The Elements of Moral Philosophy / Edition 7

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Here is a clear,lively introduction to the major philosophical theories of morality,explaining why each theory has been accepted by some thinkers but rejected by others. To illustrate the various theories,and to reveal their implications,important current issues such as abortion,euthanasia,the treatment of nonhuman animals,racial discrimination,and nuclear weapons are discussed in depth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780078038242
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Higher Education
  • Publication date: 12/6/2011
  • Edition number: 7
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 37,140
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James Rachels, the distinguished American moral philosopher, was born in Columbus, Georgia, graduating from Mercer University in Macon in 1962. He received his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He taught at the University of Richmond, New York University, the University of Miami, Duke University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he spent the last twenty-six years of his career. 1971 saw the publication of Rachels’ groundbreaking textbook Moral Problems, which ignited the movement in America away from teaching ethical theory towards teaching concrete practical issues. Moral Problems sold 100,000 copies over three editions. In 1975, Rachels wrote “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” arguing that the distinction so important in the law between killing and letting die has no rational basis. Originally appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, this essay has been reprinted roughly 300 times and is a staple of undergraduate education. The End of Life (1986) was about the morality of killing and the value of life. Created from Animals (1990) argued that a Darwinian world-view has widespread philosophical implications, including drastic implications for our treatment of nonhuman animals. Can Ethics Provide Answers? (1997) was Rachels’ first collection of papers (others are expected posthumously). Rachels’ McGraw-Hill textbook, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, is now in its fourth edition and is easily the best-selling book of its kind.

Over his career, Rachels wrote 5 books and 85 essays, edited 7 books and gave about 275 professional lectures. His work has been translated into Dutch, Italian, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian. James Rachels is widely admired as a stylist, as his prose is remarkably free of jargon and clutter. A major theme in his work is that reason can resolve difficult moral issues. He has given reasons for moral vegetarianism and animal rights, for affirmative action (including quotas), for the humanitarian use of euthanasia, and for the idea that parents owe as much moral consideration to other people’s children as they do to their own.

James Rachels died of cancer on September 5th, 2003, in Birmingham, Alabama.

STUART RACHELS is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama. He has revised

several of James Rachels’ books, including Problems from Philosophy (second edition, 2009) and The Right Thing to Do (fifth edition, 2010), which is the companion anthology to this book. Stuart won the United States Chess Championship in 1989, at the age of 20, and he is a Bronze Life Master at bridge. His website is

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Table of Contents

About the Second Edition
1 What is Morality? 1
1.1 The Problem of Definition
1.2 An Example of Moral Reasoning: Baby Jane Doe
1.3 Reason and Impartiality
1.4 The Minimum Conception of Morality
2 The Challenge of Cultural Relativism 15
2.1 How Different Cultures Have Different Moral Codes
2.2 Cultural Relativism
2.3 The Cultural Differences Argument
2.4 The Consequences of Taking Cultural Relativism Seriously
2.5 Why There Is Less Disagreement Than It Seems
2.6 How All Cultures Have Some Values in Common
2.7 What Can Be Learned from Cultural Relativism
3 Subjectivism in Ethics 30
3.1 The Basic Idea of Ethical Subjectivism
3.2 The Evolution of the Theory
3.3 The First Stage: Simple Subjectivism
3.4 The Second Stage: Emotivism
3.5 Emotivism, Reason, and "Moral Facts"
3.6 The Example of Homosexuality
4 Does Morality Depend on Religion? 44
4.1 The Presumed Connection Between Morality and Religion
4.2 The Divine Command Theory
4.3 The Theory of Natural Law
4.4 Christianity and the Problem of Abortion
5 Psychological Egoism 62
5.1 Is Unselfishness Possible?
5.2 The Strategy of Reinterpreting Motives
5.3 Two Arguments in Favor of Psychological Egoism
5.4 Clearing Away Some Confusions
5.5 The Deepest Error in Psychological Egoism
6 Ethical Egoism 75
6.1 Is There a Duty to Contribute for Famine Relief?
6.2 Three Arguments in Favor of Ethical Egoism
6.3 Three Arguments Against Ethical Egoism
7 The Utilitarian Approach 90
7.1 The Revolution in Ethics
7.2 First Example: Euthanasia
7.3 Second Example: Nonhuman Animals
8 The Debate Over Utilitarianism 102
8.1 The Resilience of the Theory
8.2 Is Happiness the Only Thing That Matters?
8.3 Are Consequences All That Matter?
8.4 The Defense of Utilitarianism
8.5 What Is Correct and What Is Incorrect in Utilitarianism
9 Are There Absolute Moral Rules? 117
9.1 Kant and The Categorical Imperative
9.2 Absolute Rules and the Duty Not to Lie
9.3 Conflicts Between Rules
9.4 Another Look at Kant's Basic Idea
10 Kant and Respect for Persons 127
10.1 The Idea of "Human Dignity"
10.2 Retribution and Utility in the Theory of Punishment
10.3 Kant's Retributivism
11 The Idea of a Social Contract 139
11.1 Hobbes's Argument
11.2 The Prisoner's Dilemma
11.3 Some Advantages of the Social Contract Theory of Morals
11.4 The Problem of Civil Disobedience
11.5 Difficulties for the Theory
12 The Ethics of Virtue 159
12.1 The Ethics of Virtue and the Ethics of Right Action
12.2 Should We Return to the Ethics of Virtue?
12.3 The Virtues
12.4 Some Advantages of Virtue Ethics
12.5 The Incompleteness of Virtue Ethics
13 What Would a Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like? 180
13.1 Morality Without Hubris
13.2 The Moral Community
13.3 Justice and Fairness
Suggestions for Further Reading 194
Notes on Sources 202
Index 207
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted April 7, 2013

    I¿ve read several books as an adult that I very much regret not

    I’ve read several books as an adult that I very much regret not having encountered as an adolescent, and this is one of them. Prof. Rachels gives a concise and lucid description of the key ideas of western morality and ethics, presenting arguments from a variety of perspectives for each concept. In doing so, he sets the stage for the reader to take up the arguments by themselves or with others. Sections of the book deal with the pros and cons of cultural relativism (the idea that we shouldn’t judge the values of others), religious morality (guidance from divinities), selfishness (watch out for number one), utilitarianism (the best good for the most people), duty (Kant’s categorical imperative), feminism (do men and women have different, albeit equally important, values?) and the role of social contracts. Although Prof. Rachels surveys the history of western thought on these topics it was telling that he began with Socrates (quoting from Plato’s ‘The Republic’, “We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live”) and ends with a modified concept of virtues as first discussed in Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’. So it seems we still have a lot to learn from the ancient Greeks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2014

    Enjoyable, but I need to take it.

    Reader friendly out of the long winded lots of books out there. Almost as good as my professor when he's on a roll.

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    Posted May 30, 2014

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    Posted July 6, 2012

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