Morality is often thought of as non-rational or sub-rational. In Moral Notions, first published in 1967, Julius Kovesi argues that the rationality of morality is built into the way we construct moral concepts. In showing this he also resolves the old Humean conundrum of the relation between facts and values. And he puts forward a method of reasoning that might make ‘applied ethics’ (at present largely a hodge-podge of opinions) into a constructive discipline. Kovesi’s general theory of concepts important in its own right is indebted to his interpretation of Plato, and his three papers on Plato, first published here, explain this debt. This new edition of Moral Notions also includes a foreword by Philippa Foot, a biography of the author, and an illuminating afterword in which the editors, Robert Ewin and Alan Tapper, explain the significance of Kovesi’s work.
Moral Notions is a minor classic of moral philosophy that has not yet received its due. Alasdair MacIntyre
This is a thoroughly disturbing book, and should lead to some agonising reappraisals. Moral philosophy courses are due for a new look; Kovesi’s challenge is timely, and there is material here for several dozen prolific seminars. Bernard Mayo, Mind, 1969
Moral Notions is an original and thought-provoking book which I read again with real pleasure. Philippa Foot
Julius Kovesi first studied philosophy in his native Hungary, but he escaped to the West when the Soviet system took control of the country. After migrating to Australia and learning English, he studied with J.L. Austin at Oxford, where he also co-edited the satirical journal Why? He taught philosophy for nearly 30 years at the University of Western Australia, where generations of students encountered his wide-ranging intellectual interests, his remarkable capacity for puzzlement, and his adroitness with ideas and arguments of all sorts. He died in1989.
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