Encyclopedia of Ethics

Encyclopedia of Ethics

by Lawrence C. Becker

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This generally well-written and well-edited encyclopedia covers mostly academic ethics as practiced in the English-speaking world, though it also covers aspects of moral philosophy in other cultures. Some 435 signed, cross-referenced articles (with bibliographies) treat such topics as metaethics; important moral concepts; perennial moral problems; moral, legal, political, and social theory; applied ethics; and the relationship between philosophical ethics and other fields. There is also a subject index and a name index of cited authors. The articles range from 500 to 9000 words in length, 70 percent being between 1000 and 5000 words. Usually, an article's length is appropriate to the philosophical importance of its subject. But it is puzzling to find that Feminist Ethics is given approximately the same space as Metaethics, or Rape as Benevolence; that Agricultural Ethics is about a third longer than Islamic Ethics; and that Sexuality and Sexual Ethics is slightly more than double Liberty, which also is shorter than Agricultural Ethics. Some omissions also are surprising: No article is devoted to Karl Popper nor, despite five lines of indexical references, to Bernard Williams, making the seven pages of capsule accounts of Women Moral Philosophers (who date from 420 B.C. to 1943) seem especially out of place. Moreover, the treatment of the moral realist's allegation of the supervenience of moral upon nonmoral properties is virtually nonexistent. These are minor flaws, however, that hardly mar a splendid achievement: the compilation of clearly written, well-organized, perceptive essays on a wide variety of topics in moral philosophy and related subjects. This encyclopedia belongs in all academic libraries and may be considered by larger public libraries as well.--Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
Zom Zoms
Addressed to scholars and students of philosophical ethics, this two-volume encyclopedia is actually quite broad in scope, encompassing the history and theory of ethics as well as the relation of ethics to other fields of study. The 435 signed articles by 267 international scholars focus primarily on topics (e.g., "Common Good", "Humility", "Social Contract") and personalities (e.g. "Cicero", "William of Ockham"), including even a few living ethicists such as John Rawls. Entries are found on practical applications of ethics such as "Legal Ethics" and "Nursing Ethics" and on ethics in non-Western traditions such as "Buddhist Ethics". Ethical issues of current interest such as "Animals, Treatment of" and "Academic Ethics" are also treated The double-column articles range in length from 500 to 9,000 words. Readers may be confused by the sequence of the articles, since they follow a letter-by-letter alphabetical plan. Thus "Mo Tzu" appears after "Motives" Many of the articles are excellent and provide the reader with a balanced overview of the topic under consideration, including historical background and a summary of the current discussion. Quite helpful is a 13-part, multiauthor series of articles on the history of ethics from the pre-Socratics to today. However, as with any collection involving so many contributors, the reader will find articles uneven in quality. For example, while the helpful article "Virtue" traces the concept historically, beginning with Aristotle, the article "Conscience" largely focuses on Thomas Aquinas and does not examine the concept among the Greeks, nor does it discuss the impact of Freud's views on contemporary discussions of conscience. And the reader may puzzle at the curiously brief article on Martin Heidegger (less than one page) compared with nine pages on feminist ethics. Likewise, while most articles are balanced, an occasional one may strike the reader more as an apologia than what would be expected in an encyclopedia (e.g., "Homosexuality") Two helpful features are the brief but current bibliographies at the end of each article and an index of all authors mentioned in the 435 bibliographies. A fairly comprehensive index to the articles (which is alphabetized word by word, not letter by letter like the text) is also included The four-volume "Encyclopedia of Bioethics" (Macmillan, 1984) covers that aspect of ethics in greater depth than can the set under review. Academic libraries and medium-size to large public libraries should purchase the "Encyclopedia of Ethics". It will prove to be useful to scholars and university students but is also accessible to the general reader.
A reference work in philosophy addressed to an audience of scholars and university students but fully accessible to others with a serious interest in the field. Two hundred sixty-seven writers from around the world have contributed, either as editors or authors, to the 435 signed articles on topics in meta-ethics, ethical theory, perennial moral problems, and political, social, and legal theory. There are survey articles on trends and eras; summaries of leading concepts, principles, and theoretical problems; and biographical entries for philosophers whose place in the history of ethics is secure, as well as a few contemporaries whose seniority and eminence make their inclusion appropriate. Each article has a bibliography, and the usual cross-references are supplemented with an analytical index of the text of the articles and an index of authors cited in the bibliographies. A lovely job. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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