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Ordinary Vices

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  55 ratings  ·  11 reviews
The seven deadly sins of Christianity represent the abysses of character, whereas Judith Shklar's "ordinary vices"--cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery, betrayal, and misanthropy--are merely treacherous shoals, flawing our characters with mean-spiritedness and inhumanity.

Shklar draws from a brilliant array of writers--Moli�re and Dickens on hypocrisy, Jane Austen on snobbery, Sha
Paperback, 278 pages
Published July 1st 1985 by Belknap Press (first published July 1st 1984)
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"Can one of you Janets get me chalkboard and a copy of Judith Shklar’s Ordinary Vices? Oh, and maybe some warm pretzels! If we goin’ out, I’m going out with a belly full of warm pretzels. Yummy yum yum! Yummy!" - Chidi (Season 4, Episode 10)

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Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Idee und Anlage sind bedenkenswert und produktiv. In der Tat ist die Furcht vor der Furcht (und die kann nur aus der Ahnung möglicher Grausamkeit entstehen) ein Grund für die Verbiegung des Charakters. Deshalb muss "Grausamkeit" unter Verdikt gestellt werden, um dem Menschen freie Luft zum Atmen zu geben. Das kann freilich nicht durch den Gnadenakt eines milden Despoten geschehen, sondern nur durch das Recht auf körperliche und geistige Unversehrtheit, wie es nur ein Rechtsstaat mit Gewaltenteil ...more
Judith Shklar is a philosopher I learned about from reading Aurelian Craiutu's history of the idea of moderation in 20th-century political philosophy, Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes. Shklar was born in 1928 in Latvia to a Jewish family that fled to the U.S. and later Canada to escape anti-Semitic violence in the years leading up to World War II. She's best known for her idea of a "liberalism of fear," according to which the greatest evil is cruelty, and the job of ...more
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ethics
Interesting, but often wayward, discussion of a peculiar set of human vices. A few worthwhile thoughts scattered, but no real sustained attempt at persuasion that these vices (cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery, betrayal, misanthropy) ought to be avoided above all others. The obvious arguments for the primacy of a more traditional set of virtues/vices go largely unaddressed, as do arguments for the value of the supposed "ordinary vices" when indulged in moderation. Are there really no evils inherent i ...more
Mark Ballinger
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Mark by: Michael Schur via Ezra Klein podcast
Shelves: philosophy
This was not a pleasant read. I found it lacking clearly detailed arguments, although the "ordinary vice" the author "places first" is clear. Too much of the breakdown was spent reading through the Eurocentric canon, which meant the impact of most of the ordinary vices was spent on men of privilege, especially leaders. There were occasional touches on historical figures and events, but not enough.

Easily the best chapter was the last one, where the author lays out her own problems with the book.
Bill Bowyer
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Hypocritical and limited in scope; the vices that she describes need expansion.

Nevertheless, Shklar was--and remains--one of the best theoretical writers in all of political philosophy, and this book was an eye-opening read during my junior year.

Soha Bayoumi
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shklar's "liberalism of fear" is a particularly interesting concept... ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Her masterpiece, and a must-read for anyone concerned with either American political philosophy or the history of ideas. Even though I think it's kind of a dumb title. ...more
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Judith Shklar was born as Judita Nisse in Riga, Latvia to Jewish parents. Because of persecution during World War II, her family fled Europe over Japan to the US and finally to Canada in 1941, when she was thirteen. She began her studies at McGill University at the age of 16, receiving bachelor of art and master of art degrees in 1949 and 1950, respectively. She later recalled that the entrance ru ...more

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“Cruelty, like lying, repels instantly and easily because it is 'ugly.' It is a vice that disfigures human characters, not a transgression of a divine or human rule.” 3 likes
“Most of us may intuitively agree about right and wrong, but we also, and far more significantly, differ enormously in the ways in which we rank the virtues and the vices. ... To put cruelty first is to disregard the idea of sin as it is understood by revealed religion. Sins are transgressions of a divine rule and offenses against God; pride - the rejection of God - must always be the worst one, which gives rise to all the others. However, cruelty - the willful inflicting of physical pain on a weaker being in order to cause anguish and fear - is a wrong done entirely to another creature. When it is marked as the supreme evil it is judged so in and of itself, and not because it signifies a denial of God or any other higher norm. It is a judgment made from within the world in which cruelty occurs as part of our normal private life and our daily public practices. By putting it unconditionally first, with nothing above us to excuse or to forgive acts of cruelty, one closes off any appeal to any order other than that of actuality. To hate cruelty with utmost intensity is perfectly compatible with Biblical religiosity, but to put it first does place one irrevocably outside the sphere of revealed religion. For it is a purely human verdict upon human conduct, and so puts religion at a certain distance. The decision to put cruelty first is not, however, prompted merely by religious skepticism. It emerges, rather, from the recognition that the habits of the faithful do not differ from those of the faithless in their brutalities, and that Machiavelli had triumphed before he had ever written a line. To put cruelty first therefore is to be at odds not only with religion but with normal politics as well.” 1 likes
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