Karma, Causation and Retributive Morality (Conceptual Essays in Ethics and Metaethics)

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Item Code: IRP41
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Rajendra Prasad
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8121504818
Pages: 439
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
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Book Description

About the Book:

This collection of essays provides a conceptual analysis of various aspects of moral philosophy. After giving his strikingly novel answer to the question 'Does metaethics have any ethical implication?' Professor Prasad gives his theory of moral language and moral logic, identifying the role of rationality in the moral life. His approach is non-cognitivist, yet neither emotivist nor prescriptivist. He presents an incisive critique of G.E. Moore and concludes that his naturalistic fallacy technique of refuting a theory is unusable.

Professor Prasad's analysis of certain foundational aspects of classical Indian ethics is bold and original. Finally, he discusses some normative issues showing that conceptual analysis is as relevant in their case as it is in the discussion of the logic of morals.

The book will be useful for teachers and students of philosophy and will interest the general readers as well.

About the Author:

Rajendra Prasad (b. 1926) taught Philosophy at Patna University and Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been a Fulbright/Smith-Mundt Fellow, a Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, U.S.A. and until very recently a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research. He has published many scholarly papers in several learned journals. His publications include Regularity, Normativity and Rules of Language and Darsana Sastra Ki Ruparekha (in Hindi); Ends and Means in Private and Public Life (edited). He has also edited the journals Indian Review of Philosophy and Darsanika Traimasika, and is currently a co-editor of Indian Philosophical Quarterly and Paramarsa.



The essays included in this volume, except three (chapters 13, 17 and 18) were all previously published. The oldest of them appeared in 1959 and the youngest in 1987. Of the unpublished chapters, 18 was completed in the middle of 1986, and 13 and 17 in late 1988, though preliminary work on them had started much earlier. Chapter 18 is included in Ends and Means in Private and Public Life (Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla).

A few changes have been made in almost all of the published essays, some of which are stylistic and some importantly Conceptual, though none of them can be called substantial. All the essays, therefore, retain their original character because I still consider worth saying what I said through them.

It is very unlikely that there would ever be a reader gracious enough to go through all of the essays. But if by chance one does that, he may notice some ideas occurring in more than one of them in similar or slightly different forms. The reason for this apparent inelegance is that, though the papers were written individually and at different times, the author's mind was using all along, of course without exhibiting it publicly, a common philosophical or conceptual framework. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is some common flavour in all or most of them.

A large majority of the essays is metaethical, and even those which discuss some normative issues, or implications of some normative theories or perspectives, discuss them in a conceptual, and not in a prescriptive or legislative manner.

Chapter 13 entitled 'Karma, Causation and Retributive Morality' has become a rather longish one having four sections. It might have looked more neat if each section would have been made a separate chapter. But that would have been unfair to the integrity of its central theme because the four sections taken together make the point of the analysis presented in it clearly visible.

I have discussed in it, almost exclusively in a conceptual manner, certain ethical and related issues or implications involved in or thrown up by the classical Indian theory of karma, or rather, the karmic world-view. The discussion has become not accidently critical, but it is critical in the philosophical sense. If it seems unpatriotic to some orthodox Indian scholar, I can only say that my notion of patriotism is different from his.

Perhaps it is the (pseudo-) patriotism of the most of Indian writers on classical Indian ethics which coaxed them to present it as a catalogue of moral precepts, or at the most, as one of unargued opinions on some moral topics. Not giving to a classical moral theory, or rather, to any classical theory for that matter, an unbiased but searching examination, or uncritically eulogizing every component of it, as some eminent Indian scholars have done in their presentation of classical Indian ethics or some aspects of it, is not to be really patriotic about it. Rather, it may hurt it because then an impression may be created that it is something like a valuable antique to be preserved in the national museum, worthy to be seen and prided in but unfit to be used in present-day living. By Subjecting the karmic world-view to a critical philosophical assessment I have tried to bring out a piece in moral philosophy and not at all one in the history or pedagogy of Indian morals. The succeeding chapters 14 and 15, in which I have analysed the conceptual role or roles the concepts of the four purusarthas may or may not play in a philosophically sound normative theory of value, are also attempts in the same direction.

I would not be surprised if an 'Indian' philosopher thinks that chapters 13 to 15 are out of place in this volume because, as they deal with 'Indian ethics', they can have their proper place only in a work on 'Indian ethics'. This is not an objection which merits a reply. Moral philosophy or theorizing is a theoretic or cognitive enterprise. There is no point in calling it Indian or Western. We can attach a regional label only to the propounder of an ethical (or any) theory to indicate the region of its origin; we cannot thereby indicate its philosophical or cognitive character. A moral philosopher may be, or must be, an Indian or a non-Indian, but his moral philosophy cannot. I have, therefore, put the three pieces in a volume of papers in moral philosophy, and have named the volume after one of them.

At some places I have not hesitated to express some of my moral views if they have seemed to be called for. I do not think it is inappropriate for a philosopher to express his moral preferences in his philosophical writings if required by his universe of discourse. But he must not forget the distinction between a moral and a non-moral claim, otherwise he may use in arguing for one a mode of reasoning appropriate only for the other.

My gratitude to my teachers, Professor C.L. Stevenson, Professor W.K. Frankena, Professor A.W. Burks, Professor W.P. Alston, Professor I.M. Copi, Professor Richard Cartwright and Professor Leonard Linsky, is too deep to be expressed in words. My teacher late Professor D.M. Datta always gave me fatherly encouragement to pursue my studies. Late Professors R. Das, N.V. Banerjee and Kalidas Bhattacharyya, in spite of their not having a great fascination for my way of doing philosophy, always gave me an affectionate pat on the back. My respectful homage to all these departed souls.

Among my friends I cannot forget Professors K. Satchidananda Murty, Daya Krishna, S.S. Barlingay, D.P. Chattopadhyaya, K.J. Sah, D.Y. Deshpande, and M.P. Rege. We never had among ourselves any time anything which may be considered to be even approaching a full philosophical agreement, and I am almost sure they will not agree with the views expressed in most, if not all, of the papers included in this volume. But it was their disagreement, coupled with an exuberance of personal warmth, which always kept my philosophical morale high.

I am extremely grateful to my colleagues and doctoral students at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, who gave me not only academic but also personal companionship which sustained my stay at the Institute for nearly quarter of a century. Most of the papers were originally written, or given their final form there. The general academic atmosphere of the Institute was a constant source of inspiration. I am grateful to the Institute administration for providing to me, in a very generous manner, all the support I needed.






  1. Ethics, Metaethics and the Moral Life
  2. Types of Metaethical Theories
  3. A Persuasion Theory of Moral Language
  4. Evaluative, Factual and Referring Expressions
  5. Meaning, Criteria and Purposes
  6. Obligation, Inclination and Moral Failure
  7. Intention and Action
  8. Justification in Ethics
  9. Rationality, Rationalization and Justification
  10. God and Morality : A Conceptual Exploration
  11. Moore's Arguments for the Indefinability of Goodness
  12. The Otioseness of the Naturalistic Fallacy
  13. Karma, Causation and Retributive Morality
  14. The Theory of Purusarthas : Revaluation and Reconstruction
  15. The Concept of Moksa
  16. Why Should One Be Moral? A Normative Exercise in the Context of Contemporary Indian Society
  17. Institutions, Roles and Values
  18. Means, Ends and Pictures of the Good Life
  19. Freedom as a Social Value
  20. Suffering, Morality, and Society

Appendix: A List of Publications of Professor, Rajendra Prasad


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