On the Virtue of Leaving Others Alone
John Lachs
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/15/2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-01476-4
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John Lachs claims that we are surrounded by people who seem to know what is good for us better than we do ourselves. Lachs discusses the joy of choice and the rare virtue of leaving others alone to lead their lives as they see fit. He does not mean that we abandon them in their genuine hour of need, but that we aid them on their own terms and not make help conditional upon adopting approved beliefs and behaviors. Lachs believes help needs to be temporary to discourage dependence. He contends that leaving others alone in this fashion will create a community that is caring and responsive to the needs of others. All it takes is an urge not to meddle, even when we think it's for someone else's own good.

Author Bio

John Lachs is Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. He is author of Stoic Pragmatism (IUP, 2012), A Community of Individuals, and In Love with Life.


“A plea to butt out, even when we think it's for someone else's own good.”

“What would happen if John Stuart Mill were alive today and he addressed the issue of meddling? It is likely that he would have written a plea for tolerance deeply akin to this one. It is welcome to have a position so clearly staked out and so ably defended.”
 — Vincent Colapietro, The Pennsylvania State University

“A very refreshing contribution to the field of ethics. Lachs understands how we live our lives in a far richer and [more] authentic way than that presented by texts in ethics, replete with their wooden case studies. The strength of this work is its contribution to the vast audience of intelligent citizens who are weary from being micromanaged, as to health, diet, beliefs, and lifestyle.”
 — John McDermott, Texas A&M University

“Lachs’s Meddling is, caveat lector, a work of ethical philosophy . . . It is not pop sociology. It is refreshingly—to this reader, at least—devoid of phrases like 'a new study shows' or 'data now support.' It is, in fact, a welcome antidote to that soft-science-driven journalism which conditions us to mistrust the judgments supplied by our own experience and observation. . . . Meddling is short (127 pages), accessible, and sure to vindicate and delight anyone who senses too much meddling in his own affairs.”
 — Daily Beast

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Table of Contents

1. Apples and Pluralism
2. Operational Independence
3. Leaving Others Alone
4. Telling Others What to Do
5. Making Others Do What We Want (and They Don’t)
6. Helping Others
7. Independence and the Anthill

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