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Professor Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn puts forward a compelling original philosophy of human motivation and morality. He maintains that we cannot get clear about ethics until we get clear about human nature. So these are the sorts of questions he addresses: Why do we behave as we do? Can we improve? Is our ethics at war with our passions, or is it an upshot of those passions? Blackburn seeks the answers in an exploration of guilt, shame, disgust, and other moral emotions; he draws also on game theory and cognitive science in his account of the structures of human motivation.

Many philosophers have wanted a naturalistic ethics a theory that integrates our understanding of human morality with the rest of our understanding of the world we live in. What is special about Blackburn's naturalistic ethics is that it does not debunk the ethical by reducing it to the non-ethical. At the same time he banishes the spectres of scepticism and relativism that have haunted recent moral philosophy. Ruling Passions sets ethics in the context of human nature: it offers a solution to the puzzle of how ethics can maintain its authority even though it is rooted in the very emotions and motivations that it exists to control.


  • The long-awaited paperback edition of a theory of ethics from a leading contemporary philosopher
  • Blackburn is the author of the best-selling Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and Think
  • He has become one of the foremost exponents of philosophy to the general public
  • More humane and positive than most contemporary philosophy
  • Written in his characteristic witty, trenchant style
  • Draws on game theory and cognitive science to illuminate ethics

Price: £18.99 (Paperback)


Publication date: November 2000