ABSTRACT

There is a growing perception of ethical crisis in public life. Circumstances of social, political and economic uncertainty have seriously strained the practice of civic virtue. Our turbulent times have prompted many people to think less about the ‘good life’ and the ‘good society’ and more about their basic needs for safety and reassurance. Consequently, whilst prominent public commentators call for the reassertion of civic virtue in the public square, it is very hard to see what basis there can be for its practice under present conditions. This book seeks to articulate a new perspective on public morality in uncertain times by defending a fundamental reorientation of civic ethics, away from the pursuit of the good society and towards the prevention of the great evils of human existence. Evil is the sovereign concept in the domain of political philosophy, and its acknowledgement as such necessitates a new way of thinking about morality in public life and of the virtues central to its practice. In this introductory chapter, I shall endeavour to provide an account of the central problem animating my inquiry, an overview of my argument and an outline of some key resources I shall deploy.