Synopses & Reviews
Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book combines clear explanations of the main theories of ethics with discussions of interesting examples. Topics covered include famine relief, euthanasia, homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. The text's versatility allows it to be widely used not only in ethical theory courses, but also in applied ethics courses of all kinds.
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
About the Fifth Edition
CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS MORALITY?
1.1. The Problem of Definition
1.2. First Example: Baby Theresa
1.3. Second Example: Jodie and Mary
1.4. Third Example: Tracy Latimer
1.5. Reason and Impartiality
1.6. The Minimum Conception of Morality
CHAPTER 2: THE CHALLENGE OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM
2.1. How Different Cultures Have Different Moral Codes
2.2. Cultural Relativism
2.3. The Cultural Differences Argument
2.4. The Consequences of Taking Cultural Relativism Seriously
2.5. Why There Is Less Disagreement Than It Seems
2.6. How All Cultures Have Some Values in Common
2.7. Judging a Cultural Practice to Be Undesirable
2.8. What Can Be Learned from Cultural Relativism
2.9. Back to the Five Claims
CHAPTER 3: SUBJECTIVISM IN ETHICS
3.1. The Basic Idea of Ethical Subjectivism
3.2. The Evolution of the Theory
3.3. The First Stage: Simple Subjectivism
3.4. The Second Stage: Emotivism
3.5. Are There Any Moral Facts?
3.6. Are There Proofs in Ethics?
3.7. The Question of Homosexuality
CHAPTER 4: DOES MORALITY DEPEND ON RELIGION?
4.1. The Presumed Connection Between Morality and Religion
4.2. The Divine Command Theory
4.3. The Theory of Natural Law
4.4. Religion and Particular Moral Issues
CHAPTER 5: ETHICAL EGOISM
5.1. Is There a Duty to Help Starving People?
5.2. Psychological Egoism
5.3. Three Arguments for Ethical Egoism
5.4. Three Arguments Against Ethical Egoism
CHAPTER 6: THE UTILITARIAN APPROACH
6.1. The Revolution in Ethics
6.2. First Example: Euthanasia
6.3. Second Example: Nonhuman Animals
CHAPTER 7: THE DEBATE OVER UTILITARIANISM
7.1. The Classical Version of the Theory
7.2. Is Pleasure the Only Thing That Matters?
7.3. Are Consequences All That Matter?
7.4. Should We Be Equally Concerned for Everyone?
7.5. The Defense of Utilitarianism
CHAPTER 8: ARE THERE ABSOLUTE MORAL RULES?
8.1. Harry Truman and Elizabeth Anscombe
8.2. The Categorical Imperative
8.3. Absolute Rules and the Duty Not to Lie
8.4. Conflicts Between Rules
8.5. Another Look at Kants Basic Idea
CHAPTER 9: KANT AND RESPECT FOR PERSONS
9.1. The Idea of Human Dignity
9.2. Retribution and Utility in the Theory of Punishment
9.3. Kants Retributivism
CHAPTER 10: THE IDEA OF A SOCIAL CONTRACT
10.1. Hobbess Argument
10.2. The Prisoners Dilemma
10.3. Some Advantages of the Social Contract Theory
10.4. The Problem of Civil Disobedience
10.5. Difficulties for the Theory
CHAPTER 11: FEMINISM AND THE ETHICS OF CARE
11.1. Do Women and Men Think Differently about Ethics?
11.2. Implications for Moral Judgment
11.3. Implications for Ethical Theory
CHAPTER 12: THE ETHICS OF VIRTUE
12.1. The Ethics of Virtue and the Ethics of Right Action
12.2. The Virtues
12.3. Some Advantages of Virtue Ethics
12.4. The Problem of Incompleteness
CHAPTER 13: WHAT WOULD A SATISFACTORY MORAL THEORY BE LIKE?
13.1. Morality Without Hubris
13.2. Treating People as They Deserve and Other Motives
13.3. Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism
13.4. The Moral Community
13.5. Justice and Fairness
Notes on Sources