Firmly established as the standard text for undergraduate courses in ethics, this concise, lively book takes the reader on an in-depth tour of the major moral theories, always illustrating abstract ideas with concrete examples. Separate, self-contained chapters examine such theories as Egoism, Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, and the Social Contract Theory. Through this conceptual framework, the text addresses timely and provocative issues, including abortion, racism, euthanasia, poverty, marijuana, homosexuality, the death penalty, and vegetarianism. The text's versatility makes it an ideal (...) choice for use not only in ethical theory courses, but also in applied ethics courses of all kinds. (shrink)
From Bishop Wilberforce in the 1860s to the advocates of "creation science" today, defenders of traditional mores have condemned Darwin's theory of evolution as a threat to society's values. Darwin's defenders, like Stephen Jay Gould, have usually replied that there is no conflict between science and religion--that values and biological facts occupy separate realms. But as James Rachels points out in this thought-provoking study, Darwin himself would disagree with Gould. Darwin, who had once planned on being a clergyman, was convinced (...) that natural selection overthrew our age-old religious beliefs. Created from Animals offers a provocative look at how Darwinian evolution undermines many tenets of traditional philosophy and religion. James Rachels begins by examining Darwin's own life and work, presenting an astonishingly vivid and compressed biography. We see Darwin's studies of the psychological links in evolution (such as emotions in dogs, and the "mental powers" of worms), and how he addressed the moral implications of his work, especially in his concern for the welfare of animals. Rachels goes on to present a lively and accessible survey of the controversies that followed in Darwin's wake, ranging from Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism to Edward O. Wilson's sociobiology, and discusses how the work of such influential intellects as Descartes, Hume, Kant, T.H. Huxley, Henri Bergson, B.F. Skinner, and Stephen Jay Gould has contributed to--or been overthrown by--evolutionary science. Western philosophy and religion, Rachels argues, have been shaken by the implications of Darwin's work, most notably the controversial idea that humans are simply a more complex kind of animal. Rachels assesses a number of studies that suggest how closely humans are linked to other primates in behavior, and then goes on to show how this idea undercuts the work of many prominent philosophers. Kant's famous argument that suicide reduces one to the level of an animal, for instance, is meaningless if humans are, in fact, animals. Indeed, humanity's membership in the animal kingdom calls into question the classic notions of human dignity and the sacredness of human life. What we need now, Rachels contends, is a philosophy that does not discriminate between different species, one that addresses each being on an individual basis. With this sweeping survey of the arguments, the philosophers, and the deep implications surrounding Darwinism, Rachels lays the foundations for a new view of morality. Vibrantly written and provocatively argued, Created from Animals offers a new perspective on issues ranging from suicide to euthanasia to animal rights. (shrink)
In this provocative book, a professor of philosophy examines the arguments for and against euthanasia, analyzes specific case studies, including those of Baby Jane Doe and Barney Clark, and offers an alternate theory on the morality of euthanasia. Various traditional distinctions--between "human" and "non-human," intentional and nonintentional, killing and "letting die"--are taken into account to determine whether euthanasia is permissible or not. Rachels presents a systematic argument against the traditional view, defending an alternative position based on the belief that there (...) is a profound difference between having a life and merely being alive. (shrink)
Although we do not know exactly how many people die each year of malnutrition or related health problems, the number is very high, in the millions. By giving money to support famine relief efforts, each of us could save at least some of them. By not giving, we let them die.
Is it worse to kill someone than to let someone die? It seems obvious to common sense that it is worse. We allow people to die, for example, when we fail to contribute money to famine-relief efforts; but even if we feel somewhat guilty, we do not consider ourselves murderers. Nor do we feel like accessories to murder when we fail to give blood, sign an organ-donor card, or do any of the other things that could save lives. Common sense (...) tells us that, while we may not kill people, our duty to give them aid is much more limited. Some philosophers, however, have argued that common sense is wrong about this. They have defended the Equivalence Thesis, which says that killing and letting die are equally bad. This is a more specific version of the idea that there is no moral difference between making something happen and allowing it to happen. The Equivalence Thesis is a radical conception that would require changes in our ordinary moral beliefs. If it is true, then obviously our duty to give aid is much stronger than we commonly assume. But our views about other matters, such as euthanasia, will also be affected. Many people believe that “passive euthanasia”--allowing terminal patients to die, rather than pointlessly prolonging their lives--is sometimes permissible; but they also believe that killing patients is always wrong. If the Equivalence Thesis is true, this combination of beliefs is inconsistent. The idea behind the Equivalence Thesis is not that every individual case of letting die is equally as bad as every individual case of killing. Obviously, if we compare an ordinary murder--say, a man killing his wife out of jealousy--with the actions of a physician who humanely permits a suffering patient to die, the murder is much worse. Rather, the idea is that the difference between killing and letting die does not itself make a difference to the moral assessment of the actions. Other factors may still be important. (shrink)
Esteemed moral philosopher James Rachels here collects fifteen essays, some classic and others extensively revised, on the nature and limits of moral reasoning. Rachels argues that, rather than simply expressing societal conventions, moral philosophy can subvert received opinion and replace it with something better. Combining a concern for ethical theory with a discussion of practical moral issues such as euthanasia, the rights of animals, privacy, and affirmative action. Can Ethics Provide Answers is an excellent collection for students, scholars, and anyone (...) concerned with the degree to which our principles can guide our policies. (shrink)
Twentieth century philosophy began with the rejection of naturalism. Many modern philosophers had assumed that their subject was continuous with the sciences, and that facts about human nature and other such information were relevant to the great questions of ethics, logic, and knowledge. Against this, Frege argued that “psychologism” in logic was a mistake. Logic, he said, is an autonomous subject with its own standards of truth and falsity, and those standards have nothing to do with how the mind works (...) or with any other natural facts. Then, in the first important book of twentieth century ethics, Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore also identified naturalism as the fundamental philosophical mistake. Moore argued that equating goodness with any of the natural properties of things is “inconsistent with the possibility of any Ethics whatsoever”. Frege, Moore, and other like-minded thinkers inaugurated a period in which logic and language were the dominant philosophical subjects and confusing conceptual with factual issues was the greatest philosophical sin. During this period, philosophy was thought to be independent of the sciences. This may seem a strange notion, especially where ethics is concerned. One might expect moral philosophers to work in the context of information provided by psychology, which describes the nature of human thinking and motivation; sociology and anthropology, which describe the forms of human social life; history, which traces the development of moral beliefs and practices; and evolutionary biology, which tells us something about the nature and origins of human beings. But all these subjects were counted as irrelevant to the philosophical understanding of morality. (shrink)
Retributivism—the idea that wrongdoers should be “paid back” for their wicked deeds—fits naturally with many people’s feelings. They find it deeply satisfying when murderers and rapists “get what they have coming,” and they are infuriated when villains “get away with it.” But others dismiss these feelings as primitive and unenlightened. Sometimes the complaint takes a religious form. The desire for revenge, it is said, should be resisted by those who believe in Christian charity. After all, Jesus himself rejected the rule (...) of “an eye for an eye,”2 and St. Paul underscored the point, saying that we should not “return evil for evil” but we should “overcome evil with good.”3 To those who adopt this way of thinking, whether on secular or religious grounds, vengeance cannot be an acceptable motive for action. This objection is, for the most part, misguided. The idea that wrongdoers should be “paid back” for their wickedness is not merely a demand for primitive vengeance. It is.. (shrink)
Abortion: The morality of abortion, by P. Ramsey. The problem of abortion and the doctrine of double effect, by P. Foot. Whatever the consequences, by J. Bennett.--Sex: Sexual perversion, by T. Nagel. On sexual morality, by S. Ruddick.--Human rights and civil disobedience: Rights, human rights, and racial discrimination, by R. Wasserstrom. The justification of civil disobedience, by J. Rawls. Law and civil disobedience, by R. M. Dworkin.--Criminal punishment: The responsibility of criminals, by W. Kneale. Murder and the principles of punishment, (...) England and the United States, by H. L. A. Hart. Or else, by J. R. Lucas.--Violence and pacifism: What violence is, by N. Garver. Pacifism, a philosophical analysis, by J. Narveson.--War: War and murder, by G. E. M. Anscombe. On the morality of war, a preliminary inquiry, by R. Wasserstrom. Peace, by R. M. Hare.--Suicide and death: Suicide, by R. F. Holland. Death, by T. Nagel. Death, by M. Mothersill.--Bibliography (p. 386-390). (shrink)
“Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work worthy the interposition of a deity. More humble and I think truer to consider him created from animals.” Thus wrote Darwin in his notebooks for 1838, twenty-one years before he was to publish The Origin of Species. He would go on, of course, to support this idea with overwhelming evidence, and it is commonly said that, in doing so, he brought about a profound change in our conception of ourselves. After Darwin, (...) we can no longer think of ourselves as occupying a special place in creation—instead, we must realize that we are products of the same evolutionary forces that shaped the rest of the animal kingdom. We are not a great work. We were created from animals. And this, it is said, has deep philosophical significance. (shrink)
Rachels's two-volume Ethical Theory provides a comprehensive overview of contemporary moral philosophy, reprinting classic and contemporary articles, including many that are not otherwise readily available. Each volume contains a clearly written, substantial introduction that guides the beginner through the intricacies of the subject.
Sex: Nagel, T. Sexual perversion. Ruddick, S. On sexual morality.--Abortion: Ramsey, P. The morality of abortion. Foot, P. The problem of abortion and the doctrine of the double effect. Wertheimer, R. Understanding the abortion argument. Thomson, J. J. A defense of abortion.--Prejudice and discrimination: Wasserstrom, R. Rights, human rights, and racial discrimination. Roszak, B. Women's liberation. Lucas, J. R. Because you are a woman. Thomson, J. J. Preferential hiring. Singer, P. Animal liberation.--Civil disobedience: Rawls, J. The justification of civil disobedience. (...) Singer, P. Rawls on civil disobedience. Dworkin, R. M. Law and civil disobedience.--Punishment: Downie, R. S. The justification of punishment. Kneale, W. The responsibility of criminals. Hart, H. L. A. Murder and the principles of punishment: England and the United States.--War: Anscombe, G. E. M. War and murder. Wasserstrom, R. On the morality of war: a preliminary inquiry. Lackey, D. Ethics and nuclear deterrence. Narveson, J. Pacifism: a philosophical analysis.--Suicide and death: Brandt, R. B. The morality and rationality of suicide. Holland, R. F. Suicide. Nagel, T. Death. Williams, B. The Makropulos case: reflections on the tedium of immortality.--Selected bibliography (p. 432-437). (shrink)
Problems from Philosophy is an introduction to philosophy which is organized around the great philosophical problems—the existence of God, the nature of the mind, human freedom, the limits of knowledge, and the truth about ethics. It begins by reflecting on the life of the first great philosopher, Socrates. Then it takes up the fundamental question of whether God exists. Next comes a discussion of death and the soul, which leads to a chapter about persons. The later chapters of the book (...) are about whether objective knowledge is possible in science and ethics. Each chapter is self-contained and may be read independently of the others. Problems from Philosophy represents the final work of author and philosopher James Rachels. In it, he brings the same liveliness and clarity to the introduction of philosophy that he brings to his best-selling ethics text, The Elements of Moral Philosophy . The second and third edition have been revised by Rachels' son Stuart, who carefully has carefully refined his father's work to further strengthen its clarity and accessibility. (shrink)
We can often explain a person's action by citing some fact which prompted him to do what he did. For example:Tom quit his job because he was offered more money elsewhere;Dick took his daughter to the dentist because she had a toothache;Harry rushed out of the theater because it was on fire.In each case there are four elements which fit together in a characteristic pattern. The first is the fact that Tom has been offered more money, that Dick's daughter has (...) a toothache, or that the theater in which Harry is sitting is on fire. If the theater were not on fire, for example, then we would have to give a different sort of explanation of why Harry rushed out: we would have to say that he left because he thought it was on fire, not because it was on fire. I shall have more to say about this point later. The second is their knowledge of these facts. If Dick is unaware of the girl's toothache, he can hardly do anything on account of it; and of course the same goes for the other cases. The third element is the attitude which each agent has toward the existing state-of-affairs. Tom wants to earn more money; Dick loves his daughter and doesn't want her to suffer; and Harry, like the rest of us, doesn't want to be burned. Finally, there is the action which is being explained: Tom quits his job, Dick takes the girl to the dentist, and Harry rushes from the theater. (shrink)
James and Stuart Rachels introduce students to timeless philosophical problems such as the existence of God, the nature of the mind, human freedom, the limits of knowledge, and the truth about ethics. The fourth edition features revisions on discussions of free will, artificial intelligence, idealism, and Kantian ethics.
Now in its eighth edition, James Rachels’ and Stuart Rachels’ The Right Thing to Do: Readings in Moral Philosophy continues its legacy of providing students a diverse collection of thought-provoking essays. New to this edition are eight essays relevant to the today’s students, from gun rights to the opioid crisis to racial equality.