Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants: An Introduction to Ethics

By Ruwen Ogien

Translated by Martin Thom

Available from Columbia University Press


Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants makes philosophy fun, tactile, and popular. Moral thinking is simple, Ruwen Ogien argues, and as inherent as the senses. In our daily experiences, in the situations we confront and in the scenes we witness, we develop an understanding of right and wrong as sophisticated as the moral outlook of the world's most gifted philosophers. By drawing on this knowledge to navigate life's most perplexing problems, ethics becomes second nature.

Ogien explores, through experimental philosophy and other methods, the responses nineteen real-world conundrums provoke. Is a short, mediocre life better than no life at all? Is it acceptable to kill a healthy person so his organs can save five others? Would you swap a "natural" life filled with frustration, disappointment, and partial success for a world in which all of your needs are met, but through artificial and mechanical means? Ogien doesn't seek to show how difficult it is to determine right from wrong or how easy it is for humans to become monsters or react like saints. Helping us tap into the wisdom and feeling we already possess in our ethical "toolboxes," Ogien instead encourages readers to question moral presuppositions and rules; embrace an intuitive sense of dignity, virtue, and justice; and pursue a pluralist ethics suited to the principles of human kindness.

Ruwen Ogien holds doctorates in both philosophy and social anthropology. He is a director of research in moral philosophy at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and sits on the editorial board of the review Raison Publique. His most recent works include Le corps et l'argent and La vie, la mort, l'état: Le débat bioéthique.

Martin Thom was trained in social anthropology and is a professional translator, editor, and writer.