The Right Thing To Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy / Edition 4

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THE RIGHT THING TO DO is a collection of readings in moral theory and moral issues from major Western philosophers. It is the successful companion reader for Rachels' text,THE ELEMENTS OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY. This anthology explores further the theories and issues introduced in that volume,in their original and classic formulations. The collection can stand on its own as the text for a course in moral philosophy,or it can be used to supplement any introductory text.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780073125466
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
  • Publication date: 5/5/2006
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.52 (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

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1. A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, James Rachels

2. Some Basic Points about Arguments, James Rachels


*3. The Subjectivity of Values, J.L. Mackie

4. The Virtues, Aristotle

5. Ethics and Natural Law, St. Thomas Aquinas

6. The Social Contract, Thomas Hobbes

7. Morality as Based on Sentiment, David Hume

8. Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill

9. The Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant


10. Why Abortion is Immoral, Don Marquis

*11. A Defense of Abortion, Judith Jarvis Thomson

12. Will Cloning Harm People?, Gregory E. Pence

13. Is Homosexuality Unnatural?, Burton M. Leiser

*14. 9/11 and Starvation, Mylan Engel, Jr.

15. The Singer Solution to World Poverty, Peter Singer

*16. Utilitarianism and Integrity, Bernard Williams

17. The Morality of Euthanasia, James Rachels

18. Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life?, Richard Doerflinger

19. All Animals Are Equal, Peter Singer

*20. Do Animals Have Rights?, Tibor R. Machan

*21. The Immorality of SUVs and Trucks, Douglas Husak

22. Preserving the Environment, Thomas E. Hill, Jr.

23. The Ethics of War and Peace, Douglas P. Lackey

24. In Defense of the Death Penalty, Ernest van den Haag

25. The Case against the Death Penalty, Hugo A. Bedau

*26. America’s Unjust Drug War, Michael Huemer

*27. The Experience Machine, Robert Nozick

*28. The Feminist Revelation, Christina Hoff Sommers

*29. Is Racial Discrimination Arbitrary?, Peter Singer

30. Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.

*31. In Defense of Quotas, James Rachels

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This book is a collection of key writings on moral philosophy. I

    This book is a collection of key writings on moral philosophy. It begins with a set of essays by the classic philosophers (Aristotle, Kant and others) showing the historical background of moral thought and then proceeds to essays on specific topics by contemporary writers (Peter Singer, Robert Nozick and others). There are pro and con essays dealing with such topics as abortion, suicide, animal rights, the death penalty and civil disobedience. Unfortunately, good philosophers are not necessarily good writers, and as a result some of these essays are tough reading. But they all reflect what I believe to be the style in which ‘professional’ philosophers write, which includes a statement of what they want to establish and then a discussion of the bigger problem broken into many smaller problems that are then sorted through, one by one, producing a proposed general solution to the topic at hand.

    One practical feature of this anthology is simply its size…McGraw Hill produced a well bound, small paperback with a clear font. It was easy to carry and easy to read. And as a bonus, they somehow allowed enough space to let one make marginal notations. I found a used copy for $8 but it was definitely worth twice this amount given the excellent content.

    Readers should consider acquiring the companion volume ‘The Elements of Moral Philosophy’, also by James Rachels. Read this book first and then move on to ‘The Right Thing to Do’ for a great overview of this subject.

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