Synopses & Reviews
Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book takes the reader on an in-depth tour of the major moral theories, always illustrating abstract ideas with concrete examples. Separate, self-contained chapters examine such theories as Egoism, Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, and the Social Contract Theory. Through this conceptual framework, the text addresses timely and provocative issues, including abortion, racism, euthanasia, poverty, marijuana, homosexuality, the death penalty, and vegetarianism. The text's versatility makes it an ideal choice for use 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.STUART RACHELS is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama. He has revised
Table of Contents
About the Sixth 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. Different Cultures Have Different Moral Codes
2.2. Cultural Relativism
2.3. The Cultural Differences Argument
2.4. What Follows from Cultural Relativism
2.5. Why There Is Less Disagreement Than It Seems
2.6. Some Values are Shared by All Cultures
2.7. Judging a Cultural Practice to Be Undesirable
2.8. Back to the Five Claims
2.9. What Can Be Learned from Cultural Relativism
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. The Role of Reason in Ethics
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 IDEA OF A SOCIAL CONTRACT
6.1. Hobbess Argument
6.2. The Prisoners Dilemma
6.3. Some Advantages of the Social Contract Theory
6.4. The Problem of Civil Disobedience
6.5. Difficulties for the Theory
CHAPTER 7: THE UTILITARIAN APPROACH
7.1. The Revolution in Ethics
7.2. First Example: Euthanasia
7.3. Second Example: Marijuana
7.4. Third Example: Nonhuman Animals
CHAPTER 8: THE DEBATE OVER UTILITARIANISM
8.1. The Classical Version of the Theory
8.2. Is Pleasure All That Matters?
8.3. Are Consequences All That Matter?
8.4. Should We Be Equally Concerned for Everyone?
8.5. The Defense of Utilitarianism
8.6. Concluding Thoughts
CHAPTER 9: ARE THERE ABSOLUTE MORAL RULES?
9.1. Harry Truman and Elizabeth Anscombe
9.2. The Categorical Imperative
9.3. Kant's Arguments on Lying
9.4. Conflicts Between Rules
9.5. Kant's Insight
CHAPTER 10: KANT AND RESPECT FOR PERSONS
10.1. Kant's Core Ideas
10.2. Retribution and Utility in the Theory of Punishment
10.3. Kants Retributivism
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. Two 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
13.3. A Variety of Motives
13.4. Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism
13.5. The Moral Community
13.6. Justice and Fairness
Notes on Sources