Morality's Muddy Waters

Morality's Muddy Waters

Ethical Quandaries in Modern America

Book - 2010
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In the face of an uncertain and dangerous world, Americans yearn for a firm moral compass, a clear set of ethical guidelines. But as history shows, by reducing complex situations to simple cases of right or wrong we often go astray.

In Morality's Muddy Waters , historian George Cotkin offers a clarion call on behalf of moral complexity. Revisiting several defining moments in the twentieth century--the American bombing of civilians during World War II, the My Lai massacre, racism in the South, capital punishment, the invasion of Iraq--Cotkin chronicles how historical figures have grappled with the problem of evil and moral responsibility--sometimes successfully, oftentimes not. In the process, he offers a wide-ranging tour of modern American history.

Taken together, Cotkin maintains, these episodes reveal that the central concepts of morality--evil, empathy, and virtue--are both necessary and troubling. Without empathy, for example, we fail to inhabit the world of others; with it, we sometimes elevate individual suffering over political complexities. For Cotkin, close historical analysis may help reenergize these concepts for ethical thinking and acting. Morality's Muddy Waters argues for a moral turn in the way we study and think about history, maintaining that even when answers to ethical dilemmas prove elusive, the act of grappling with them is invaluable.

Publisher: Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2010
ISBN: 9780812242270
0812242270
Branch Call Number: 973.91 COTKIN
Characteristics: 262 p. ; 24 cm

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