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The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy


The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This collection of readings in moral theory and moral issues from major Western philosophers is the ideal companion reader for James Rachels' text The Elements of Moral Philosophy. The anthology explores further the theories and issues introduced in that volume, in their original and classic formulations. The collection can stand on its own as the text for a course in moral philosophy, or it can be used to supplement any introductory text.

Book News Annotation:

The 31 readings are designed to complement The Elements of Moral Philosophy, also written by James (1941-2003) and recently updated by Stuart (both: philosophy, U. of Alabama-Birmingham). Neither volume, however, requires exposure to the other. After a short introduction to moral philosophy and some points about arguments, the essays set out theories about the nature of morality, and defend contending positions regarding specific moral issues. There is no index. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

About the Author

James Rachels, the distinguished American moral philosopher, was born in Columbus, Georgia, graduating from Mercer University in Macon in 1962. He received his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He taught at the University of Richmond, New York University, the University of Miami, Duke University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he spent the last twenty-six years of his career. 1971 saw the publication of Rachels groundbreaking textbook Moral Problems, which ignited the movement in America away from teaching ethical theory towards teaching concrete practical issues. Moral Problems sold 100,000 copies over three editions. In 1975, Rachels wrote “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” arguing that the distinction so important in the law between killing and letting die has no rational basis. Originally appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, this essay has been reprinted roughly 300 times and is a staple of undergraduate education. The End of Life (1986) was about the morality of killing and the value of life. Created from Animals (1990) argued that a Darwinian world-view has widespread philosophical implications, including drastic implications for our treatment of nonhuman animals. Can Ethics Provide Answers? (1997) was Rachels first collection of papers (others are expected posthumously). Rachels McGraw-Hill textbook, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, is now in its fourth edition and is easily the best-selling book of its kind.Over his career, Rachels wrote 5 books and 85 essays, edited 7 books and gave about 275 professional lectures. His work has been translated into Dutch, Italian, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian. James Rachels is widely admired as a stylist, as his prose is remarkably free of jargon and clutter. A major theme in his work is that reason can resolve difficult moral issues. He has given reasons for moral vegetarianism and animal rights, for affirmative action (including quotas), for the humanitarian use of euthanasia, and for the idea that parents owe as much moral consideration to other peoples children as they do to their own.James Rachels died of cancer on September 5th, 2003, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Table of Contents

* indicates new to this edition


1. A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, James Rachels

2. Some Basic Points about Arguments, James Rachels


*3. The Subjectivity of Values, J.L. Mackie

4. The Virtues, Aristotle

5. Ethics and Natural Law, St. Thomas Aquinas

6. The Social Contract, Thomas Hobbes

7. Morality as Based on Sentiment, David Hume

8. Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill

9. The Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant


10. Why Abortion is Immoral, Don Marquis

*11. A Defense of Abortion, Judith Jarvis Thomson

12. Will Cloning Harm People?, Gregory E. Pence

13. Is Homosexuality Unnatural?, Burton M. Leiser

*14. 9/11 and Starvation, Mylan Engel, Jr.

15. The Singer Solution to World Poverty, Peter Singer

*16. Utilitarianism and Integrity, Bernard Williams

17. The Morality of Euthanasia, James Rachels

18. Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life?, Richard Doerflinger

19. All Animals Are Equal, Peter Singer

*20. Do Animals Have Rights?, Tibor R. Machan

*21. The Immorality of SUVs and Trucks, Douglas Husak

22. Preserving the Environment, Thomas E. Hill, Jr.

23. The Ethics of War and Peace, Douglas P. Lackey

24. In Defense of the Death Penalty, Ernest van den Haag

25. The Case against the Death Penalty, Hugo A. Bedau

*26. Americas Unjust Drug War, Michael Huemer

*27. The Experience Machine, Robert Nozick

*28. The Feminist Revelation, Christina Hoff Sommers

*29. Is Racial Discrimination Arbitrary?, Peter Singer

30. Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.

*31. In Defense of Quotas, James Rachels

* indicates new to this edition

Product Details

Rachels, James
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Rachels, Stuart
Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Edition Number:
Publication Date:
April 2006
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
8.36x5.52x.49 in. .67 lbs.

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