Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory

1st Edition

Edited by George Sher


826 pages

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pub: 2012-02-09
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Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory is an outstanding anthology of the most important topics, theories and debates in ethics, compiled by one of the leading experts in the field. It includes sixty-six extracts covering the central domains of ethics:

  • why be moral?
  • the meaning of moral language
  • morality and objectivity
  • consequentialism
  • deontology
  • virtue and character
  • value and well-being
  • moral psychology
  • applications: including abortion, famine relief and consent.

Included are both classical extracts from Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant and Mill, as well as contemporary classics from philosophers such as Thomas Nagel, Thomas Scanlon, Martha Nussbaum, Derek Parfit, and Peter Singer.

A key feature of the anthology is that it covers the perennial topics in ethics as well as very recent ones, such as moral psychology, responsibility and experimental philosophy. Each section is introduced and placed in context by the editor, making this an ideal anthology for anyone studying ethics or ethical theory.


"This new anthology is the best textbook in moral theory by far. The selections are a judicious combination of the classic and the new, carefully and skillfully edited." - David McNaughton, Florida State University, USA

"The text is well structured and the readings well chosen: they are important, interesting, varied, popular and up-to-date. The book serves as a fine representation of essential work in analytic moral philosophy." - Helena de Bres, Wellesley College, USA

"These readings have clearly been selected with great care, and Sher's introductions provide just the right amount of guidance and narrative coherence. The result is an impressively wide-ranging yet student-friendly textbook, one of the best ethics anthologies out there." - Neal Tognazzini, College of William and Mary, USA

Table of Contents

Introduction George Sher Part 1: Why be Moral? 1. The Ring of Gyges Plato 2. Psychological Egoism Joel Feinberg 3. Morality and Self-Interest Thomas Hobbes 4. Morality and Advantage David Gauthier 5. Selections from The Sources of Normativity Christine Korsgaard 6. Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives Philippa Foot 7. Moral Rationalism Russ Shafer-Landau Part 2: The Meaing of Moral Language 8. Morality and Natural Sentiment David Hume 9. Goodness as Simple and Indefinable G. E. Moore 10. The Emotive Theory of Ethics A. J. Ayer 11. Selections from Ruling Passions Simon Blackburn 12. A Critique of Non-Cognitivism, selection from Moral Realism: A Defense Russ Shafer-Landau 13. Euthyphro Plato 14. A New Divine Command Theory Robert Merrihew Adams Part 3: Morality, Objectivity, and Knowledge 15. The Challenge of Cultural Relativism James Rachels 16. Ethics and Observation Gilbert Harman 17. Moral Explanations Nicholas Sturgeon 18. The Subjectivity of Value J. L. Mackie 19. Selections from The View from Nowhere Thomas Nagel 20. Selections from Moral Skepticisms Walter Sinnott-Armstrong 21. But I Could Be Wrong George Sher Part 4: Normative Ethics: Consequentialism 22. Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill 23. A Critique of Utilitarianism Bernard Williams 24. Classical Utilitarianism John Rawls 25. Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality Peter Railton 26. Rule-Consequentialism Brad Hooker 27. Scalar Morality Alastair Norcross 28. Should the Numbers Count John Taurek Part 5: Normative Ethics: Deontology 29. Morality and Rationality Immanuel Kant 30. Reading kant's groundwork David Velleman 31. The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil Christine Korsgaard 32. Maria von Herbert's Challenge to Kant Rae Langton 33. Selections from A Theory of Justice John Rawls 34. Contractualism and Utilitarianism Thomas Scanlon 35. What Makes Right Acts Right W. D. Ross 36. Selections from Ethics Without Principles Jonathan Dancy Part 6: Virtue and Character 37. The Nature of Moral Virtue Aristotle 38. Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach Martha Nussbaum 39. Selection from Virtue, Vice, and Value Thomas Hurka 40. Beyond Morality, selections from Beyond Good and Evil and The Genealogy of Morals Friedrich Nietzsche 41. Persons, Character, and Morality Bernard Willliams 42. Moral Saints Susan Wolf 43. Selection from On Virtue Ethics Rosalind Hursthouse 44. Selection from Lack of Character John Doris Part 7: Value and Well-being 45. Pleasure as the Good Jeremy Bentham 46. The Experience Machine Robert Nozick 47. The Good Life Epicurus 48. Goodness as the Satisfaction of Informed Desire Richard Brandt 49. Facts and Values Peter Railton 50. Perfectionism, selections from Perfectionism Thomas Hurka 51. What Makes Someone's Life Go Best? Derek Parfit 52. The Buck-Passing Account of Value, selection from What We Owe to Each Other Thomas Scanlon Part 8: Responsibility and Moral Psychology 53. Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person Harry Frankfurt 54. The Genesis of Shame David Velleman 55. Freedom and Resentment P. F. Strawson 56. Responsibility and the Limits of Evil Gary Watson 57. Moral Luck Thomas Nagel 58. Moral Responsibility and Determinism: The Cognitive Science of Folk Intuitions Shaun Nichols and Joshua Knobe 59. The Secret Joke of Kant's Soul Joshua Greene Part 9: Applications 60. A Defense of Abortion Judith Jarvis Thomson 61. Subsidized Abortion: Moral Rights and Moral Compromise George Sher 62. Famine, Affluence, and Morality Peter Singer 63. Beneficence, Duty, and Distance Richard Miller 64. What is Wrong With Slavery R. M. Hare 65. Between Consenting Adults Onora O’Neill 66. Death Thomas Nagel. Index

About the Editor

George Sher is Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Philosophy at Rice University, USA. He is the author Desert (1987), Beyond Neutrality: Perfectionism and Politics (1997), Approximate Justice: Studies in Non-Ideal Theory (1997), In Praise of Blame (2006), and Who Knew? Responsibility Without Awareness (2009). He is also a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at the Princeton Center for Human Values.

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