Higher Education

Basic Moral Philosophy, 4th Edition

  • Robert L. Holmes University of Rochester
  • ISBN-10: 0495007978  |  ISBN-13: 9780495007975
  • 256 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2003, 1998, 1993
  • © 2007 | Published
  • College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $114.00
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Striving for a comprehensiveness that is rare in introductory ethics texts, BASIC MORAL PHILOSOPHY presents a clear and systematic approach to understanding major ethical and metaethical theories. Illustrating the historical roots of ethical theories and placing individual theories in the broader context of moral philosophy's basic problems, the text presents reasoned assessments of various theories in order to help students actively engage the material and develop their own theoretical viewpoints. This versatile book can be used in a number of different fashions: as a core text in any introductory ethics course, as a short introductory section on ethical theory at the beginning of a problems course or other courses in applied ethics (e.g., bioethics), as the ethics component of an introduction to philosophy course, or finally, as a supplementary review text for more advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

Features and Benefits

  • Illuminating examples and diagrams interspersed throughout the text as well as an appendix devoted to explaining the classification of ethical theories assist students in gaining strong comprehension of the book's content.
  • The organization is both topical and historical; presenting theories in the order in which they held sway makes the book useful for various teaching applications.
  • The text is written in a straightforward, accessible prose style that's as free of jargon as the subject matter allows.
  • Chapters are short and easily manageable in a semester format.

Table of Contents

1. The Nature of Ethics.
Why Study Moral Philosophy? The Origins of Morality. The Activity of Evaluating. Guiding and Directing Conduct. Value Judgments and Prescriptive Judgments. Normative Judgments and Descriptive Statements. Moral Judgments and Nonmoral Judgments. Three Kinds of Moral Problem.
2. Theories of Moral Right and Wrong.
Moral Legalism and Moral Particularism. Rights-Based Theories. The Relationship Between Goodness and Rightness. Axiological and Deontological Moral Theories. Strong and Weak Deontologism. Consequentialist and Nonconsequentialist Axiological Theories. The Balance of Good and Bad in Consequences. The Good of Self, Others, and Collectivities. Micro Ethics and Macro Ethics. Outline. Character and Conduct.
3. Virtue in Ancient Philosophy.
Kinds of Virtue. Plato and the Virtuous Person. The Soul''s Function. Virtue, Goodness, and Right Conduct. Some Parallels in Hindu Ethics. Aristotle and the Habits of Virtue. The Mean. Moral Perceptions. The Practical Syllogism. Aristotle''s Deontologism. Moral Virtue and Right Conduct. The Priority of an Ethics of Conduct over an Ethics of Virtue.
4. Virtue and Happiness.
Plato and Aristotle on the Necessity of Virtue for Happiness. Perfectionism and the Highest Good. Augustine and the Permanence of the Highest Good. Does Everyone Desire Happiness? Nietzsche on Master Morality and Slave Morality. Is Moral Virtue Desirable? The Importance of an Account of Conduct for the Ethics of Virtue.
5. Ethical and Psychological Egoism.
Should We Seek Only Our Own Good? Three Objections to Ethical Egoism. The Paradoxical Nature of Ethical Egoism. Psychological Egoism in Human Motivation. A Critique of Psychological Egoism. Butler''s Argument.
6 The Divine Command Theory.
The Case of Abraham and Isaac. Greek and Christian Views of Human Nature. God''s Commands According to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Relationship Between God''s Will and Moral Rightness. A Problem for the Divine Command Theory. Commands to Do What Seems Impossibly Idealistic. An Attempted Reconciliation of the Commandment to Love with Human Judgments of What Is Possible. Does God Ever Command Us to Do What Is Wrong? An Attempted Reconciliation of God''s Commands with Human Judgments. Would God''s Commanding the Torture of a Child Make It Right? What Does It Mean to Call God Good? Is God Extrinsically Good Because He Is a Loving God? Can "Right" Be Defined by Reference to God''s Commands? Conclusion.
7. Natural Law Ethics.
Morality and Nature. What Does Natural Law Ethics Mean By "Nature"? Stoic Natural Law Ethics. The Stoic Conception of Duty. Christian Natural Law Ethics. Saint Thomas Aquinas. Human and Theological Virtues. Problems for Natural Law Ethics: Homosexuality and Sexual Harassment. Natural Law as Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy. Is God Necessary for Ethics?
8. Kantianism.
Morality Is Not Founded on Happiness. The Good Will. The Concept of Duty. Objective Principles and Hypothetical Imperatives. Subjective Principles or Maxims. The Categorical Imperative. Applying the Categorical Imperative. Treating Persons as Ends. The Will as Universal Lawgiver. Kant Not a Consequentialist.
9. Consequentialism.
The Attraction of Consequentialism. Deontological Consequentialism. Utilitarianism. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Value. Problems for Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism. Actual Rule Utilitarianism and Ideal Rule Utilitarianism. Are AU and IRU Equivalent? Can We Ever Know All of an Act''s Consequences? What Counts as a Consequence of an Act? Conclusion.
10. Justice.
The Idea of Justice. Distributive Justice. Justice, Consistency, and Rationality. Three Conceptions of Distributive Justice. Distributive Justice as Pure Procedural Justice. The Transition to Metaethics.
11. Ethical Relativism.
Cultural Diversity. What Is Ethical Relativism? Universalism and Absolutism. What Difference Does It Make Whether Relativism Is True? Relativism and Moral Disagreements. Can There Even Be Genuine Moral Disagreements According to Relativism? Is There Cultural Diversity in Basic Moral Beliefs? Cultural Diversity in Basic Moral Beliefs Would Not Establish Relativism. Relativism and the Distinction Between "Is" and "Ought." Universalism and the Ground of Morality. Are Logic and Truth Themselves Relative? Relativism and Moral Tolerance. Conclusion.
12. Can Moral Principles Be Justified?
Diversity At the Level of Principles. Philosophical Intuitionism. Ethical Naturalism. Contractarianism. Rawls and the Original Position. Problems in the Application of Rules and Principles.
13. The Nature Of Moral Judgments.
Ethical Language. Categories Of Ethical Terms. Categorial And Cross-Categorial Definitions. Are Rights Reducible To Deontic And Value Terms? Are Ethical Terms Definable By Nonethical Terms? Is Ethics Autonomous? Autonomy And Reductionism. Is "Good" Indefinable? Moral Realism. Cognitivism. Ethical Naturalism And Intuitionism. The Naturalistic Fallacy. The Open-Question Argument. The Error Theory. Noncognitivism. From Meaning To Use. The Noncognitivst Objection To Cognitivsm. Possible Cognitivist Replies.
14. Feminist Ethics.
Questioning Traditional Ethics. What Is Feminist Ethics? Minimalist Feminist Ethics: Wollstonecraft''s Rights-Based Theory. A Standard Feminist Ethics: The Ethics of Caring. Radical Feminist Ethics. Feminist Objections to Traditional Ethics. Interpreting Feminist Ethics.
15. Contextualism: An Ethics of Pragmatism.
A Deweyan Approach to Ethics. Subjective, Actual, and Actionable Rightness. The Contextualist Alternative. Elements of the Moral Situation. Nurturing Goods. A Kantian Objection. The Importance of Personal Decision. Intuition or Emotion? Conscience and Human Nature. Contextualism and Relativism. Universalism and a Moral Postulate.

What's New

  • This book is now supported by two new technologies. When adopted along with the book, TurnItIn offers an efficient way of preventing plagiarism in student papers, while JoinIn, an interactive classroom response system, offers instructors a way of quickly garnering students' positions on a number of ethical concerns and will keep students in even the largest ethics classes engaged in lectures.
  • This edition features a new chapter on metaethics that examines ethical naturalism, intuitionism, emotivism, moral realism, etc.

Meet the Author

Author Bio

Robert L. Holmes

Ronald L. Holmes, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Rochester. Author of ON WAR AND MORALITY and co-editor of NONVIOLENCE IN THEORY AND PRACTICE.