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Driver, Julia, and . Ethics: The Fundamentals

2006, Wiley-Blackwell (2006)

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.

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and . Alief and Belief

2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (10): 634-663.

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.

Hursthourse, Rosalind, and . On Virtue Ethics

2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Beginning lives

1987, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Virtue, Theory and Abortion

1991, Philosophy & public affairs 20(3): 223-246.

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.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Virtue Ethics

2009, E. N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy [electronic resource]

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.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Normative Virtue Ethics

1996, in Roger Crisp (ed.), How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford University Press. 19-36.

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.

Jackson, Jennifer, and . An Introduction to Business Ethics

1996, London: Blackwell

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.

Nussbaum, Martha, and . 14 Non-Relative Virtues

2001, in Paul K. Moser, Thomas L. Carson (eds.), Moral Relativism, New York: Oxford University Press.

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.

Nussbaum, Martha, and . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership

2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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.