Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover


A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd Edition

By Harry J Gensler


244 pages

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Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction introduces the issues and controversies of contemporary moral philosophy. It gets students to struggle with the big questions of morality while it also relates these questions to practical issues, especially racism, global warming, moral education, and abortion. Providing a practical method for thinking about moral issues—a method based largely on the golden rule—it is written simply and clearly throughout. College students who are new to philosophy or who have already taken an introductory-level course will benefit from its use. 

Key Features:

  • Serves as either the sole textbook for a lower-level introduction to ethics/moral philosophy course or a supplementary text for a more advanced undergraduate ethics course.
  • Provides clear, direct writing throughout, making each chapter easily accessible for an engaged undergraduate student.
  • Offers a philosophically rigorous presentation of the golden rule.
  • Includes helpful study aids, including: bolded technical terms; boxes for key ideas; summaries, study questions, and suggested readings for each chapter; and a comprehensive glossary/index at the back of the book.

Key Additions to the Third Edition:

  • Each chapter now offers additional, optional sections on more advanced topics for students wishing to dig deeper into the material (advanced topics include: Kohlberg’s moral psychology, whether morality is gendered, types of relativism, early Greek ethics, Hume, and the prisoner’s dilemma).
  • Other improvements include: better chapter organization, clearer explanations, improved examples, new names for key arguments, and a better Kindle version.
  • An updated and improved EthiCola instructional program (with a score-processing program, teacher’s manual, and class slides), which can be downloaded from the web for free (from or


"No one weds philosophical rigor to undergraduate pedagogy like Gensler. His comprehensive explanations remain exceptionally accessible for any reader, while the addition of optional sections on advanced topics and greater emphasis on issues like global warming and multiculturalism have amplified the book’s instructional power."

--Joseph Steineger, Lindenwood University, USA

"A broad and keen scholar and an engaging and crystal-clear teacher, Harry Gensler introduces ethics with an approach that is truly fresh. He shows how the golden rule of treating others only in ways that are consistent with how we want to be treated can be developed into a rational framework for ethics; and he treats an ample range of problems in theoretical and applied ethics."

--Jeffrey Wattles, Kent State University, USA, Emeritus

"Harry Gensler’s Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction is one of the very best books of its kind. It is widely used and has been translated into four different languages. This new and improved version of Gensler’s textbook is notable for its clarity and rigor. It is particularly helpful in the way it sets out strong arguments for and against many important views and theories. Students who use this book will learn a great deal about logic and critical thinking."

--Thomas Carson, Loyola University Chicago

"Fr. Gensler makes significant modifications to his Second Edition in this his Third Edition of his incisive introduction to philosophy. He retains his focus on the golden rule, but now applies its ethical reasoning to more cases and also includes more advanced topics. Students will benefit in particular from the upgraded Ethicola instructional program that is included with the text."

--James Swindal, Duquesne University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Cultural Relativism

Chapter 2: Subjectivism

Chapter 3: Supernaturalism

Chapter 4: Intuitionism

Chapter 5: Emotivism

Chapter 6: Prescriptivism

Chapter 7: GR Logic

Chapter 8: GR Applications

Chapter 9: GR Frameworks

Chapter 10: Consequentialism

Chapter 11: Nonconsequentialism

Chapter 12: Synthesis Chapter

Suggested Works




About the Author

Harry J. Gensler, S.J., is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. Some of his other books include Formal Ethics (1996), Ethics: Contemporary Readings (2004), Anthology of Catholic Philosophy (2005), Historical Dictionary of Logic (2006), Historical Dictionary of Ethics (2008), Ethics and the Golden Rule (2013), Ethics and Religion (2016), and Introduction to Logic, Third Edition (2017).

About the Series

Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy

An innovative, well structured series, the Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy are designed for students who already have completed an introductory-level course in philosophy.  Each book introduces a core general subject in contemporary philosophy and offers students an accessible but substantial transition from introductory to higher-level college work in that subject.  The series is accessible to non-specialists and each book clearly motivates and expounds the problems and positions introduced.  An orientating chapter briefly introduces its topic and reminds readers of any crucial material they need to have retained from a typical introductory course.  Considerable attention is given to explaining central philosophical problems of a subject and the main competing solutions and arguments for those solutions.  The primary aim is to educate students in the main problems, positions and arguments of contemporary philosophy rather than to convince students of a single position.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy