The Madwoman's Reason - The concept of the appropriate in ethical thought by Nancy Holland

I am very fortunate in having a bunch of people in the congregation who can put on excellent service and this Easter they arranged a splendid and thoughtful one - I was simply a member of the congregation for the day. What a treat!  So thanks to all of them. You can find the address given by Andrew Bethune here.

In this post I'm just going to point people to a link to a book I have ordered but which has not yet popped through my letter box. I do this because of the comments that came in connected with my last blog post:

Palm Sunday - "ein wirklicher Ausverkauf", a real clearance sale or there's no such thing as a free smorgasbord . . .

The book is called The Madwoman's Reason - The concept of the appropriate in ethical thought by Nancy Holland and, as you will see in the publisher's blurb pasted below it seems that it might be well worth reading. You can also view chunks of the text at Google Books.


“Nancy Holland has taken Heidegger's central concept of 'appropriation' and shown how it can provide a springboard to a new and promising approach to ethics. Her discussion is at once clear and creative and will appeal to both Continental thinkers and Anglo-American ethicists. Holland has removed Heidegger from the mystics and placed him in conversation with those for whom the questions of right and wrong are most urgent.” —Todd May

“Holland has a fine grasp of the overarching issues in ethics and offers numerous insights into the history of Western ethics. Her intelligent and challenging book attempts to broaden and deepen the framework of contemporary ethical discourse.” —Choice

An effort to find a middle way in ethics between relativism and foundationalism.

Taking Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot as its starting point, this book seeks a way out of the dilemma that confronts those who feel that any nonrelativistic moral theory requires some metaphysical foundation but cannot see how a foundational position can be persuasively defended.

Nancy Holland draws on the work of Heidegger and Derrida to formulate a concept of appropriate action that can address both extraordinary ethical problems within a particular cultural tradition and moral conflict between different cultures. Her feminist reappropriation of the concept of the appropriate is then further developed by reference to Aristotle and Kant, whose ethical theories, she argues, are independent of their metaphysics, thus suggesting that moral evaluation can rely on a deep understanding of what it is to be human within a cultural tradition rather than on foundational premises. As an example of the application of her theory, Holland examines the problem of ordaining women in the Roman Catholic Church and then goes on to compare her approach with that of other philosophers working in virtue theory, postmodern ethics, and feminism.

We all want to be able to make valid moral judgments and to respect the ethical values of other cultural groups. By suggesting that a culture's sense of the human, and a correlated sense of appropriate action, might provide a purely formal but still critical perspective on any community's current beliefs and practices without invoking any substantive external criteria, the concept of the appropriate is offered as one way in which we can satisfy both our moral wants and our intellectual needs.

Nancy J. Holland is Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator/Director of Women's Studies at Hamline University. She is the author of Is Women's Philosophy Possible? (Rowman and Littlefield, 1990) and editor of Feminist Interpretations of Jacques Derrida (Penn State, 1997).


Happy Easter to you all.
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