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The Ethics of Identity

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality: in the past couple of decades, a great deal of attention has been paid to such collective identities. They clamor for recognition and respect, sometimes at the expense of other things we value. But to what extent do "identities" constrain our freedom, our ability to make an individual life, and to what extent do th ...more
Paperback, 358 pages
Published January 22nd 2007 by Princeton University Press (first published December 27th 2004)
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In The Ethics of Identity, Anthony Kwame Appiah (2005) argues for understanding identity in terms of autonomy, drawing on John Stuart Mill and liberalism. Diversity of identity, then, isn't valuable inherently in and of itself, but is rather valuable in "the enterprise of self-creation" (6).

Appiah argues that the version of individuality as "authentic" and the version of individuality as "existential" are both misguided; instead, we need to understand individuality as created in response and wit
Appiah, as usual, has written a comprehensive (and importantly, readable) text on the intersection of autonomy, social structure v. individual agency, liberalism, culture, and cosmopolitanism both as pragmatic and theoretical concepts. His references to classical thinkers such as J.S. Mill and Kant, are apty and clearly juxtaposed to postmodern philosophers such as John Rawls, Charles Taylor, Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel and Richard Rorty. Ultimately Appiah gives a thorough ethical, political an ...more
I love this book. It's in my Top 3 books so far this year.

The first two chapters took more concentrated reading than the last few. I annotate my reading (my non-fiction mostly) and ended up with a dozen pages on this. Because I cannot possibly cover my thoughts here, I'll just note that basically Appiah contributes marvelously to the debates that make up liberalism and offers a new reading of John Stuart Mill. (Because the terms here can get so confusing, this is classical liberalism -- "real li
Not an easy read but very informative and thought-provoking.
What i think matters more in this book is its clarity both in the formation of the arguments and the presentation of the author's points.
What comes next, is the heartfelt temperament and the rich language, somehow unusual in this kind of books.
These are not obvious remarks, and made me really appreciate a book that doesn't necessarily agree with all its readers.
There is a lot of Mill interpretation, and a lot of literature -Tolstoy and Ishiguro mostly but many more references (which i also enjoy
Dec 07, 2008 Ken marked it as discarded
Starts with a common critique of individualism and a not so common approach to Mill's 'On Liberty', reading him as having a quasi-Hegelian view of the individual/subject. Halfway through and I'm not finding anything that wasn't covered in Multiculturalism or in some of Walzer's recent works. After hearing a phenomenal speech by him entitled 'Experimental Philosophy', I was expecting much more.
Ft. Sheridan
EoI is clearly written, but somehow not clear about what its ultimate points and positions always are. Lots of interesting takes on other philosophers and interpretations of autonomy, culture, etc. Keeps going on about Mill and his Ghanaian patriot pops. A reference to Eminem win KAA points, though.
Matthew Walker
This is a good introduction to its subject. It is written in an accessible style and not just for an academic audience.
Aug 22, 2007 Ryan added it
In this volume, Appiah investigates claims of indiviuality and identity as social categories and how an account of ethics that connects moral obligations with collective allegiances.
Very interesting... I haven't gotten in too deep yet, but it is an insightful exploration of John Stuart Mill's liberalism and identity as something both individual & social...
Julia Beck
Clear and distinct examination of our identities. Wonderful prose. Very helpful in untangling the myriad challenging concepts of my philosophy course.
Very good book. Who better to write about identity than a gay black guy? Honestly the only book about identity that I can really fully enjoy.
Loved this book. The author made great use of John Stuart Mill and Carl Dennis.
I've been reading this book in waves for about two years. take what you can from that.
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Kwame Anthony Appiah, the president of the PEN American Center, is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, The Honor Code and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and is currently a professor at Princeton University.

* Sir Patrick Scott Mystery (a
More about Kwame Anthony Appiah...
Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen Experiments in Ethics In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy

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“A value is like a fax machine: it’s not much use if you’re the only one who has one.” 5 likes
“This is, of course, an easy Berlinian riposte. Start with some graceful hand waving about incommensurability; declare that nothing could reconcile these great goods; and (with a tip of trilby) commend liberal pluralism for living with the contradictions.” 1 likes
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