The Fundamentals of Ethics / Edition 2

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In The Fundamentals of Ethics, Second Edition, author Russ Shafer-Landau employs a uniquely engaging writing style to introduce students to the essential ideas of moral philosophy. Offering more comprehensive coverage of the good life, normative ethics, and metaethics than any other text of its kind, this book also addresses issues that are often omitted from other texts, such as the doctrine of doing and allowing, the doctrine of double effect, ethical particularism, the desire-satisfaction theory of well-being, and moral error theory. Shafer-Landau carefully reconstructs and analyzes dozens of arguments in depth, at a level that is understandable to students with no prior philosophical background.


* Discussion questions at the end of every chapter provide students with immediate ways to test their understanding of the material

* New, real-life extended examples reinforce the importance of the theories discussed in Chapters 4, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, and 19

* Greatly expanded coverage of moral rights (in Chapter 8) and of membership in the moral community (in Chapter 9)

* A new discussion of skepticism about morality in the Introduction

* An Instructor's Manual and Testbank on CD offers chapter summaries, more than 100 essay questions, more than 200 multiple-choice questions, and 200 PowerPoint-based lecture slides.

* A Companion Website at contains all the material from the Instructor's Manual along with students resources including 250 multiple-choice questions, a glossary, and helpful web links.

Ideal for courses in introductory ethics and contemporary moral problems, this book can be used as a stand-alone text or with the author's companion reader, The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Second Edition, which offers original readings on ethical theory and contemporary moral problems.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book is written in a crystal-clear, accessible style that makes it an ideal choice for introductory courses in ethics. Indeed, this is one of the best textbooks on any subject I've ever come across. The organization and flow of the presentation, both within and across chapters, is terrific."—Philip Robbins, University of Missouri

"I believe this to be the best such introduction available. Shafer-Landau's The Fundamentals of Ethics surpasses Rachels' in several ways. First of all, Shafer-Landau's text is better organized. In short, whereas Rachels' text provides a laundry list, Shafer-Landau's offers a taxonomy, one that will help students to understand the relations among the various issues. Secondly, Shafer-Landau's text is both broader, covering more issues than Rachels' text, and deeper, covering those issues with more care and detail. Thirdly, I find Shafer-Landau's introduction to be more comprehensive and useful than Rachels' first chapter. Fourthly, Shafer-Landau's text includes a glossary of key terms. Shafer-Landau's is surely the best introductory text in ethics available."—Eugene Marshall, Wellesley College

"The writing is as clear as any I've seen in a philosophy textbook. I planned to use Rachels' two books in my redesigned course until I discovered Shafer-Landau's. Fundamentals and Elements are similar books. The main advantage of the former over the latter is that Shafer-Landau addresses more arguments. Shafer-Landau is much stronger on metaethics, as is especially apparent in Chapter 21. Overall, I find the discussions in Fundamentals of Ethics to be richer and deeper than those in Rachels' Elements of Moral Philosophy."—Jeffrey Brand-Ballard, George Washington University

"Shafer-Landau's book is top notch. I'm convinced that it's the clearest, most accessible introduction to ethics available. I've already told my students that they should model their writing on Shafer-Landau's; I think that he's one of the clearest writers around. I've read introductory texts that are wonderfully clear to me, but the sentence structure and diction is too complex for students to imitate. Shafer-Landau obviously worked hard to write for undergraduates."—Robert Fischer, University of Illinois at Chicago

"I find Fundamentals of Ethics more accessible for the students [than Rachels' Elements of Moral Philosophy]. My TAs and I reviewed the book before I selected it, and they were quite enthusiastic that our students would be more engaged with this text. The price reduction for the bundle [of this text with its reader, The Ethical Life] is most welcome!."—Craig Hanks, Texas State University

"It seems to me that the greatest strength of The Fundamentals of Ethics is the time it takes to explain why any of the theories it covers might be taken seriously, before it points out their flaws. The Rachels book often leaves one feeling that some major normative theories are so obviously wrong that it's a wonder they were ever contenders in the first instance. Putting the technical terms that he has used in boldface, with an associated glossary, is very helpful."—Richard Hine, University of Connecticut

"This is the most readable introduction to ethics I know. Shafer-Landau's prose is delightfully personal, accessible, and free of unnecessary jargon. At every turn the author provides illuminating examples and cases that help students understand and keep them engaged. There's a natural, easy, and logical progression to the book. While it's possible to teach the chapters in pretty much any order, Shafer-Landau has arranged the book very effectively so that chapters build on each other. The text is remarkably comprehensive despite its brevity and easy style. Perfect format—a small text, simple, inexpensive. Rachels' style, though neat and clear, is not nearly as inviting nor as pleasant as Shafer-Landau's. In terms of coverage, the texts are very similar, although the Shafer-Landau text is more comprehensive. The price of the text was a significant consideration."—Brian L. Merrill, Brigham Young University-Idaho

"This is a great little book. An efficient and no-nonsense evaluation of actual arguments, put clearly in premise-conclusion form, leads the reader, in a very natural Socratic way, to ask questions concerning the grounding of moral claims. Another strength is simply the accessible language. The index and the glossary are very helpful."—Patrick Linden, Hunter College and NYU Poly

"Shafer-Landau's writing is superb. I think it is about as good as one could hope for while maintaining a sufficient respect for rigor. Shafer-Landau's text hits the mark with respect to a balance of accessibility and challenging material."—Darren Hibbs, Nova Southeastern University

"I was surprised both by the range of theories in normative ethics and metaethics that the book covers, as well as by the degree to which each of them is examined. The list price of $29.95 should be a real selling point for instructors looking to adopt new texts. It's a strength that the book includes a glossary of all of the technical terms in employs. I also appreciate that each of those words appears in bold on its first use in the text."—Robert Lane, University of West Georgia

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199773558
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 69,120
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Russ Shafer-Landau is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Table of Contents

*=New to this Edition
New to the Second Edition
Instructor's Manual and Companion Website
A Note on the Companion Volume
The Lay of the Land
* Skepticism about Ethics
Ethical Starting Points
Moral Reasoning
The Role of Moral Theory
Looking Ahead
1. Hedonism: Its Powerful Appeal
Happiness and Intrinsic Value
The Attractions of Hedonism
There Are Many Models of a Good Life
Personal Authority and Well-Being
Misery Clearly Hampers a Good Life; Happiness Clearly Improves It
The Limits of Explanation
Rules of the Good Life—and Their Exceptions
Happiness Is What We Want for Our Loved Ones
2. Is Happiness All That Matters?
The Paradox of Hedonism
Evil Pleasures
The Two Worlds
False Happiness
The Importance of Autonomy
Life's Trajectory
Unhappiness as a Symptom of Harm
3. Getting What You Want
A Variety of Good Lives
Personal Authority
Avoiding Objective Values
Justifying the Pursuit of Self-Interest
Knowledge of the Good
4. Problems for the Desire Theory
Getting What You Want May Not Be Necessary for Promoting Your Good
Getting What You Want May Not Be Sufficient for Promoting Your Good
Desires Based on False Beliefs
Disinterested and Other-Regarding Desires
Ignorance of Desire Satisfaction
Impoverished Desires
The Paradox of Self-Harm and Self-Sacrifice
The Fallibility of Our Deepest Desires
5. Morality and Religion
Three Assumptions about Morality and Religion
First Assumption: Religious Belief Is Needed for Moral Motivation
Second Assumption: God Is the Creator of Morality
Third Assumption: Religion Is an Essential Source of Moral Guidance
6. Natural Law
The Theory and Its Attractions
Two Conceptions of Human Nature
Human Nature Is What Is Innately Human
Human Nature Is What All Humans Have in Common
Natural Purposes
The Argument from Humanity
7. Psychological Egoism
Egoism and Altruism
* Does It Matter whether Psychological Egoism Is True?
The Argument from Our Strongest Desires
The Argument from Expected Benefit
The Argument from Avoiding Misery
Two Egoistic Strategies
Appealing to the Guilty Conscience
Expanding the Realm of Self-Interest
Letting the Evidence Decide
8. Ethical Egoism
Why Be Moral?
Two Popular Arguments for Ethical Egoism
The Self-Reliance Argument
The Libertarian Argument
The Best Argument for Ethical Egoism
Three Problems for Ethical Egoism
Egoism Violates Core Moral Beliefs
Egoism Cannot Allow for the Existence of Moral Rights
Egoism Arbitrarily Makes My Interests All-Important
9. Consequentialism: Its Nature and Attractions
The Nature of Consequentialism
Its Structure
Maximizing Goodness
Moral Knowledge
Actual versus Expected Results
Assessing Actions and Intentions
The Attractions of Utilitarianism
The Ability to Justify Conventional Moral Wisdom
Conflict Resolution
Moral Flexibility
The Scope of the Moral Community
10. Consequentialism: Its Difficulties
Measuring Well-Being
Utilitarianism Is Very Demanding
No Intrinsic Wrongness (or Rightness)
The Problem of Injustice
Potential Solutions to the Problem of Injustice
Justice Is Also Intrinsically Valuable
Injustice Is Never Optimific
Justice Must Sometimes Be Sacrificed
Rule Consequentialism
11. The Kantian Perspective: Fairness and Justice
Consistency and Fairness
The Principle of Universalizability
Morality and Rationality
Assessing the Principle of Universalizability
Kant on Absolute Moral Duties
12. The Kantian Perspective: Autonomy and Respect
The Principle of Humanity
The Importance of Rationality and Autonomy
The Good Will and Moral Worth
Five Problems with the Principle of Humanity
Determining Just Deserts
Are We Autonomous?
Moral Luck
The Scope of the Moral Community
13. The Social Contract Tradition: The Theory and Its Attractions
The Lure of Proceduralism
The Background of the Social Contract Theory
The Prisoner's Dilemma
Cooperation and the State of Nature
The Advantages of Contractarianism
Morality Is Essentially a Social Phenomenon
Contractarianism Explains and Justifies the Content of the Basic Moral Rules
Contractarianism Offers a Method for Justifying Every Moral Rule
Contractarianism Explains the Objectivity of Morality
Contractarianism Explains Why It Is Sometimes Acceptable to Break the Moral Rules
More Advantages: Morality and the Law
Contractarianism Justifies a Basic Moral Duty to Obey the Law
The Contractarian Justification of Legal Punishment
Contractarianism Justifies the State's Role in Criminal Law
Contractarianism and Civil Disobedience
14. The Social Contract Tradition: Problems and Prospects
Why Be Moral?
The Role of Consent
Disagreement among the Contractors
The Scope of the Moral Community
15. Ethical Pluralism and Absolute Moral Rules
The Structure of Moral Theories
Is Torture Always Immoral?
Preventing Catastrophes
The Doctrine of Double Effect
A Reply to the Argument from Disaster Prevention
How the DDE Threatens Act Consequentialism
Distinguishing Intention from Foresight
Moral Conflict and Contradiction
Is Moral Absolutism Irrational?
The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing
16. Ethical Pluralism: Prima Facie Duties and Ethical Particularism
Ross's Ethic of Prima Facie Duties
The Advantages of Ross's View
We Are Sometimes Permitted to Break the Moral Rules
Moral Conflict
Moral Regret
Addressing the Antiabsolutist Arguments
A Problem for Ross's View
Knowing the Fundamental Moral Rules
Self-Evidence and the Testing of Moral Theories
Knowing the Right Thing to Do
Ethical Particularism
Three Problems for Ethical Particularism
Its Lack of Unity
Accounting for Moral Knowledge
Some Things Possess Permanent Moral Importance
17. Virtue Ethics
The Standard of Right Action
Moral Complexity
Moral Understanding
Moral Education
The Nature of Virtue
Virtue and the Good Life
Tragic Dilemmas
Does Virtue Ethics Offer Adequate Moral Guidance?
Is Virtue Ethics Too Demanding?
Who Are the Moral Role Models?
Conflict and Contradiction
The Priority Problem
18. Feminist Ethics
The Elements of Feminist Ethics
Moral Development
Women's Experience
The Ethics of Care
The Importance of Emotions
Against Unification
Against Impartiality and Abstraction
Against Competition
Downplaying Rights
Challenges for Feminist Ethics
19. Ethical Relativism
Moral Skepticism
Two Kinds of Ethical Relativism
Some Implications of Ethical Subjectivism and Cultural Relativism
Moral Infallibility
Moral Equivalence
No Intrinsic Value
Questioning Our Own Commitments
Moral Progress
Ethical Subjectivism and The Problem of Contradiction
Cultural Relativism and The Problem of Contradiction
Ideal Observers
20. Moral Nihilism
Error Theory
How Is It Possible to Argue Logically about Morality?
Expressivism and Amoralists
The Nature of Moral Judgment
21. Ten Arguments against Moral Objectivity
1. Objectivity Requires Absolutism
2. All Truth Is Subjective
3. Equal Rights Imply Equal Plausibility
4. Moral Objectivity Supports Dogmatism
5. Moral Objectivity Supports Intolerance
6. Moral Disagreement Undermines Moral Objectivity
7. Atheism Undermines Moral Objectivity
8. The Absence of Categorical Reasons Undermines Moral Objectivity
9. Moral Motivation Undermines Moral Objectivity
10. Values Have No Place in a Scientific World
Suggestions for Further Reading

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