The Legacy Of Socrates

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James Rachels's philosophical writings address key questions of contemporary life and the classic dilemmas of moral philosophy. A leading figure in the development of applied ethics, James Rachels became an influential and sometimes controversial thinker on issues concerning animal rights, euthanasia, bioethics, and moral objectivity. This final collection of James Rachels's work brings together fourteen essays that best summarize Rachels's philosophical positions. The essays also shed new light on the depth and breadth of Rachels's work and its importance for contemporary philosophy.

Written in Rachels's characteristically lucid, literary prose, these essays address the relationship between morality and reason, the duty to relieve both human and animal suffering, the independence of morality from religion, the rejection of relativism and egoism, and the role of ethics in a democratic society. Rachels offers an argument for vegetarianism, examines a controversial case involving a surrogate mother, and speculates on the ethics of political killing. Other essays range from Rachels's interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy to his appreciation of movies.

Rachels was a strong believer in the ability of moral philosophy to improve our lives. This collection, which brings these important works together for the first time, is a testament to both the value of moral philosophy in understanding our world and the richness of Rachels's contributions to this understanding.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This collection of 14 previously published essays by the late Rachels (The Elements of Moral Philosophy) is a continuation of his first collection, Can Ethics Provide Answers? Edited by his son, Stuart (philosophy, Univ. of Alabama), the essays here focus on areas of ethics in which Rachels specialized, e.g., animal rights, human suffering, and bioethics. The collection is organized into five subject areas: animals, lives, theories, bioethics, and art. According to Rachels, the "right thing to do will be whatever course of action has the weight of reason on its side." Ethical views are not a matter of opinion, he writes, nor are they dependent on religion or custom. Instead, our ethical decisions should be based solely on rational analysis. Rachels uses clear and concise writing to explain his ethical theory, which on the surface seems simple yet becomes difficult to follow when it conflicts with traditional moral views. Although the essays cover a variety of themes, Rachels's view of continuing the Socratic tradition of using reason to improve our lives and well-being is apparent in each. Highly recommended for academic libraries.-Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231138444
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2007
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Rachels (1941-2003) was university professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He wrote The End of Life: Euthanasia and Morality, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Can Ethics Provide Answers?, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (four editions), and Problems from Philosophy.Stuart Rachels is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama. A former U.S. Chess Champion and a Life Master at bridge, he wrote the fifth edition of The Elements of Moral Philosophy and edited the fourth edition of The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. His scholarly articles have appeared in numerous journals.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
The Basic Argument for Vegetarianism     3
Darwin, Species, and Morality     15
Drawing Lines     32
The Value of Human Life     49
Killing and Starving to Death     68
Lives and Liberty (coauthored with William Ruddick)     83
Political Assassination     99
The Legacy of Socrates     115
Nietzsche and the Objectivity of Morals     136
Two Arguments Against Ethical Egoism     170
The Principle of Agency     187
Baby M     200
Ethical Theory and Bioethics     209
Movies     223
James Rachels' Curriculum Vitae     235
Index     243
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