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The Fundamentals of Ethics


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Table of Contents

Preface: New to the Fourth Edition: Instructor's Manual and Companion Website: A Note on the Companion Volume: Acknowledgments: INTRODUCTION The Lay of the Land Skepticism about Ethics Ethical Starting Points What Is Morality? Moral Reasoning The Role of Moral Theory Looking Ahead PART ONE. THE GOOD LIFE 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 Conclusion 3. Getting What You Want A Variety of Good Lives Personal Authority Avoiding Objective Values Motivation 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: Disappointment: Ignorance of Desire Satisfaction: Impoverished Desires: The Paradox of Self-Harm and Self-Sacrifice: The Fallibility of Our Deepest Desires: Conclusion PART TWO. NORMATIVE ETHICS: DOING THE RIGHT THING 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: Conclusion 6. Natural Law The Theory and Its Attractions Three Conceptions of Human Nature Human Nature as Animal Nature: Human Nature Is What Is Innate: Human Nature Is What All Humans Have in Common: Natural Purposes The Argument from Humanity Conclusion 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 Two Egoistic Strategies Appealing to the Guilty Conscience: Expanding the Realm of Self-Interest: Letting the Evidence Decide Conclusion 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: Conclusion 9. Consequentialism: Its Nature and Attractions The Nature of Consequentialism Structure: Maximizing Goodness: Moral Knowledge: Actual Versus Expected Results: Assessing Actions and Intentions: The Attractions of Utilitarianism Impartiality: The Ability to Justify Conventional Moral Wisdom: Conflict Resolution: Moral Flexibility: The Scope of the Moral Community Slippery Slope Arguments 10. Consequentialism: Its Difficulties Measuring Well-Being Utilitarianism Is Very Demanding Deliberation: Motivation: Action: Impartiality 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 Conclusion 11. The Kantian Perspective: Fairness and Justice Consistency and Fairness The Principle of Universalizability Morality and Rationality Assessing the Principle of Universalizability Integrity 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 Vagueness: Determining Just Deserts: Are We Autonomous?: Moral Luck: The Scope of the Moral Community: Conclusion 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 Conclusion 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 Conclusion 16. Ethical Pluralism: Prima Facie Duties and Ethical Particularism Ross's Ethic of Prima Facie Duties The Advantages of Ross's View Pluralism: We Are Sometimes Permitted to Break the Moral Rules: Moral Conflict: Moral Regret: Addressing the Anti-absolutist 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: Conclusion 17. Virtue Ethics The Standard of Right Action Moral Complexity Moral Understanding Moral Education The Nature of Virtue Virtue and the Good Life Objections 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: Conclusion 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 Conclusion PART THREE. METAETHICS: THE STATUS OF MORALITY 19. Ethical Relativism Moral Skepticism Two Kinds of Ethical Relativism Some Implications of Ethical Subjectivism and Cultural Relativism Moral Infallibility: Moral Equivalence: Questioning Our Own Commitments: Moral Progress: Ethical Subjectivism and the Problem of Contradiction: Cultural Relativism and the Problem of Contradiction: Ideal Observers Conclusion 20. Moral Nihilism Error Theory Expressivism How Is It Possible to Argue Logically about Morality?: Expressivism and Amoralists: The Nature of Moral Judgment: Conclusion 21. Eleven 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 Objectivity Cannot Allow for Legitimate Cultural Variation 7. Moral Disagreement Undermines Moral Objectivity 8. Atheism Undermines Moral Objectivity 9. The Absence of Categorical Reasons Undermines Moral Objectivity 10. Moral Motivation Undermines Moral Objectivity 11. Values Have No Place in a Scientific World Conclusion References: Suggestions for Further Reading: Glossary: Index:

About the Author

Russ Shafer-Landau is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of several books including Living Ethics (OUP, 2018) and The Ethical Life, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2017). He is also the editor of Oxford Studies in Metaethics.


"The Fundamentals of Ethics is quite simply the best introductory ethics book out there."--Philip Robbins, University of Missouri "The writing style is perfectly pitched, the examples are vivid and memorable, and the concepts are thoroughly discussed."--Scott James, University of North Carolina Wilmington "The clarity of Shafer-Landau's writing is almost unparalleled, and the examples that he uses (both real and imagined) are pedagogical treasures. He does a remarkable job of explaining very complex philosophical theories in a thoroughly engaging yet eminently clear fashion."--Aleksander Pjevalica, University of Texas at El Paso "The Fundamentals of Ethics is an outstanding introductory text. It does an excellent job of presenting complex ideas at an introductory level, while deftly helping students understand the practical import of ethical theory. Its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the normative theories is cogently presented. Perhaps its most salient feature is its handling of metaethical issues, which speaks directly to the presuppositions students often have about ethical reasoning. Shafer-Landau's approach clearly shows the experience of someone who has taught this material in the classroom and understands common student assumptions and concerns. This is a very impressive introduction. And the price is substantially lower than that of the Rachels text."--Matthew J. Fitzsimmons, University of North Alabama

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