Fieldwork in Familiar Places

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2002-05-31
Publisher(s): Harvard Univ Pr
List Price: $33.50

Buy New

Usually Ships in 8 - 10 Business Days.

Buy Used

Usually Ships in 24-48 Hours

Rent Textbook

Select for Price
There was a problem. Please try again later.


We're Sorry
Not Available

This item is being sold by an Individual Seller and will not ship from the Online Bookstore's warehouse. The Seller must confirm the order within two business days. If the Seller refuses to sell or fails to confirm within this time frame, then the order is cancelled.

Please be sure to read the Description offered by the Seller.


The persistence of deep moral disagreements--across cultures as well as within them--has created widespread skepticism about the objectivity of morality. Moral relativism, moral pessimism, and the denigration of ethics in comparison with science are the results. Fieldwork in Familiar Places challenges the misconceptions about morality, culture, and objectivity that support these skepticisms, to show that we can take moral disagreement seriously and yet retain our aspirations for moral objectivity. Michele Moody-Adams critically scrutinizes the anthropological evidence commonly used to support moral relativism. Drawing on extensive knowledge of the relevant anthropological literature, she dismantles the mystical conceptions of "culture" that underwrite relativism. She demonstrates that cultures are not hermetically sealed from each other, but are rather the product of eclectic mixtures and borrowings rich with contradictions and possibilities for change. The internal complexity of cultures is not only crucial for cultural survival, but will always thwart relativist efforts to confine moral judgments to a single culture. Fieldwork in Familiar Places will forever change the way we think about relativism: anthropologists, psychologists, historians, and philosophers alike will be forced to reconsider many of their theoretical presuppositions. Moody-Adams also challenges the notion that ethics is methodologically deficient because it does not meet standards set by natural science. She contends that ethics is an interpretive enterprise, not a failed naturalistic one: genuine ethical inquiry, including philosophical ethics, is a species of interpretive ethnography. We have reason for moral optimism, Moody-Adams argues. Even the most serious moral disagreements take place against a background of moral agreement, and thus genuine ethical inquiry will be fieldwork in familiar places. Philosophers can contribute to this enterprise, she believes, if they return to a Socratic conception of themselves as members of a rich and complex community of moral inquirers.

Author Biography

Michele M. Moody-Adams is Director of the Cornell Program on Ethics and Public Life and Hutchinson Professor of Ethics and Public Life

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1(12)
Taking Disagreement Seriously
Mapping the Relativist Domain
Relativism, Ethnocentrism, and the Decline of Moral Confidence
The Empirical Underdetermination of Descriptive Cultural Relativism
Cultural Authority, Cultural Complexity, and the Doctrine of Cultural Integration
The Perspicuous ``Other'': Relativism ``Grown Tame and Sleek''
The Use and Abuse of History
History, Ethnography, and the Blurring of Cultural Boundaries
Relativism as a ``Kind of Historiography''?
Moral Debate, Conceptual Space, and the Relativism of Distance
Plus ca change...: The Myths of Moral Invention and Discovery
Morality and Its Discontents
On the Supposed Inevitability of Rationally Irresolvable Moral Conflict
Pluralism, Conflict, and Choice
On the Alleged Methodological Infirmity of Moral Inquiry
Does Pessimism about Moral Conflict Rest on a Mistake?
Moral Inquiry and the Moral Life
Moral Inquiry as an Interpretive Enterprise
The Interpretive Turn and the Challenge of ``Anti-Theory''
A Pyrrhic Victory?
Objectivity and the Aspirations of Moral Inquiry
Morality and Culture through Thick and Thin
The Need for Thick Descriptions of Moral Inquiry
Moral Conflict, Moral Confidence, and Moral Openness toward the Future
Critical Pluralism, Cultural Difference, and the Boundaries of Cross-Cultural Respect
The Strange Career of ``Culture''
Epilogue 222(3)
Notes 225(15)
Works Cited 240(15)
Index 255

An electronic version of this book is available through VitalSource.

This book is viewable on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and most smartphones.

By purchasing, you will be able to view this book online, as well as download it, for the chosen number of days.

A downloadable version of this book is available through the eCampus Reader or compatible Adobe readers.

Applications are available on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Windows Mobile platforms.

Please view the compatibility matrix prior to purchase.