyment proceeds by the detailed examination of particular cases, shows how this kind of reflection can be reasonably conducted, and how the quest for universality and impartiality is misguided in this context. Central to the argument is a practical, particular, pluralistic, and yet objective conception of reason that rejects the pervasive contemporary tendency to regard reasons as good only if they are binding on all who aspire to live reasonably and morally.

Reason in morality is neither theoretical nor general. Reasons for living and acting in particular ways are individually variable and none the worse for that.

Enjoyment: The Moral Significance of Styles of Life

Kekes aims to reorient moral thought from deontological, contractarian, and consequentialist preoccupations toward a reasonable but pluralistic reflection on what individuals can do to make their lives better. Receive regular news and offers from the London Review Bookshop. You asked, again and again and again , and we listened: now you can buy official London Review of Books and London Review Bookshop products online, shipped anywhere in the world.