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An Introduction to Ethics
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Book description

This book examines the central questions of ethics through a study of theories of right and wrong that are found in the great ethical works of Western philosophy. It focuses on theories that continue to have a significant presence in the field. The core chapters cover egoism, the eudaimonism of Plato and Aristotle, act and rule utilitarianism, modern natural law theory, Kant's moral theory, and existentialist ethics. Readers will be introduced not only to the main ideas of each theory but to contemporary developments and defenses of those ideas. A final chapter takes up topics in meta-ethics and moral psychology. The discussions throughout draw the reader into philosophical inquiry through argument and criticism that illuminate the profundity of the questions under examination. Students will find this book to be a very helpful guide to how philosophical inquiry is undertaken as well as to what the major theories in ethics hold.


‘This is a beautifully and elegantly written introduction to the fundamental questions of ethics. It is a comprehensive and accessible book that will be of interest to students and also to anyone reflecting about how to live a good and normatively defensible life. Highly recommended.’

John Fischer - University of California, Riverside

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Works cited
Suggested further readings
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica.
, Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics.
Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.
Butler, Joseph. Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel.
Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, O'Brien, J., trans. (New York: Vintage Books, 1955).
Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking Glass (and What Alice Saw There).
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground/The Double, Coulson, J., trans. (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1972).
, Epicurus. “Principle Doctrines.”
Forster, E. M. Two Cheers for Democracy (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1951).
Grotius, Hugo. On the Law of War and Peace, Kelsey, F. W, trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925).
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan.
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature.
James, William. The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. (1890; reprinted New York: Dover Publications, 1950).
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason, Beck, L. W., trans. (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956).
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Paton, H. J., trans. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).
Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism.
Moore, G. E.Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903).
, Plato. Republic.
Prichard, H. A.Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?Mind 21 (1912): 21–37.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. “L'existentialisme est un humanisme”; reprinted as “Existentialism Is a Humanism,” Mairet, Philip, trans., in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Kaufmann, Walter, ed. (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1956).
Sheinwold, Alfred.5 Weeks to Winning Bridge, rev. edn. (New York: Pocket Books, 1964).
Sidgwick, Henry.The Methods of Ethics, 7th edn. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1907).
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Chapter 1
Bennett, Jonathan. “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn,” Philosophy 49 (1974): 123–34.
Darwall, Stephen. The Second Person Standpoint (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006).
Ross, W. D.The Right and the Good (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930).
Strawson, P. F.Social Morality and Individual Ideal,” Philosophy 36 (1961): 1–17.
Chapter 2
Broad, C. D. “Egoism as a Theory of Human Motives,” Hibbert Journal 68 (1950): 105–14; reprinted in Broad's Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy, Cheney, David, ed. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1971), pp. 247–61.
Gauther, David.Assure and Threaten,” Ethics 104 (1994): 690–721.
Kavka, Gregory.Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986).
Sidgwick, Henry. “Egoism,” in The Methods of Ethics, 7th edn. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1907), bk. II, pp. 119–95.
Sidgwick, Henry. “Pleasure and Desire,” in The Methods of Ethics, bk. I, ch. 4, pp. 39–56.
Chapter 3
Annas, Julia.Introduction to Plato's Republic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).
Griffin, James.Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).
Kraut, Richard.Aristotle on the Human Good (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989).
, Plato. Gorgias.
Sachs, David.A Fallacy in Plato's Republic,” Philosophical Review 72 (1963): 141–58.
Chapter 4
Kagan, Shelly.The Limits of Morality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).
Lyons, David.Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965).
Parfit, Derek.Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).
Railton, Peter.Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 13 (1984): 134–71.
Rawls, John.Two Concepts of Rules,” Philosophical Review 64 (1955): 3–32.
Urmson, J. O.The Interpretation of the Moral Philosophy of J. S. Mill,” Philosophical Quarterly 3 (1953): 33–39.
Chapter 5
Adams, Robert M. “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness,” in Religion and Morality: A Collection of Essays, Outka, Gene and Reeder, John P., Jr., eds. (Garden City, N.J.: Anchor Press, 1973), pp. 318–47.
Herman, Barbara. “Mutual Aid and Respect for Persons,” Ethics 94 (1984): 577–602.
O'Neil, Onora. Acting on Principle: An Essay on Kantian Ethics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975).
Ross, W. D. The Right and the Good (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930).
Schneewind, J. B.The Invention of Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Strawson, P. F. “Ethical Intuitionism,” Philosophy 24 (1949): 23–33.
Chapter 6
Camus, Albert. The Stranger, Gilbert, Stuart, trans. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1946).
Hill, Thomas E., Jr. Dignity and Practical Reason in Kant's Moral Theory (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992).
Korsgaard, Christine. “The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 15 (1986): 325–49.
Nagel, Thomas. “The Absurd,” Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971): 716–27.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness, Barnes, Hazel, trans. (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956).
Wood, Allen. Kant's Ethical Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Chapter 7
Anscombe, G. E. M. Intention, 2nd edn. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1963).
Árdal, Páll S.Passion and Value in Hume's Treatise, 2nd edn. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989).
Davidson, Donald. “Action, Reasons, and Causes,” Journal of Philosophy 60 (1963): 685–700.
Frankfurt, Harry. “Free Will and the Concept of a Person,” Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971): 5–20.
Korsgaard, Christine. “Skepticism about Practical Reason,” Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986): 5–25.
Nussbaum, Martha.The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), ch. 9.
Stocker, Michael. “Desiring the Bad,” Journal of Philosophy 76 (1979): 738–53.
Velleman, J. David. “The Guise of the Good,” Nous 26 (1992): 3–26.
Wiggins, David. “Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life,” Proceedings of the British Academy 62 (1976): 331–78.
Williams, Bernard. “Internal and External Reasons,” in Rational Action, Harrison, Ross, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 17–28; reprinted in B. Williams, Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 101–13.


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