A Psychology of Moral CharacterLaurence Thomas
Laurence Thomas addresses two main questions in this philosophical exploration of morality: What constitutes a moral life? How does one acquire and maintain a good moral character? In answering these questions, he maintains that social interaction is the thread from which the fabric of moral character is woven, and he promotes friendship and parental upbringing as the most important forms of social interaction.
Thomas rejects the view now prominent in contemporary ethical theory that individuals are essentially self-interested. Instead he argues that a great deal of altruism can be found in the biological and psychological make-up of human beings. Thomas defends the view that sociobiology can serve as a basis for ethics. Regarding this "capacity for altruism" as a natural gift or talent, he observes that whether or not a quality flourishes is dependent upon the nature of one’s social environment. Thomas contends that within each person’s social environment, parental love, companion friendships, and our beliefs about how others will treat us provide the strongest encouragement for developing a good moral character.
"(A) valuable contribution to the new literature in ethics on friendship and other caring relationships and on morally significant emotions...as well as to the classic issue of relationships between being happy and being virtuous."
"Instead of trying to generate or motivate altruism from considerations of self-interest, Thomas is concerned with its real, and its important human, origins and connections. Drawing on work from other fields-largely those in the social sciences—be is able to place it well within our experience and show its importance, both in itself and in its connections with much else that we know to be important. Thomas’s book takes up significant areas, too infrequently discussed, and helps us understand them. And it does this in a philosophically sensitive and astute way—showing not only philosophical skills and understanding, but also a humaneness and humanity too often missing in ethical writings."
—Michael Stocker, Guttag Professor in Ethics and Political Philosophy, Syracuse University
"An elaborate and convincing argument. His aim is to offer a realistic characterization of the role of altruistic motivation in ethics.... Thomas builds a readable, original, and persuasive case."