Ethics without Morals
In Defence of Amorality
By Joel Marks
Routledge – 2013 – 134 pages
In this volume, Marks offers a defense of amorality as both philosophically justified and practicably livable. In so doing, the book marks a radical departure from both the new atheism and the mainstream of modern ethical philosophy. While in synch with their underlying aim of grounding human existence in a naturalistic metaphysics, the book takes both to task for maintaining a complacent embrace of morality. Marks advocates wiping the slate clean of outdated connotations by replacing the language of morality with a language of desire.
The book begins with an analysis of what morality is and then argues that the concept is not instantiated in reality. Following this, the question of belief in morality is addressed: How would human life be affected if we accepted that morality does not exist? Marks argues that at the very least, a moralist would have little to complain about in an amoral world, and at best we might hope for a world that was more to our liking overall. An extended look at the human encounter with nonhuman animals serves as an illustration of amorality’s potential to make both theoretical and practical headway in resolving heretofore intractable ethical problems.
'In clear, plainspoken, engaging prose, Joel Marks presents the case for abandoning belief in morality. Anyone who wants to defend the practice of making moral judgments will have to confront the issues Marks raises, and the alternative to morality he proposes.' – Mitchell Silver, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA
'Sitting down with Marks over a few cups of coffee and two afternoons was an enjoyable experience that provoked a lot of philosophical thought. It was an experience that had the virtues that conversations with interesting philosophers can have. And that is something to be said for the book.' – Timothy Schroeder, Ohio State University in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
'Ethics without Morals is not written in academic jargon and is quite accessible – indeed, it is a pleasure to read. Furthermore, it raises an important issue: Why do so many people who have been prepared to reject claims about the existence of a god […] hold on to the idea of an objective morality, a notion that seems scarcely coherent? […Marks's] book is a significant and useful contribution to a very important debate.' – Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle, Australia in Free Inquiry
"Joel Marks's work is both a deeply personal and public book: deeply personal insofar as it recounts Marks's conversion to a new philosophical outlook and adoption of a new ethical disposition; public insofar as Marks seeks to make a substantial contribution not just to ethical thought, but to public discourse about common issues of pressing concern, such as the (in)human treatment of animals." -Steven Johnston, University of Utah in Public Integrity
"I would definitely recommend this book to others. It generates discussion and reflection. The book would be fantastic to get those not familiar with ethical theory or metaethics thinking deeply about the foundations of ethics and understanding what a nihilistic view might amount to." - James McBain, Pittsburg State University, USA, in Teaching Philosophy
1. What Is Morality? 2. Does Morality Exist? 3. Would Amorality Be Viable? 4. Might Amorality Be Preferable? 5. Is Amorality Just Another Way of Being Moral? 6. How Shall We Treat Other Animals? A Case Study in Applied Amorality 7. What Is Ethics?
Joel Marks is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New Haven, USA and a Bioethics Center Scholar at Yale University, USA.