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Astell, Mary, , . A Serious Proposal to the Ladies: Parts I and II
2002, Broadview Press
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Publisher’s Note: Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies is one of the most important and neglected works advocating the establishment of women’s academies. Its reception was so controversial that Astell responded with a lengthy sequel, also in this volume. The cause of great notoriety, Astell’s Proposal was imitated by Defoe in his “An Academy for Women,” parodied in the Tatler, satirized on the stage, plagiarized by Bishop Berkeley, and later mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in Princess Ida.

Comment: This new edition by Patricia Springborg of Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies: Parts I and II includes helpful introductory material and explanatory annotations to Astell’s text. Springborg’s introduction places Astell’s work in the context of the woman question and the debate over empirical rationalism in the eighteenth-century. This is a good text to use in an early modern course.

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Driver, Julia, , . Ethics: The Fundamentals
2006, Wiley-Blackwell.
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Editor’s Note: Ethics: The Fundamentals explores core ideas and arguments in moral theory by introducing students to different philosophical approaches to ethics, including virtue ethics, Kantian ethics, divine command theory, and feminist ethics. The first volume in the new Fundamentals of Philosophy series. Presents lively, real-world examples and thoughtful discussion of key moral philosophers and their ideas. Constitutes an excellent resource for readers coming to the subject of ethics for the first time.

Comment: This book offers good preliminary introductions to a number of topics in ethics. Each section could be assigned individually as a starting point for the given topic. The sections on utilitarianism and consequentialism are particularly good introductions. Primarily of use to early undergraduates or students who have not studied ethics before.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Alief and Belief
2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (10): 634-663.
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Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. Paradigmatic alief can be characterized as a mental state with associatively-linked content that is representational, affective and behavioral, and that is activated – consciously or unconsciously – by features of the subject’s internal or ambient environment. Alief is a more primitive state than either belief or imagination: it directly activates behavioral response patterns (as opposed to motivating in conjunction with desire or pretended desire.) I argue that alief explains a large number of otherwise perplexing phenomena and plays a far larger role in causing behavior than has typically been recognized by philosophers. I argue further that the notion can be invoked to explain both the effectiveness and the limitations of certain sorts of example-based reasoning, and that it lies at the core of habit-based views of ethics.

Comment: In this influential paper, Gendler argues for the existence of an important cognitive states that she calls alief. It is a highly-relevant material for teachings on many topics, for example forms of belief, rationality and belief, varieties of irrationality, implicit bias and etc, in upper-division undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses.

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Hursthourse, Rosalind, , . On Virtue Ethics
2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Back Matter: Virtue ethics is perhaps the most important development within late twentieth-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, now presents a full exposition and defence of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions. Deliberately avoiding a combative stance, she finds less disagreement between Kantian and neo-Aristotelian approaches than is usual, and she offers the first account from a virtue ethics perspective of acting ‘from a sense of duty’. She considers the question which character traits are virtues, and explores how answers to this question can be justified by appeal to facts about human nature. Written in a clear, engaging style which makes it accessible to non-specialists, On Virtue Ethics will appeal to anyone with an interest in moral philosophy.

Comment: The Introduction provides an excellent overview of virtue ethics and its relations with other moral theories. It makes for a perfect main reading for units on virtue ethics in general ethics modules. Chapter 4 offers a valuable discussion of deontology, and other chapters are best used as further reading, or as main readings in modules devoted fully to virtue ethics.

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Hursthouse, Rosalind, , . Beginning lives
1987, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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Back matter: In this text book Rosalind Hursthouse examines the complex questions surrounding the morality of abortion. Beginning by discussing the moral status of the foetus, she outlines and criticizes the main philosophical liberal positions on abortion, discussing alsl their bearing on the related issues of ifanticide, foetal research, surrogacy, murder and our treatment of animals. In place of the currently prevailing positions, the author offers a novel approach to these issues based on the recently revived theory of neo–Aristotelianism which emphasizes moral virtues and vices.

A central element of Beginning Lives is its emphasis on the special nature of abortion: its unique relation to the facts of women′s pregnancies and hence to our attitudes to childbearing, motherhood, maturity and sexual relations.

Comment: The first chapters provide an excellent overview of the main topics in the abortion debate. Chapter 3 is particularly useful in teaching, as it offers a response to personhood accounts – it can be used in conjunction with Tooley’s ‘Abortion and Infanticide’ (1972). Chapter 5 presents an in-depth discussion of women’s rights and is useful in teaching on ethical issues related to abortion, but can also provide excellent support for teaching about feminism or human rights in general.

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Hursthouse, Rosalind, , . Normative Virtue Ethics
1996, in Roger Crisp (ed.), How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford University Press. 19-36.
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Abstract: Shows that virtue ethics can specify right action and defends the view that the sort of practical guidance it provides accommodates several conditions of adequacy that any normative ethics should meet. It is argued that (1) it generates an account of moral education, (2) it incorporates the view that moral wisdom cannot simply be acquired from textbooks, and (3) it can resolve resolvable dilemmas or moral conflicts but is not committed in advance to there being no such things as irresolvable dilemmas.

Introduction: A common belief concerning virtue ethics is that it does not tell us what we should do. This belief is sometimes manifested merely in the expressed assumption that virtue ethics, in being ‘agent-centred’ rather than ‘act-centred’, is concerned with Being rather than Doing, with good (and bad) character rather than right (and wrong) action, with the question ‘What sort of person should I be?’ rather than the question ‘What should I do?’ On this assumption, ‘virtue ethics’ so-called does not figure as a normative rival to utilitarian and deontological ethics. Anyone who wants to espouse virtue ethics as a rival to deon­tological or utilitarian ethics will find this common belief voiced against her as an objection: ‘Virtue ethics does not, because it can­not, tell us what we should do. Hence it cannot be a normative rival to deontology and utilitarianism.’ This paper is devoted to defending virtue ethics against this objection.

Comment: This is an easy-to-understand, concise argument in favour of the viability of virtue ethics. It is a useful illustration of the practical application of Aristotelian moral theory and would aid students understanding of that type of view and its implications if assigned as a supplement. Easy to understand even for those relatively unfamiliar with the issues, it is suitable as part of a first introduction to virtue ethics for undergraduates.

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Hursthouse, Rosalind, , . Virtue Ethics
2009, E. N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy [electronic resource]
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Introduction: Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.
Three of virtue ethics’ central concepts, virtue, practical wisdom and eudaimonia are often misunderstood. Once they are distinguished from related but distinct concepts peculiar to modern philosophy, various objections to virtue ethics can be better assessed.

Comment: This text provides a good introduction to virtue ethics and an excellent bibliography of related and further readings.

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Hursthouse, Rosalind, , . Virtue, Theory and Abortion
1991, Philosophy & public affairs 20(3): 223-246.
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Abstract: The sort of ethical theory derived from Aristotle, variously described as virtue ethics, virtue-based ethics, or neo-Aristotelianism, is becoming better known, and is now quite widely recognized as at least a possible rival to deontological and utilitarian theories. With recognition has come criticism, of varying quality. In this article I shall discuss nine separate criticisms that I have frequently encountered, most of which seem to me to betray an inadequate grasp either of the structure of virtue theory or of what would be involved in thinking about a real moral issue in its terms. In the first half I aim particularly to secure an understanding that will reveal that many of these criticisms are simply misplaced, and to articulate what I take to be the major criticism of virtue theory. I reject this criticism, but do not claim that it is necessarily misplaced. In the second half I aim to deepen that understanding and highlight the issues raised by the criticisms by illustrating what the theory looks like when it is applied to a particular issue, in this case, abortion.

Comment: Most useful as further reading in two contexts: (1) the ethics of abortion and the use of virtue ethics in determining its moral status; (2) virtue ethics, its relations with deontology and utilitarianism, and objections against it, with a discussion of the problem of abortion supporting the value of the neo-Aristotelian theory.

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Jackson, Jennifer, , . An Introduction to Business Ethics
1996, London: Blackwell.
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Publisher: This book is a concise overview of the relevance and application of moral philosophy to all those involved in business and employment. It is the ideal introduction for beginning students of applied philosophy, business or management ethics.

Comment: This is an excellent introduction to business ethics for undergraduate students, presented mostly from a virtue ethics perspective. It is written in a very accessible way and chapters are concluded with sets of study questions. The book can be used as a textbook in applied and business ethics modules, though it might be useful to supplement it with some more general introduction to ethical theory and other readings which are not embedded in virtue ethics.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Publisher: Theories of social justice are necessarily abstract, reaching beyond the particular and the immediate to the general and the timeless. Yet such theories, addressing the world and its problems, must respond to the real and changing dilemmas of the day. A brilliant work of practical philosophy, Frontiers of Justice is dedicated to this proposition. Taking up three urgent problems of social justice neglected by current theories and thus harder to tackle in practical terms and everyday life, Martha Nussbaum seeks a theory of social justice that can guide us to a richer, more responsive approach to social cooperation. The idea of the social contract–especially as developed in the work of John Rawls–is one of the most powerful approaches to social justice in the Western tradition. But as Nussbaum demonstrates, even Rawls’s theory, suggesting a contract for mutual advantage among approximate equals, cannot address questions of social justice posed by unequal parties. How, for instance, can we extend the equal rights of citizenship–education, health care, political rights and liberties–to those with physical and mental disabilities? How can we extend justice and dignified life conditions to all citizens of the world? And how, finally, can we bring our treatment of nonhuman animals into our notions of social justice? Exploring the limitations of the social contract in these three areas, Nussbaum devises an alternative theory based on the idea of capabilities. She helps us to think more clearly about the purposes of political cooperation and the nature of political principles–and to look to a future of greater justice for all.

Comment: This excellent book is valuable in teaching for two main reasons: (1) it extends and expands on the application of the capability approach to non-human animals, the disabled and the global poor; and (2) it offers a valuable critique of Rawls’ theory of justice.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Non-Relative Virtues
2001, in Paul K. Moser, Thomas L. Carson (eds.), Moral Relativism, New York: Oxford University Press.
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Comment: This text provides an interesting commentary to Nicomachean Ethics, offering a discussion of the relation between Aristotle’s theoretical framework and particular cultural attitudes.

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Olberding, Amy (ed.), , . Dao Companion to the Analects
2014, Springer.
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Publisher’s note: This volume surveys the major philosophical concepts, arguments, and commitments of the Confucian classic, the Analects. In thematically organized chapters, leading scholars provide a detailed, scholarly introduction to the text and the signal ideas ascribed to its protagonist, Confucius.

The volume opens with chapters that reflect the latest scholarship on the disputed origins of the text and an overview of the broad commentarial tradition it generated. These are followed by chapters that individually explore key areas of the text’s philosophical landscape, articulating both the sense of concepts such as renli, and xiao as well as their place in the wider space of the text. A  final section addresses prominent interpretive challenges and scholarly disputes in reading the Analects, evaluating, for example, the alignment between the Analects and contemporary moral theory and the contested nature of its religious sensibility.

Dao Companion to the Analects offers a comprehensive and complete survey of the text’s philosophical idiom and themes, as well as its history and some of the liveliest current debates surrounding it. This book is an ideal resource for both researchers and advanced students interested in gaining greater insight into one of the earliest and most influential Confucian classics.

Comment: This volume provides an excellent overview of Confucius’ Analects, with a number of excellent essays by both Chinese and Western philosophers. It would be a good textbook to use for a course that is an introduction to Asian/Confucian philosophy, or individual chapters could be used to provide an additional perspective in more general courses on certain topics:

  • Hui Chieh Loy’s chapter on language and ethics would be useful in moral theory courses that focus on virtue ethics or the relation between epistemology and morality,
  • Bai Tongdong’s chapter could be taught in the context of comparative political theory (particularly potential justifications for authoritarianism),
  • and Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee’s chapter would be very valuable as part of an examination of care ethics and feminist philosophy.
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Sreenivasan, Gopal, , . Disunity of Virtue
2009, Journal of Ethics 13 (2-2):195 – 212.
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Abstract: This paper argues against the unity of the virtues, while trying to salvage some of its attractive aspects. I focus on the strongest argument for the unity thesis, which begins from the premise that true virtue cannot lead its possessor morally astray. I suggest that this premise presupposes the possibility of completely insulating an agent’s set of virtues from any liability to moral error. I then distinguish three conditions that separately foreclose this possibility, concentrating on the proposition that there is more to morality than virtue alone—that is, not all moral considerations are ones to which some virtue is characteristically sensitive. If the virtues are not unified, the situationist critique of virtue ethics also turns out to be more difficult to establish than some have supposed.

Comment: This paper offers a discussion of some strong objections against virtue ethics, and as such it is best used to support modules focusing on this neo-Aristotelian view. Further, it addresses problems which seem to follow from empirical research into virtues and character, which makes it particularly useful in teaching students who tend to confuse moral psychology and philosophy.

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Swanton, Christine, , . Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View
2003, Clarendon Press.
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Publisher’s Note: This book offers a comprehensive virtue ethics that breaks from the tradition of eudaimonistic virtue ethics. In developing a pluralistic view, it shows how different ‘modes of moral response’ such as love, respect, appreciation, and creativity are all central to the virtuous response and thereby to ethics. It offers virtue ethical accounts of the good life, objectivity, rightness, demandingness, and moral epistemology.

Comment: This book offers an interesting, distinctive form of virtue ethics. It would be valuable as a different perspective and an illustration of the different directions one can take virtue theory. Due to its complexity, it is best taught to graduate students or upper-level/honours undergraduates, who have already received a grounding in the fundamentals of virtue ethics.

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Wolf, Susan, , . Asymmetrical freedom
1980, Journal of Philosophy 77(3): 151-166.
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Diversifying Syllabi: Thesis: interesting and sophisticated position compatibilist position in the debate about free will and determinism. Slogan: To be free is to be determined by the Good. The claim is that if we do the right thing for the right reasons, then we are free – in the sense that is required by moral responsibility – even if we are determined. But if we do the wrong thing, then we are free and morally responsible only if we are not determined (i.e. if we could have done otherwise).

Comment: This text offers an interesting discussion of the issue of free will and determinism, and its relation to moral responsibility. It is best used in teaching metaphysics and moral philosophy classes on those topics. It offers some review of the debate, but is not general enough to be used as an introduction. It can also be used in more specific classes in ethics, focusing on moral luck or blameworthiness.

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