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The Elements of Moral Philosophy [with Dictionary of Philosophical Terms]

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Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book combines clear explanations of the main theories of ethics with discussions of interesting examples. Topics covered include famine relief, homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. The texts versatility allows it to be widely used not only in ethical theory courses, bu Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book combines clear explanations of the main theories of ethics with discussions of interesting examples. Topics covered include famine relief, homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. The texts versatility allows it to be widely used not only in ethical theory courses, but also in applied ethics courses of all kinds.


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Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book combines clear explanations of the main theories of ethics with discussions of interesting examples. Topics covered include famine relief, homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. The texts versatility allows it to be widely used not only in ethical theory courses, bu Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book combines clear explanations of the main theories of ethics with discussions of interesting examples. Topics covered include famine relief, homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. The texts versatility allows it to be widely used not only in ethical theory courses, but also in applied ethics courses of all kinds.

30 review for The Elements of Moral Philosophy [with Dictionary of Philosophical Terms]

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels, Stuart Rachels The Elements of Moral Philosophy, by James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, is an ethics textbook. It explains a number of moral theories and topics, including cultural relativism, subjectivism, divine command theory, ethical egoism, social contract theory, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and deontology. The book uses real-life examples in explaining the theories. James Rachels wrote the first edition in 1986. He revised the book three tim The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels, Stuart Rachels The Elements of Moral Philosophy, by James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, is an ethics textbook. It explains a number of moral theories and topics, including cultural relativism, subjectivism, divine command theory, ethical egoism, social contract theory, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and deontology. The book uses real-life examples in explaining the theories. James Rachels wrote the first edition in 1986. He revised the book three times, adding a chapter on "The Ethics of Virtue" in 1993 and a chapter on "Feminism and the Ethics of Care" in 1999. The fourth edition appeared in 2003, the year Rachels died. Since then, his son Stuart has written the fifth edition and the sixth edition, which was released in April 2009. An 8th edition was released in October 2014. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه سپتامبر سال 2008 میلادی عنوان: فلسفه اخلاق؛ نویسنده: جیمز راشل (ریچلز)؛ مترجم: آرش اخگری؛ تهران، انتشارات حکمت؛ ، در 304 ص؛ شابک: 9789648713558؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brandt

    After looking over some of the reviews here on goodreads about this book, I had to admit I found them somewhat amusing. After doing some research on the people who rated this book poorly, it would seem that they just don't comprehend the usefulness of this book. I used this book as a companion piece for reading classical, modern, and contemporary essays by "the greats" in moral philosophy. Perhaps, the best way to use this book, and one I would strongly recommend for those who didn't get it, is After looking over some of the reviews here on goodreads about this book, I had to admit I found them somewhat amusing. After doing some research on the people who rated this book poorly, it would seem that they just don't comprehend the usefulness of this book. I used this book as a companion piece for reading classical, modern, and contemporary essays by "the greats" in moral philosophy. Perhaps, the best way to use this book, and one I would strongly recommend for those who didn't get it, is for that purpose. As an example, and I use this example, because I think this is the source of much of the poor ratings, I read St. Augustine's essay's Of the Morals of the Catholic Church and The Enchiridion . Then I read St. Aquinas' essay's Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologica . I followed these two classics with a modern reading of Soren Kirkegaard's The Journals, Either/Or , and Fear and Trembling . I concluded with a contemporary reading of Philip L. Quinn's God and Morality . At the conclusion of these readings I then read chapter four of this book, Does Morality Depend on Religion . It is only within the understanding of these writings, and then reading the chapter in this book, that the usefulness of the information becomes clear. This book summarizes the complete doctrines of, for example, Divine Command Theory, Natural Law, and the overall presumed connection between morality and religion. Along with this, it shows the problems associated with these systems of morality/ethics. All of the moral/ethical systems presented by this book are also exposed to criticism. For some of the ethical systems, the criticism becomes either to hard to overcome, or needs further clarification to be a workable system. Keeping in line with the examples of Chapter four, a serious defect and insurmountable objection comes to Divine Command Theory and Natural Law. It is this inability of these ethical systems to overcome the objection that I think exposes the true reason for the bad review of this book. Overall, I have nothing but praise for the book, and I think it is important to also take note in the fact that the book does not make claim to which ethical/moral system is correct. It only shows the various systems and elements of them (hence the word "element" in the title). Will this book tell you what is wrong or right? No. Can this book be used to highlight and critique elements of ethical systems? Yes. Perhaps, if you have an interest in moral philosophy, and really want to understand it, then this book is for you. Enjoy the journey.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul,

    This book is full of logical fallacies and unwarranted assumptions. However, these assumptions are part of the warp and woof of the modern American worldview, so they are almost invisible to the unwary reader. How surprising that an academic text on ethics would determine that religion and morality are unrelated, that human reason is the gateway and determiner of morality, and that absolute morals do not exist!! Any observer of our culture would know that this is the kind of morality that we wou This book is full of logical fallacies and unwarranted assumptions. However, these assumptions are part of the warp and woof of the modern American worldview, so they are almost invisible to the unwary reader. How surprising that an academic text on ethics would determine that religion and morality are unrelated, that human reason is the gateway and determiner of morality, and that absolute morals do not exist!! Any observer of our culture would know that this is the kind of morality that we would produce. So Dr. Rachels finds himself a victim of his own worldview, yet strangely confident in all his assertions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ruxandra

    Socrates: We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live. This review is mostly for who is new to the world of Ethics-by-the-book, as I am. Therefore, if you want to expand your knowledge and ethical reasoning beyond the golden rule, this book might be the best start. It is very up-to-date, very structured, not boring at all: it tries to explain philosophically the answers to many questions we have asked ourselves: • [How] should we judge cultures that have different moral code Socrates: We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live. This review is mostly for who is new to the world of Ethics-by-the-book, as I am. Therefore, if you want to expand your knowledge and ethical reasoning beyond the golden rule, this book might be the best start. It is very up-to-date, very structured, not boring at all: it tries to explain philosophically the answers to many questions we have asked ourselves: • [How] should we judge cultures that have different moral codes? • Does morality depend on religion? What is their true relationship, anyway? • How can you objectively define what is right and what is wrong? • Are women different than men or not? Should we treat men and women differently? • etc. After starting with very interesting and modern examples to illustrate the questions above, the author goes on to analyse the proposals of the great philosophers to explain Ethics as a solution for humanity (and not only) so that the happiness of the individual is also optimised. Thus, it goes to the description, pro's and con's of: • Ethical Egoism - do whatever is in your best interest • Utilitarianism - do whatever promotes the best ratio of happiness over unhappiness in the world • Kant's idea that we should find moral rules that can be followed by everybody no matter the circumstances. (E.g.: you shouldn't lie, no matter what.) • Social Contract - do whatever is of mutual benefit to you and the society you live in as a self-interested, rational individual All of them seem attractive at first sight, but no, none is perfect :) Actually, that is what disappoints me regarding this book - that there is no clear solution to "how we ought to live" and the moral problems described in the first chapters seem to remain unsolved, because the author tries to be politically correct. Nevertheless, the ideas of Ethics of Care (feminism) and Ethics of Virtue proposed are almost convincing. To put it differently,the fact that the book is more a textbook than a philosophical thesis meant to convince, is the reason why I liked much, much more the first Ethics book I've read -- Ética para Amador, by Fernando Savater; this one went straight to my heart, even though it is simpler (it is a book for teenagers.) So I will promote it to 4 or 5 starts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I thought it was alright, I liked the examples he used, I think they made it easier to contrast the theories with one another, however I could barely tolerate the bias throughout the thing. Even when I agreed with the ideas Rachels was saying I found myself put off, just because of the obvious side he would take with each theory, brushing off any counter arguments that could exist. Also the conclusions seemed hasty to me, and they would make leaps from the premises to his point, for example: 'The I thought it was alright, I liked the examples he used, I think they made it easier to contrast the theories with one another, however I could barely tolerate the bias throughout the thing. Even when I agreed with the ideas Rachels was saying I found myself put off, just because of the obvious side he would take with each theory, brushing off any counter arguments that could exist. Also the conclusions seemed hasty to me, and they would make leaps from the premises to his point, for example: 'The argument may be summarized like this: When one person says "X is morally acceptable," and someone else says "X is morally unacceptable," they are disagreeing. However, if Simple Subjectivism were correct, there would be no disagreement between them. Therefore Simple Subjectivism cannot be correct.' (P35, Int Ed.) I'm probably missing something, but isn't the point of that whole chapter revolving around the theory that those quotes are personal, and separate from right and wrong, based on feeling? How does he suddenly decide that they are wrong? Why is there a disagreement? Surely you can't discount a theory just because it clashes with another theory?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mardin Uzeri

    Engaging and clear "And in ethics we should often expect people not to listen to reason: After all, ethics often requires us to do things we don't want to do, so it is only to be expected that sometimes we try to avoid hearing its demands." This work serves as a good starting point to dive into the vast realms of moral philosophy. I believe the well structured approach and the simply put formulations of the popular moral theories do provide solid ground to build upon. It claims to be introductory Engaging and clear "And in ethics we should often expect people not to listen to reason: After all, ethics often requires us to do things we don't want to do, so it is only to be expected that sometimes we try to avoid hearing its demands." This work serves as a good starting point to dive into the vast realms of moral philosophy. I believe the well structured approach and the simply put formulations of the popular moral theories do provide solid ground to build upon. It claims to be introductory and that is exactly what it is. I won't say that Rachels was entirely unbiased throughout though. I felt like some of the theories (like The Divine Command) were not given their proper due and some theories on the other hand were spared from a formidable criticism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vitak

    This is amazing. This eyeopening masterpiece really gets me question about so many things in life, value, beliefs, and social structure. Very powerful indeed. One of the most memorable quotes is from the Theory of Natural Law. "If God forbids certain behaviors, is it because S/he knows what is right or is it because S/he is God"? And "it is irrational to think that your culture is the best because all cultures are true-at least within their own society". More quotes and life lessons. I do not read This is amazing. This eyeopening masterpiece really gets me question about so many things in life, value, beliefs, and social structure. Very powerful indeed. One of the most memorable quotes is from the Theory of Natural Law. "If God forbids certain behaviors, is it because S/he knows what is right or is it because S/he is God"? And "it is irrational to think that your culture is the best because all cultures are true-at least within their own society". More quotes and life lessons. I do not read much non-fiction. But this book is so worth it!!!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Particular reviewers here have critiqued Rachels' book on their complete misunderstanding of ethics and philosophy in general. Certain "top" reviewers here have taken umbrage at Rachels for taking the position that morality is not dependent upon God's existence or commands. The majority of philosophers take this position, so this is hardly controversial for Rachels to put forth and defend. Divine command theory died a horrible death over two millennia ago when Euthyphro, much like certain "top" Particular reviewers here have critiqued Rachels' book on their complete misunderstanding of ethics and philosophy in general. Certain "top" reviewers here have taken umbrage at Rachels for taking the position that morality is not dependent upon God's existence or commands. The majority of philosophers take this position, so this is hardly controversial for Rachels to put forth and defend. Divine command theory died a horrible death over two millennia ago when Euthyphro, much like certain "top" reviewers of Rachels' book, postured and bumbled along in an attempt to defend his illusory moral expertise. And speaking of illusory moral expertise, some well-liked critics of Rachels' book believe Kant argued for moral relativism, which one would know is horribly wrong had one bothered to read Rachels' book or any other introductory book on ethics (or stepped foot into an introductory ethics course). Now, that said, I feel compelled to give a quick list of the cons and pros of "The Elements of Moral Philosophy." Positives: -While it is overall uneven in how well it approaches key ideas in ethics, it does a decent job of conveying some important ideas. Chapters worth reading include "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (chapter 2), "Ethical Egoism" (chapter 5), "The Debate Over Utilitarianism" (chapter 8), "Are There Absolute Moral Rules?" (chapter 9), "Kant and Respect For Persons" (chapter 10), and "Virtue Ethics" (chapter 12). -Each chapter is a relatively quick read, but Rachels makes good use of the limited space to convey the basics in the chapters I recommended above. Negatives: -The rest of the chapters do not give students a satisfactory overview. As another reviewer pointed out (I believe on Amazon's page for this book), the chapter on subjectivism is pretty muddled. It spends a lot of time talking about emotivism (which is a separate metaethical position entirely), error theory (again, this is an entirely different position), and Rachels defines subjectivism as if it were just emotivism or some variant of it, which goes against the orthodox definition and muddies emotivism. The chapter on care ethics spent too much time going over dubious evidence as to whether men and women think differently about ethics and not enough time on actual care ethics. Finally, the chapter on God and morality spent too little time on divine command theory and natural law and too much time on some religious people's biblical interpretations, appeals to tradition, and appeals to authority to support their moral views. -The sales practice of releasing a new edition nearly every year is ridiculous and unnecessary. If you're student who needs to buy this, then more likely than not you could get away with buying a cheaper, older edition. -As a general criticism: each chapter needs to be greatly expanded upon. This should definitely be the case if this is meant to be a textbook for an introductory ethics course. As a stand alone book on ethics, it doesn't do a great job introducing the topic to students. It could work as a supplement in a classroom, but even then there are better introductory books on ethics. [Edit: 2/18/16] I'm changing my rating from two stars to three stars. The book has grown on me. Also, I've found older philosophy texts that refer to subjectivism as Rachels does, so I think I was too harsh to criticize him roughly there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Ferreira

    I read this when I had a quite deep interest in philosophy and ethics - why should I or shouldn't I think or act this or that way. I hungered for some months for a book that would get me thinking correctly and logically about these kinds of issues, so I asked my philosophy teacher if he could help me find one. He immediatly recommended The Elements of Moral Philosophy, legitimating his choice by saying it's a great start-off book for those who want to think more about such important problems and I read this when I had a quite deep interest in philosophy and ethics - why should I or shouldn't I think or act this or that way. I hungered for some months for a book that would get me thinking correctly and logically about these kinds of issues, so I asked my philosophy teacher if he could help me find one. He immediatly recommended The Elements of Moral Philosophy, legitimating his choice by saying it's a great start-off book for those who want to think more about such important problems and make the world a better place by changing it. I was quite young (still am, but not as naive) so I got pretty excited when he told me these things. So I went out to buy the book, read it in a couple weeks, presented it to my class making them believe what I had come to believe: that I had suddenly become a more ponderate, intelligent and wise person. Although, as weeks turned to months and months turned to years, I came to realize I wasn't. Only after a long time had I come to realize that the book had barely teached me anything - of what I wanted to learn. Sure, it was a good read. And I did learn something. I learned how religion is pretty much ridiculously stupid on - at least - what comes to homossexuality: it's very easy to refute a religious argument against homossexuality. Having a special problem with religion, I did focous on refuting some of its positions, so I also learned effectively that morality should not and must not have anything to do with religion and vice-versa and am very glad I did. There was one particular chapter of the book I didn't like: the one about subjectivism. James Rachels supports the idea that altruism is indeed possible - that people that like to do good things do not do it to feel good. This is something I can't accept. I am not a right-wing guy nor do I think people are bad and never mean good to other people (am I repeating myself?), but for me it's not conceivable that my mother stayed at home instead of working and chase her wildest dreams to take care of her kids just because she wants them to have a great and not-hard life. She also did it because she feels good about it. And that's why she keeps doing it - for her own personal pleasure. If she didn't like what she did, she wouldn't be doing it. James Rachels did a great job introducing me to morality and to philosophical thinking - but it did not add much to what I had already learned just by going to school, and I don't think he wrote this book just thinking about people who can't go to school... Anyhow, even if not as much as I'd like to, the book presents you some interesting ideas and stimulates - again, even if not as much as I'd like to - your thinking to become more logically wise.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lacey

    Very clear and understandable. It gave examples of the things you are learning, so that was also very helpful.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomfrost

    This is a clear, logical, no-nonsense overview of the main ethical frameworks philosophers have been able to come up with. If the way one speaks tells us something about the content of what they are saying, you should already be able to guess Rachels’s own philosophical background. Is it comprehensive? Well, it depends. Rachels doesn’t give us a history of ethics, or an introduction to the philosophers who have developed such theories. Rather, what he does is to boil down every theoretical syste This is a clear, logical, no-nonsense overview of the main ethical frameworks philosophers have been able to come up with. If the way one speaks tells us something about the content of what they are saying, you should already be able to guess Rachels’s own philosophical background. Is it comprehensive? Well, it depends. Rachels doesn’t give us a history of ethics, or an introduction to the philosophers who have developed such theories. Rather, what he does is to boil down every theoretical system to its rawest, most logical form and see whether it works or not. Is it biased? I’m sure many think it is, but even they would admit that Rachels gives the reader plenty of opportunities to disagree with him and judge the theories for themselves. Overall, I think this can be a valuable book for students and lay people alike. But, be warned. It’s not your typical textbook. There are neither diagrams, nor pictures in it, and Rachels’s colloquial tone may not be what you are looking for. What you get: - what is morality? - The challenge of cultural relativism - subjectivism in ethics - Does morality depend on religion? - psychological egoism - ethical egoism - The utilitarian approach - The debate over utilitarianism - Are there absolute moral rules? - Kant and respect for persons - The idea of social contract - Feminism and the ethics of care - The ethics of virtue - what would a satisfactory moral theory be like?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    ##I'm only about half-way through the book and have not finished it. Therefore my review will be incomplete but I will update the review as I go on## TLDR: Since this book is called The "Elements" of Moral Philosophy, thus emphasizing the foundation, my review must acknowledge that it will not be too in-depth. As a survey I give it 4 stars. However if you already know the general moral philosophical theories, this would not be a great book for you. This book is a good book to use as an introductio ##I'm only about half-way through the book and have not finished it. Therefore my review will be incomplete but I will update the review as I go on## TLDR: Since this book is called The "Elements" of Moral Philosophy, thus emphasizing the foundation, my review must acknowledge that it will not be too in-depth. As a survey I give it 4 stars. However if you already know the general moral philosophical theories, this would not be a great book for you. This book is a good book to use as an introduction into moral philosophy as it is supplemented with entertaining real life problems and is fairly simple. Also the sections are self-contained and can be viewed independent of whether you have read the previous parts. That is especially helpful for a beginner who is lacking in a specific aspect of moral philosophy. I found the section on Psychological Egoism to be severely lacking. This is especially unfortunate for me as some one who is inclined to believe it but who realizes that it would make the goal of studying morality moot. In specific, James states that he understands that the psychological egoist will say the goal of altruism is an illusion to some ulterior motive, but in order to oppose this James gives superficial accounts of why the reasons aren't for some ulterior self-interested motive. Secondly, in the section on Classical Utilitarianism he states that Utilitarian's don't base their theory on Hedonism because we value things other than pleasure. However I do not believe he adequately shows that we value things like friendship for themselves and not for the pleasure it brings. In sum, James Rachels does a good job at stating some main concepts in moral philosophy but doesn't always do justice to the theories and their opposing arguments when he states oppositions without properly elaborating. This review may sound unfairly negative of James, however I'm really not that disappointed in the book. Even though he doesn't always do the best job in describing opposing points, he still does a decent job. For the length of the book, you can't expect much more... As a side note, James annoyingly contradicts himself when he places too much emphasis on whether or not a theory fits the common-sense conception of morality or if it is practices widely today. This is contradicting because he states early in the book that just because someone has a belief doesn't make it true (clearly). For example, during his discussion of Utilitarianism he states that it places unrealistic expectations because one normally isn't required to be so benevolent to give away everything. However this has no relation to whether or not the theory is correct. He does mention this criticism as a possible response to the objections in that case, but the fact that he "plays the part" in the rest of the text without clarification is still annoying.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Haider Hussain

    A precise and well-written introductory text for those who want to start exploring moral philosophy. Major ethical approaches like Egoism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, Social Contract and Kantian ethics were clearly explained with arguments both in favor and against these approaches. Nonetheless, just like with every introductory book, it tempts you to start drawing conclusions. Don't fall for it. This is meant to be only the starting point without much profundity. Read this book and then move A precise and well-written introductory text for those who want to start exploring moral philosophy. Major ethical approaches like Egoism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, Social Contract and Kantian ethics were clearly explained with arguments both in favor and against these approaches. Nonetheless, just like with every introductory book, it tempts you to start drawing conclusions. Don't fall for it. This is meant to be only the starting point without much profundity. Read this book and then move on to more in-depth specialized texts on Ethics and Moral Philosophy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I enjoyed this introduction to ethics. It makes me want to read more on the subject.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Muhammed Rafid K

    It gave me a clear cut idea about the theories of moral theories and it's criticism. It gave me a clear cut idea about the theories of moral theories and it's criticism.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Awaz

    It was useful! At least I learned some basics about moral theories..

  17. 5 out of 5

    Philip of Macedon

    Moral philosophy is something I've long been interested in despite having no formal familiarity with it. I think about the concepts and reason behind values and ethics and moral behavior often, but without any grounding in the work of the field. This seemed like a swell book to introduce me to effective and reasonable ways of thinking about the subject. I was wrong. It's not merely swell, it's outstanding. Rachels presents the main areas of moral philosophy to have developed over time, and succi Moral philosophy is something I've long been interested in despite having no formal familiarity with it. I think about the concepts and reason behind values and ethics and moral behavior often, but without any grounding in the work of the field. This seemed like a swell book to introduce me to effective and reasonable ways of thinking about the subject. I was wrong. It's not merely swell, it's outstanding. Rachels presents the main areas of moral philosophy to have developed over time, and succinctly but informatively discusses their strengths and weaknesses. I was pleased to see how strongly moral philosophy is tied to reason and logical, critical thinking, as that's how I imagined such a subject should be approached, but wasn't sure if it was. Each chapter is a different essay expounding on a particular issue, idea, or theory of moral philosophy, and Rachels lays everything out so coherently, with no wasted space, no needless jargon or verbiage, eloquently giving each topic the case it deserves, and (at least for me) giving awfully convincing arguments as to why, despite some theories' massive strengths, they fall short in some way. He doesn't miss a beat, and seems to give equal consideration to 'competing' ideas, how they complement one another, how they differ, where some are better than others, and how their elements can be thought about in the context of our world and cultures. Human and animal welfare are considered. The downfalls of cultural relativity are clearly presented, along with things we can learn from an ultimately flawed but not useless framework. Subjectivism in ethics is dissected. Religion's authority (or lack thereof) on morality is established. I was surprised to be able to anticipate the reasons for some of the conclusions about each of these issues, and pleased that nothing seemed unreasonable or beyond the scope of rationality. And then the four leading theories of moral philosophy were presented, all attractive in their own ways, and some initially appearing to me to be rather sufficient. To be clear, the reason they are or were leading (or at least taken very seriously) is because to some degree they *are* sufficient, but not in all areas, and they are not universal or complete. Rachels presents sound reasoning in laying out the weaknesses of each, some of which I'd anticipated, others which were eye opening and enlightening, giving a glimpse of the kind of critical thinking necessary in this field. It was absolutely invigorating to read, to reflect on, to spend time pondering over and over, and engaging with. The social contract, for example, provides the most flawless justification for civil disobedience that may exist, and other theories provide similarly powerful forms of analysis of other issues. I was surprised at how weak Kant's theory on morality was, despite it having some obvious good points. What strikes me as most odd is that philosophy seems to reject theories if they are even partially wrong, instead of keeping the parts that are right and combining them with parts of other theories that are right. It's as though a grand unifying theory of moral philosophy is being sought, and anything less than perfect is rejected. Each of the theories detailed here have strong points that I think are valuable to anyone, despite their disagreeable qualities that do clearly need to be modified or ignored. Toward the end, as he lays out a concept of how we could achieve a satisfactory moral theory, Rachels presents a highly reasoned argument for treating people as they deserve, based on merit and deserts, which seems to fit perfectly into multiple theories and brings about more desirable conditions for society. He has no audacity to assume he will be able to formalize a perfect moral theory, but he has given an invaluable overview of the topic, and more importantly, shows one how to think about it. If you're looking to philosophy to get your proverbial fish, don't waste your time. This book, like good philosophy, is your proverbial fishing lesson.

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Miller

    An excellent survey of moral theory. I have used passages with students for the new AQA Philosophy A-Level and it has proven accessible for them. It covers the major trends in contemporary theory (Kantian Deontology; Utilitarianism; Social Contract Theory; Virtue Theory) and for each acknowledges the strengths and also the more devastating criticisms. There is a very welcome focus on case studies including Animal use, the Courage of figures both acting to prevent the holocaust and those involved An excellent survey of moral theory. I have used passages with students for the new AQA Philosophy A-Level and it has proven accessible for them. It covers the major trends in contemporary theory (Kantian Deontology; Utilitarianism; Social Contract Theory; Virtue Theory) and for each acknowledges the strengths and also the more devastating criticisms. There is a very welcome focus on case studies including Animal use, the Courage of figures both acting to prevent the holocaust and those involved (does their courage have a different valence?) and many others. It doesn't really deal with meta-ethics, but makes some nods towards it. The mix of detailed discussion of key thinkers, with key quotes etc., and some limited concluding remarks suggesting ways of bringing Utilitarian ethics together with aspects of Virtue theory and Feminist ethics is also attractive and reasonably compelling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mohammad Forouhesh

    This book was my ethics course companion book, and i read it in autemn 2017. Materials presented in this book are well ordered (like most other textbooks on ethics), but the main problem with this was the manner of presentation and the way he critisied different approaches in ethics. Rejecting theories by drawing contradiction with another (supposedly) wider accepted theory, is not only problematic, but also unbearable and misleading. This problem appeared in chapters about Hobbesian ethics and This book was my ethics course companion book, and i read it in autemn 2017. Materials presented in this book are well ordered (like most other textbooks on ethics), but the main problem with this was the manner of presentation and the way he critisied different approaches in ethics. Rejecting theories by drawing contradiction with another (supposedly) wider accepted theory, is not only problematic, but also unbearable and misleading. This problem appeared in chapters about Hobbesian ethics and egoism, he critisied egoism by apealing to common sense, kantian ethics and alturism where these are, shamefully, authors (ilogical) presumptions. The chapter which is in defence of the golden rule is exactly the same and I am to say that the book is more about to tell you of the author's prejudices.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sille

    This book is great! It has helped me understand and recognize the way people argue when having discussions. It is a good book to start reading if you are new to and interested in moral and ethical philosophy I am vegan and therefore I naturally end up in discussions with people about wether or not it’s immoral to eat and use non-human animals, and this book has really helped me recognize people’s reasonings for sticking to their selfish habits, which is of great help, because I now know the coun This book is great! It has helped me understand and recognize the way people argue when having discussions. It is a good book to start reading if you are new to and interested in moral and ethical philosophy I am vegan and therefore I naturally end up in discussions with people about wether or not it’s immoral to eat and use non-human animals, and this book has really helped me recognize people’s reasonings for sticking to their selfish habits, which is of great help, because I now know the counter arguments of moral philosophies when in debates. He also explains almost everything in a way that almost everyone should be able to understand. This meant that I didn’t have to look up words or terms etc. as much as I feared I'd have to. Recommend!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book gave me alot of insight on the views of morals and so on. I definitely kept an openmind while reading it and I can say that I honestly understood alot of the points that were being made even if I may not have completely agreed. It makes sense as to why people would come up with the reasoning and conclusions that they do. I have a newfound respect for many different cultures, species, logics and such. This book also makes for great discussion for someone who also knows anything about ph This book gave me alot of insight on the views of morals and so on. I definitely kept an openmind while reading it and I can say that I honestly understood alot of the points that were being made even if I may not have completely agreed. It makes sense as to why people would come up with the reasoning and conclusions that they do. I have a newfound respect for many different cultures, species, logics and such. This book also makes for great discussion for someone who also knows anything about philosophy or has read something similar. I'll definitely be picking up more books on the subject to further educate myself.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    "A little learning is a dangerous thing ; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring : There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again." -Alexander Pope Did I learn some things from this book? Yes. Was it well put together? Yes at the beginning, no at the end. Was it shallow and biased? Yep. "A little learning is a dangerous thing ; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring : There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again." -Alexander Pope Did I learn some things from this book? Yes. Was it well put together? Yes at the beginning, no at the end. Was it shallow and biased? Yep.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Rachels has a very dishonest way of presenting the information. He doesn't present the reader with all the facts at once- instead he gives them piecemeal. Very deceptive, manipulative, and completely dishonest...I don't know why I'm giving it 2 stars. Rachels has a very dishonest way of presenting the information. He doesn't present the reader with all the facts at once- instead he gives them piecemeal. Very deceptive, manipulative, and completely dishonest...I don't know why I'm giving it 2 stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Walter

    A textbook on Moral Philosophy The Elements of Moral Philosophy I am troubled by the fact this textbook on Moral Philosophy fails to define what a moral is. Instead, the authors go straight into making statements about morality. (It should be noted that James Rachel was the sole author of the first four editions and passed away in 2003. He work is continued by Stuart Rachel.) It would seem to me that a textbook of this nature would make a distinction between a moral and morality giving definitions A textbook on Moral Philosophy The Elements of Moral Philosophy I am troubled by the fact this textbook on Moral Philosophy fails to define what a moral is. Instead, the authors go straight into making statements about morality. (It should be noted that James Rachel was the sole author of the first four editions and passed away in 2003. He work is continued by Stuart Rachel.) It would seem to me that a textbook of this nature would make a distinction between a moral and morality giving definitions for both. A moral and morality are quite different things. In my opinion, a moral is a statement or concept that defines that action that a person might take as either right or wrong. One can argue to length what “right” and “wrong” mean. They are not the same as true or false, or for matter, good or bad, although common dictionaries defined them in that manner. Specifically, we look at a moral as having two possible or binary states, right and wrong. An action consistent with the moral is right while an action inconsistent with the moral is wrong. It is not inconceivable that some might hold that morals may have more states but for purposes of this philosophy, we should consider them binary. Thus for a given moral, an action can be right, bad and false, all at the same time, although one would expect a right action under an accepted moral to good and true. By accepted, I mean a moral that one choses thus accepts to honor in their life. Clearly, for people who have never thought about morals, their society has chosen them for those people in absentia. Morality is a system of beliefs about accepted morals. A system contains elements, in this case, an group of morals accepted into the system. Some subset of the moral group may allow a common principle of action to emerge under analysis. The morality system may also start from a principle a priori from separate morals then can be derived. The authors hold there is a minimum system for morality, to wit, “Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual affected by one’s action.” But this definition contains moral statements and can not be accepted as an impartial definition. The authors, who in the last chapter of the book propose their support for “Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism,” admit that their biases may have intruded into their work in the Introduction. Their concept of a moral is biased by prejudged concepts of what morals are right and wrong and thus is reflexive. It is important that any student using this as a textbook understand that prior to their study of this book. However, once that is understood, and the biases of the author in several contemporary issues, the book is an easy read. The authors discuss several prominent morality theories and try to present the unbiased pro’s and con’s of the theories. Among the theories discussed are Utilitarianism, the Categorical Imperative, Ethical Egoism (others have term this Objectivism,) Virtue Ethics, and the Social Contract Theory. There is a chapter on feminist theories of care which I feel is either misplaced or underdeveloped but consistent with the authors’ biases for contemporary issues. I think, with the criticisms above noted, the authors have achieved a goal of teaching Moral Philosophy in their textbook. I also believe this is an introduction, a starting point for the subject. I would encourage the student to read original sources, in their original language if they have the ability to do so.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Skyler Myers

    Good, if extremely short, introduction to moral philosophy. Mainly covers the main ideas throughout history, such as virtue ethics and utilitarianism. One of the problems is it only touches on each of these theories in their oldest and least refined forms, giving the pros and cons in a balanced way. Modern corrections and arguments to these flaws are ignored, however. The end gives us a brief synthesis into a satisfactory moral theory of the author, although it falls prey to some of the same fau Good, if extremely short, introduction to moral philosophy. Mainly covers the main ideas throughout history, such as virtue ethics and utilitarianism. One of the problems is it only touches on each of these theories in their oldest and least refined forms, giving the pros and cons in a balanced way. Modern corrections and arguments to these flaws are ignored, however. The end gives us a brief synthesis into a satisfactory moral theory of the author, although it falls prey to some of the same faults he was admonishing onto the other theories. This book covers a lot of history yet can still be easily read in a single sitting without too much mental strain. You'll walk away knowing a decent rough outline of the history of moral thinking if you've never dabbled in the subject before. The biggest flaw with the book is that it ignores current moral thinking by philosophers, such as ethical intuitionism. I think if the author focused more on the subjective/objective divide in morality it would have been more profound, as that is the main question that philosophers argue today.

  26. 5 out of 5

    GPouliasis

    I am certainly no expert on the matter, however I do believe that there's a valuable place for this book on the shelves of the wider public, in the sense of it being a starting point for the latter to be initiated on such a crucial and interesting topic, namely moral philosophy. It is a combination of a very brief, almost compressed, history of philosophy with an easy-to-grasp, pop fashion of conveying information. By no means should this book be considered as a specific, in depth work of resear I am certainly no expert on the matter, however I do believe that there's a valuable place for this book on the shelves of the wider public, in the sense of it being a starting point for the latter to be initiated on such a crucial and interesting topic, namely moral philosophy. It is a combination of a very brief, almost compressed, history of philosophy with an easy-to-grasp, pop fashion of conveying information. By no means should this book be considered as a specific, in depth work of research - i doubt that was the goal of the author in the first place - but, mostly, as an invitation for the common folk to dig deeper into such matters, urging it to develop and clarify the idea of reasoning based on logic as opposed to emotions, explore the basic theories of morals and, finally, draw a draft of general ethical requirements and values which are held in common by all humanity. To conclude, I would name this a recommended read for a casual introduction to ethics.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Ballinger

    This was the overview of Western moral philosophy I've wanted, and I will have to read it again to start to get a hold on the ideas. This book runs through several modes of moral philosophy, and challenges each of them. At every step, I could see the drawbacks of a line of reasoning while also not willing each time to throw away the ideas. Also, and this should be obvious, this is a book of Western thought. Nowhere is it even mentioned that there is an intellectual tradition outside of monotheisti This was the overview of Western moral philosophy I've wanted, and I will have to read it again to start to get a hold on the ideas. This book runs through several modes of moral philosophy, and challenges each of them. At every step, I could see the drawbacks of a line of reasoning while also not willing each time to throw away the ideas. Also, and this should be obvious, this is a book of Western thought. Nowhere is it even mentioned that there is an intellectual tradition outside of monotheistic or Greek moral reasoning. In particular, when there is an entire chapter on virtue and "right action" and Buddhism doesn't even come up, something is missing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandro Tarkhan-mouravi

    The book is good in some aspects but very weak in details. The clear structure, the simple language and the abundance of examples are worth noting. Unfortunately their arguments lack rigor - the authors often simply leap from premises to conclusions, yet present the conclusions with excessive certainty. Their underlying political views can be felt throughout the text, occasionally manifesting themselves in particularly unscrupulous, preachy passages, which harm the book's quality even more. Various The book is good in some aspects but very weak in details. The clear structure, the simple language and the abundance of examples are worth noting. Unfortunately their arguments lack rigor - the authors often simply leap from premises to conclusions, yet present the conclusions with excessive certainty. Their underlying political views can be felt throughout the text, occasionally manifesting themselves in particularly unscrupulous, preachy passages, which harm the book's quality even more. Various theories are represented imprecisely, sometimes even misleadingly.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

    Fifth Edition Great introduction to Moral Philosophy and Ethics through "contemporary" examples and examining the conflicts present in the discipline for the most part pretty fairly. Some of the essays vary in quality and could use some rewording . While I don't personally like or agree with the conclusions present in the final essay it is a fitting conclusion for the prior essays if read in order. Fifth Edition Great introduction to Moral Philosophy and Ethics through "contemporary" examples and examining the conflicts present in the discipline for the most part pretty fairly. Some of the essays vary in quality and could use some rewording . While I don't personally like or agree with the conclusions present in the final essay it is a fitting conclusion for the prior essays if read in order.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    does a pretty good job of encapsulating the major schools of thought in modern philosophy, and pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. I found the "Feminism and the Ethics of Care" section and its follow-up on "Virtue Ethics" to be particularly thought-provoking and more applicable to daily life. the concluding section is a bit weak, although I won't fault the author(s) for failing to synthesize an ideal moral philosophy! does a pretty good job of encapsulating the major schools of thought in modern philosophy, and pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. I found the "Feminism and the Ethics of Care" section and its follow-up on "Virtue Ethics" to be particularly thought-provoking and more applicable to daily life. the concluding section is a bit weak, although I won't fault the author(s) for failing to synthesize an ideal moral philosophy!

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