Eight Theories of Ethics

Eight Theories of Ethics

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Eight Theories of Ethics

Eight Theories of Ethics

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FREE for a limited time

Synopsis

Is it possible to study ethics objectively, or are moral judgements inevitably subjective? Are ancient theories of ethics of any contemporary relevance? Which ethical theory offers the most convincing explanation of how best to live one's life? Eight Theories of Ethics is a comprehensive introduction to the theories of ethics encountered by first-time students. Gordon Graham introduces the fundamental concepts that underpin ethics, such as relativism and objectivity, and then devotes his attention to each of the eight major theories of ethics:* egoism* hedonism* naturalism and virtue theory* existentialism* Kantianism* utilitarianism* contractualism* religion.Throughout the book, Gordon Graham draws on examples from great moral philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant and Mill, and also from contemporary debates over human nature, the environment and citizenship. Eight Theories of Ethics is written in an engaging and student-friendly style, with detailed suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter - including original sources and contemporary discussions. It is ideal for anyone coming to this area of philosophy for the first time, and for those studying ethics in related disciplines such as politics, law, nursing and medicine.

Excerpt

Most people who come to philosophy for the first time know rather little about it. Nonetheless they often have a preconceived idea that philosophy ought to raise and answer fundamental questions about how to live, about what things are good and evil, and about what the 'meaning' of human life is. Yet, the philosophy books they read at the start of their studies rarely seem to have a direct bearing on these topics and from this they conclude that their preconceptions about philosophy were mistaken. Sometimes the result is that the newcomers discover a new interest in 'academic' philosophy and leave their previous interests behind; alternatively they abandon philosophy with a feeling of disappointment, and turn to more 'popular' works that come from writers with little or no training in formal philosophy, or to works of literature that throw light on their original interests in a different way.

Both these outcomes are regrettable and unnecessary. It is indeed wrong to think that philosophers are solely, or even primarily concerned with the questions philosophy is commonly supposed to address. Yet the popular conception of philosophy is not wholly mistaken. Many of the greatest figures in Western philosophy from Plato to Wittgenstein have wondered what the good life for a human being consists in, what makes it good and whether its being so has any cosmic significance. At the same time, these questions are not well answered by simple personal reflections, however sincerely meant, such as one finds in books where the author merely aims to set out 'my philosophy'. Two thousand years of philosophical inquiry has shown that surrounding the topics of value and meaning there is a large set of complex questions whose understanding takes considerable intellec-

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