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The Ethics of Identity

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  206 Ratings  ·  20 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 2007 by Princeton University Press (first published 2004)
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Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 wi
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essay, polis
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
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Clear and distinct examination of our identities. Wonderful prose. Very helpful in untangling the myriad challenging concepts of my philosophy course.
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
For those interested in Appiah
Brandon Kemp
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Appiah's Ethics of Identity is one of those books that I picked up wanting to dislike or, at least, disagree with. Having read it, I still have plenty of issues, not the least of which are the difficulties involved in metaphysically grounding the sort of liberal individualism/autonomism favored by Appiah (though, in fairness to him, similar problems arise when non-liberal perspectives are taken as points of departure), the class elisions of his account, and the socioeconomic and political barrie ...more
Steven Rodriguez
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was a very, very timely book for me to read in 2016, as American higher education convulses with controversy and Trumpism™ & Brexit alter the political landscape.

The book is a book of moral philosophy, exploring what we mean when we talk about "identity" and how it might inform our ethics and political engagement. After a romp through many philosophical problems, Appiah arrives at what he calls "rooted cosmopolitanism," which is his preferred way of balancing diverse 21st-century g
Ft. Sheridan
Jul 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 05, 2008 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.
Matthew Walker
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is a good introduction to its subject. It is written in an accessible style and not just for an academic audience.
Lizzie Jones
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
A textbook, but actually a pretty good one!
Aug 22, 2007 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.
Jan 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
I've been reading this book in waves for about two years. take what you can from that.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
read this book to understand contemporary identity politics!! his best book
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Not an easy read but very informative and thought-provoking.
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Jun 30, 2012
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Nov 03, 2016
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Jun 06, 2011
Nick Scott
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Jun 19, 2012
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Sep 14, 2008
K.L. Finalley
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May 30, 2016
Amela Mustafić
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Sep 15, 2012
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Jul 27, 2012
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Jan 02, 2016
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Feb 08, 2015
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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 a former professor at Princeton University and currently has a position at NYU.

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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.” 6 likes
“(And, like many philosophers, I am of the school that what goes without saying often goes even better with saying.)” 1 likes
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