Book projects

My first book is recently published, see below for a summary and some early reviews. My second project in development looks at some of the philosophical choices involved in the methods and ethics of economics.

Motivation Ethics

This is a book about a particular moral theory – motivation ethics – and why we should accept it. But it is also a book about moral theorizing, about how we might compare different structures of moral theory.

In principle we might morally evaluate a range of objects: we might, for example, evaluate what people do – is some action right, wrong, permitted, forbidden, a duty or beyond what is required? Or we might evaluate agents: what is it to be morally heroic, or morally depraved, or highly moral? And, we could evaluate institutions: which ones are just, or morally better, or legitimate?

Most theories focus on one (or two) of these and offer arguments against rivals. What this book does is to step back and ask a different question: of the theories that evaluate one object, are they compatible with an acceptable account of the evaluation of the other objects?

So, for instance, if a moral theory tells us which actions are right and wrong, well can it then be compatible with a theory of what it is to be a morally good or bad or heroic or depraved agent (or deny the need for this)? It seems that this would be an easy task, but the book sets out how this is very difficult for some of our most prominent theories, why this is so, and why a theory based on motivations might be the right answer.

Early reviews

“The scope and ambitions of this book are tremendous. It moves from foundational claims in normative ethics to a revisionist theory of political legitimacy, develops in the process a new approach for making interpersonal comparisons of welfare, and showcases a parsimonious ethical methodology anchored in the idea of non-arbitrariness. It will be of interest to a wide range of readers in philosophy, political theory, law, economics, political science and related fields.”
– Professor Lucas Stanczyk, Department of Philosophy, Harvard University

“A passionate and engaging critique of consequentialism, offering a credible alternative. By putting motivations centre stage Coakley opens up exciting new avenues in moral and political philosophy.”
– Professor Kai Spiekermann, Department of Government, London School of Economics & Political Science

“This is a book of stunning breadth and ambition. It defends a novel moral theory that differs from existing ones in fundamental ways and proposes an original method for conducting ethical reasoning. Coakley also offers new perspectives on classical problems such as interpersonal comparisons of utility and political legitimacy. The book will appeal to all those interested in new ways of thinking whether in philosophy, political and legal theory or the social sciences more broadly.”
– Professor Bernard Manin, Department of Politics, New York University