Understanding Ethics: 4th Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Ethics

4th Edition

By Noel Preston

Federation Press

240 pages

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We encounter ethical challenges on a day to day basis in matters that involve what we call ethical values. Some of these challenges affect us as individuals but seem beyond our power to influence, such as a political decision about whether our nation should go to war. Other momentous ethical questions confront us in particular situations, such as when a road accident leaves a loved one brain damaged and medical practitioners seek our permission to turn off life support. Understanding Ethics introduces the frameworks of moral philosophy to analyse contemporary moral issues and perennial human dilemmas.

While the early chapters of ethical theory remain substantially the same, the rest of the book is expanded with updated references, new case studies and an improved index. The new edition examines particular issues which reflect many of the social, scientific and cultural changes of the last decade, especially in an Australian context.

Understanding Ethics is constructed in three sections. Part A introduces the nature, language and frameworks of ethics concluding with a chapter on ethical decision-making. Part B explores topical applied ethics issues of interpersonal and social significance ranging through bioethics, sexual ethics, environmental ethics, business ethics, political ethics and questions of war and social justice. Part C considers how we learn ethics and cultivate a moral life by exploring ethics education in schools and the workplace and finally contains an examination of how we sustain our ethical commitments across a lifetime while experiencing constant change.


Reviews of previous editions:

Preston provides a superb introduction to moral reasoning in a world where old certainties have vanished. His comprehensive coverage of contemporary modes of ethical reasoning, written in an elegant, accessible style, makes a marvellous text for law students learning to reflect upon law and its limits.

Sandra Berns, Griffith University

A book that aims to comprehend this difficult subject within an internally consistent framework… the work affords a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of ethical dilemmas encountered in the endeavour to answer fundamental questions about how our lives are to be thought of and lived.

The author has presented the structure of the book in a format of essentially three sections, directed respectively to the nature of ethics, applied ethics and in its later chapters, to a wide variety of topics, of which matters of life and death, public responsibility, politics and the global environment are examples. These culminate in a perspective on "cultivating an ethical life".. Throughout Dr Preston develops a benchmark which he calls "an ethic of response" by which the philosophical and practical aspects, and thus the ethics of actions, may be evaluated. The book contains in its initial chapters a relatively brief but very useful description of various theories of ethics. This is augmented by a succinct glossary at the end of the volume. Each chapter concludes with a chapter review, a list of suggested further reading and, importantly, questions for discussion and case studies.

Frank Armer, Alternative Law Jounral Vol 27 No 1

Many issues and themes that arise for consideration in this book lie at the heart of contemporary legal analysis: issues such as individual liberty, protection from harm, the promulgation of a just society; issues of social justice as determined by the "common good" and "public interest"; general principles of justice and fairness; the protection of human rights; exploration of matters of integrity, truthfulness and honesty; appropriate boundary setting for state interevention in a liberal democractic society; the recognition and management of conflicts of interest; and broader perspectives on acting in ways that are consistent with the duties entrusted to persons in professional roles.

Understanding Ethics … would serve well as an introductory text or as a reader for either tertiary or secondary teachers who come to the study of ethics from outside the discipline. It would also find an appreciative audience simply with anyone who is interested in these broader philosophical or contemporty moral questions. The text is easy to read, well written and thoughtfully organised.

Understanding Ethics should be recommended reading for all legal graduates-in-training.

Sally Kift, 2001 QUT Law and Justice Journal, 1(2) 317

Table of Contents

Part A: What is Ethics? The Ethical Challenge Encountering Ethics Ethical Theory: An Overview

Responsible Ethical Decisions Part B: What are the Issues? Truthtelling and Honesty Sex, Love and Morality

Life and Death: Bioethical Issues War, Terrorism and Violence Public Responsibility and Political Ethics Ethics in Business and the Professions Environmental Ethics A Global Ethic for a Global Society Part C: How to Cultivate an Ethical Life Values Education Sustaining the Good Life

About the Author

Noel Preston is currently Adjunct Professor in the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, Griffith University and part-time lecturer affiliated to Charles Sturt University through St Francis' Theological College, Brisbane. He retired in November 2004 as the founding Director of the Unitingcare Centre for Social Justice.

In 2004 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the community in the field of ethics. In his capacity as a social justice campaigner since the early 1970s and as a Minister of the Uniting Church he has previously held leadership roles in various church social justice portfolios including inaugural Convenor of the Uniting Church’s Commission on Social Responsibility, Queensland Director of Action for World Development and Executive Officer of the Victorian Synod Division of Social Justice.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology