Earl Spurgin is professor of philosophy at John Carroll University. He specializes in ethics and social and political philosophy and is coauthor of Historical Dictionary of Ethics and coeditor of Ethics: Contemporary Readings. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Spurgin has made a major contribution to the field of practical ethics. A Liberal Theory of Practical Morality innovates by demonstrating uncharted thematic unity across various disciplinary silos. He ties together disparate elements by applying a systematic analysis based on a rock-solid theoretical background. His writing is concise, commanding, and lucid throughout, creating a masterful work that will become fundamental to research and policy going forward.
With lucid analysis and engaging examples, Spurgin defends a moral liberalism whose central value is autonomy. Spurgin’s fresh insights on timely practical controversies illuminate how we may act, think, and feel. This book charts compelling liberal paths through complex ethical dilemmas.
If systematizing a sentimentalist version of liberalism as a new moral framework were this book’s singular accomplishment, it would warrant serious attention. But Spurgin also examines current cultural issues to motivate the theory development as well as to show its unique answers. Innovative, thought-provoking, and ground-breaking, this is essential reading for theorists and students of liberalism, sentimentalism, and practical ethics.
Spurgin is careful, thorough and exacting in making the case for his liberal theory of practical morality (NB there is no border wall between moral and political liberalism). And so, he has written a very fine book that addresses an unarguable need in plural societies for a method to reflectively, effectively and civilly adjudicate practical issues.
Can liberalism make moral sense of pressing practical matters? Drawing on recognizable, contemporary controversies, philosopher Earl Spurgin makes full use of their richness and concrete details to show that moral liberalism ultimately passes the test. With admirable honesty, Professor Spurgin also shares examples from his own life—proof that good philosophy can be not only practical but also personal. The result is a book that is as engaging and delightful to read as it is philosophically compelling.
This book invites readers to consider a familiar view in a new light: liberalism as a moral (and not just a political) doctrine. Through clear writing, careful argumentation, and sensible judgment, Spurgin makes a persuasive case. Students and scholars alike will especially enjoy the detailed applications of moral liberalism to topics that are typically ignored in college ethics classes, including the duties of social media users, the obligations of nongovernmental institutions, role models, and the permissibility of schadenfreude. Given that so much current attention focuses on politics and group characteristics, Spurgin’s emphasis on individual responsibilities is a refreshing and welcome corrective.