Bojan Žalec – Man, Morals and Art: introduction into philosophical anthropology and ethics

The book represents a unique journey through the philosophical understanding of man, his nature and his moral capabilities. It starts by definition of philosophical anthropology. Anthropology in the sense of philosophy of human nature is according to Žalec a fundamental science for all the sciences belonging to the clusters of humanities and social science. All these sciences explicitly or implicitly presuppose some view on the nature of man and the same is true for all human thinking and action. Man cannot exist otherwise than as to be in the relation of understanding to himself. Thereupon Žalec presents an outline of the most important steps in the development of philosophical anthropology, from Socrates till the contemporaries like Slavoj Žižek or René Girard. Afterwards he deals with some fundamental anthropological topics (soul, person and spirit) which conclude the first, anthropological part of the book.

In the second part, Žalec explains various meanings (uses) of the terms ethics and morality. Ethics is often understood as a (philosophical) theory of morality. According to the author every morality is a system consisting of three subsystems: values, principles or moral norms, and virtues. He deals quite extensively with virtues since without virtuous persons there is no factual realization of moral values and principles. The crown imperial of integral virtuousness is embodied in free persons who constitute the foundation of the good. Žalec outlines the space of ethical positions and concepts. Among them three accounts are of fundamental and distinguished importance: nihilism and instrumentalism at one hand, and personalism at the other. Nihilism is the experiential and intellectual horizon of an individual, a group or even an entire culture in which all is ethically leveled; nothing is distinguished, not even human persons. As nihilism is practically rather impossible it transforms into some kind of instrumentalism. Instrumentalism considers human beings just as means, in opposition to personalism according to which every concrete human being is the highest value who should never be treated just as a mean. The struggle between those two poles is actually the ground encounter between good and bad.

Works of art are considered from two main aspects: 1. as cultural paradigms (Heidegger, Dreyfus); and 2. as embodied consciousness making the empathic relations possible. The conclusion, climax and the most original part of the book represents the last chapter on the factors of personalism.

Man, Morality and Art is a comprehensive, synthetic and integrally designed work. It offers an integral overview over the area of philosophy of man and ethics and it does not leave out neither Heidegger’s consideration of human being nor topics of identity nor the “feministic” thought developed by Luce Irigaray. The ambition of the work is to be extensive, reach, yet readable and transparent, with the moments of originality.

Key words: philosophical anthropology, human nature, ethics, morality, values, virtues, political philosophy, nihilism, instrumentalism, being-in-the-world, personalism, identity, solidarity, spirit, art, truth, freedom, authenticity, rationality, religion, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Kant, Berdyaev, Heidegger, Wittgenstein.