An Introduction to Ethics: Theories, Perspectives, and Issues, 1st edition

  • Sinclair A. MacRae

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This text is appropriate for introductory ethics and moral issues courses, offered through most philosophy departments at colleges and universities throughout Canada.

This text takes an issues-based (or problem-based) approach to ethics, with a main focus on answering questions about the place of ethics in society and nature. Although ethical theory is discussed, it is not emphasized. The emphasis, instead, is on engaging students in key ethical issues, using theory as a background for the main purpose of addressing basic questions of ethics and morality. The aim is to encourage students to appreciate the practical implication of ethical decisions in their lives. An Introduction to Ethics is intended for students who are new to the study of philosophy and who are non-majors, although the content is also suitable as an introduction for students who plan to major in philosophy.

Table of contents

Introduction-Towards Enlightenment in Ethics.

I.1 Introduction.

I.2 The Process/Product Distinction.

I.3 The Process: Critical Analysis.

I.4 The Product: Ethics.

I.5 Why Critical Analysis? Towards Enlightenment in Ethics.

I.6 The Limited Depth of Our Investigation.

I.7 The Spirit of Philosophical Investigation.

I.8 Review.


1. Ethics.

1.1 Our Subject Matter.

1.2 Ethics.

1.3 The Range of the Study of Ethics.

1.4 The Elements of Ethics.

1.5 Normative or Prescriptive Ethics.

1.6 Meta-ethics.

1.7 Review

2. Ethics, Religion, and Law.

2.1 Introduction.

2.2 The Threat to Philosophical Ethics.

2.3 Exclusive Assimilation.

2.4 Objections.

2.5 Extreme Temporalism.

2.6 The Extreme Temporalist Rejection of Religion.

2.7 Compatibilist Alternatives.

2.8 Natural Law Theory.

2.9 Natural Law Accounts of the Purpose, Origins, and Proper Functioning of Morality.

2.10 The Emergence of Secular Accounts of Morality and Law out of Natural Law Theory.

2.11 Alternative Accounts of Law and the Connection between Law and Morality.

2.12 Hart and Legal Positivism.

2.13 Hart on the Minimum Moral Content of Law.

2.14 Ronald Dworkin's Critique of Positivism.

2.15 Review.

3. Ethical Subjectivism, Relativism, and Absolutism.

3.1 Introduction.

3.2 The Sociopaths and the Cat.

3.3 Crude Ethical Subjectivism.

3.4 Crude Versions of Ethical Relativism.

3.5 The Appeal of Crude Versions of Ethical Relativism.

3.6 More Sophisticated Versions of Ethical Relativism.

3.7 Ethical Absolutism.

3.8 Appreciating the Metaethical Nature of Ethical Relativism and Ethical Absolutism.

3.9 Etiquette Relativism.

3.10 The Case of Jane and the Alien Invaders.

3.11 The Difference between Etiquette Relativism and Ethical Relativism.

3.12 The Question of the Point of Morality.

3.13 Fictional Facts.

3.14 Subjectivity and Moral Facts.

3.15 A Source of Controversy in Ethics.

3.16 Review.

4. Consequentialism and Utilitarianism.

4.1 Introduction.

4.2 Consequentialism.

4.3 Sumner and the Consequentialist's Global Goal.

4.4 Classical Utilitarianism.

4.5 Stage One Criticisms: Utilitarian Theories of Value.

4.6 Stage Two Criticisms: Aggregation and Justice.

4.7 Stage Three Criticisms: Maximization and Integrity.

4.8 Criticisms of Consequentialism: Equality and Impersonal Value.

4.9 Subjective Consequentialism, Objective Consequentialism, and Sophisticated Consequentialism.

4.10 Other Objections.

4.11 Review.

5. Kantian Ethics.

Learning Outcomes.

5.1 Introduction.

5.2 The Dilemma of Determinism.

5.3 Our Common Assumptions about Moral Agency and Free Will.

5.4 Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals.

5.5 The Doctrine of the Two Standpoints.

5.6 Kantian Deontology.

5.7 Will, Maxims, and the Laws of Freedom.

5.8 The Categorical Imperative.

5.9 Equal Respect for Persons, Human Dignity, and Autonomy.

5.10 Criticism and a Look Ahead.

5.11 Review.

6. Rights, Virtue Ethics, and Feminism.

6.1 Introduction.

6.2 Rights, Normative Ethics, and Meta-ethics.

6.3 Rights and Natural Law.

6.4 Rights and Consequentialism.

6.5 Rights and Kantian Deontology.

6.6 Transplant and Trolley: A Puzzle about the Strength of our Right to Life.

6.7 Virtue Ethics.

6.8 Is Virtue a Basic Category in Ethics?

6.9 Virtue and Some Shortcomings in Modern Moral Philosophy.

6.10 Aristotle's Account of Virtue.

6.11 Feminist Ethics.

6.12 Feminism, Welfarism, and Kantian Moral Theory.

6.13 Review.


7. Egoism and a Skeptical Challenge to Ethics.

7.1 Introduction.

7.2 The Example of the Old Man and His Wallet.

7.3 A Weak and a Deep Skeptical Challenge to Ethics.

7.4 Psychological Egoism.

7.5 The Case for Extreme Psychological Egoism.

7.6 Extreme Psychological Egoism as Pseudo-science.

7.7 The Breadth of Self-interest.

7.8 Ethical Egoism.

7.9 The Force of the Deep Skeptical Challenge.

7.10 Review.

8. A Practical Justification of Morality: Love, Friendship, and Welfare.

8.1 Introduction.

8.2 Three Cases.

8.3 The Cases Considered from the Perspective of Someone with Narrow Self-interest.

8.4 Reason and Passion.

8.5 Distinguishing Ethics from Altruism.

8.6 Lessons the Cases Teach Us about Love, Friendship, and the Prudential Value of Caring for Others.

8.7 Why Money Can't Buy You Love.

8.8 The Moral Limits of Loving Another.

8.9 The Value to Society of Having Ethical Citizens.

8.10 Noddings' Feminine Approach to Ethics.

8.11 Review.

9. Weighing the Value of Life I: The Case for Equality.

9.1 Introduction.

9.2 A Problem Case: Crisis in Space.

9.3 Deciding Who Should Decide.

9.4 Selection Methods and Their Rationales.

9.5 The Case for a Fair Lottery.

9.6 The Killing Machine.

9.7 Review.

10. Weighing the Value of Life II: Ranking by Qualities.

10.1 Introduction.

10.2 Selecting by Qualities.

10.3 The Value to the Survivors of Surviving.

10.4 The Latimer Case.

10.5 Second Class Citizenship?.

10.6 Determining the Value of Life.

Exercises 10.1.

10.7 The Problems of Making Inter-personal Comparisons of Prudential Value.

10.8 Effects on Society.

10.9 Review.

11. The Scope of Morality I: Anthropocentrism and Welfarism.

11.1 Introduction.

11.2 Anthropocentrism.

11.3 Welfarism and Value.

11.4 Instrumental Value and Intrinsic Value.

11.5 Subjects and Objects.

11.6 Consciousness.

11.7 Valuers and the Valued.

11.8 The Animal Liberation Movement: Singer and Regan.

11.9 Potentiality.

11.10 The Dispute between Anthropocentrism and Welfarism.

11.11 The Value of Objects and Non-conscious Subjects.

11.12 Welfarism and the Ethics of Necrophilia.

11.13 Conclusion.

11.14 Review.

12. The Scope of Morality II: The Biocentric Outlook and Holism.

12.1 Introduction.

12.2 What is Life?

12.3 The Biocentric Outlook.

12.4 A Welfarist Criticism of Biocentrism.

12.5 Sumner's Argument against Biocentrism.

12.6 Holism.

12.7 The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic.

12.8 In Support of Holism.

12.9 The Debate over Holism.

12.10 Review.


13. Issues in Bioethics I: The Just Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources.

13.1 Introduction.

13.2 The Just Microallocation of Scarce Health Care Resources.

13.3 The Question of Perspective.

13.4 The Role of Physicians in Allocating Scarce Health Care Resources.

13.5 The Challenge of Devising Fair Allocation Policies.

13.6 The Case for Giving Equal Consideration.

13.7 Problems with Ranking Methods.

13.8 Review.

14. Issues in Bioethics II: Genetics.

14.1 Introduction.

14.2 Basic Genetics.

14.3 Some Ethical Issues in Genetics Research: Genetic Alterations.

14.4 The Science of Stem Cells.

14.5 Stem Cell Law and Policy in Canada.

14.6 Stem Cell Law and Policy in other Countries.

14.7 Ethical Issues.

14.8 Two Ethical Outlooks.

14.9 A Debate on the Issues.

14.10 Review.

15. Issues in Business Ethics: Affirmative Action.

15.1 Introduction.

15.2 Two Senses of "Discrimination" Distinguished.

15.3 The Debate between the Equal Opportunity View and the Enhanced Views.

15.4 Restitution, Compensation, and Reverse Discrimination.

15.5 Forward-Looking Justifications of Affirmative Action Policies Based on Norms of Distributive Justice.

15.6 The Inefficiency of Traditional Discrimination.

15.7 Justice between Contemporaneous Birth Cohorts.

15.8 A Case for Mandatory Early Retirement.

15.9 Some Final Objections.

15.10 Review.

16. Issues in Ethics and the Law: Law, Liberty, and Legal Moralism.

16.1 Introduction.

16.2 Mill's Harm Principle.

16.3 Sincland.

16.4 Paternalism.

16.5 Consent and Competency.

16.6 Appreciating the Value of Freedom.

16.7 Legal Moralism, Devlin, and Sue Rodriguez.

16.8 Critical Response to Devlin's Legal Moralist View.

16.9 Conclusion.

16.10 Review.

Appendix 1—Writing an Ethics Paper.

Appendix 2—Charter of Rights and Freedoms.



Published by Pearson Canada (October 1st 2002) - Copyright © 2003