Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought

Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought

Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought

Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought


Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought, third edition is a thoroughly revised and updated version of its highly successful and popular predecessor. Incorporating several brand new case studies and discussion points, the book introduces central questions in ethical theory to the student and assumes no previous knowledge of philosophy.Each chapter deals with a particular ethical issue and has an accompanying case study designed to encourage discussion. New topics raised include genetically modified organisms (GMO), environmental ethics, bioethics and the human genome, as well as a new chapter on religious and cultural relativism in the light of September 11th. Ray Billington's style is at once refreshing and honest and his approach to the subject is always clear. The coverage of the book is tailored for any introductory course in ethics.


The initial incentive for writing this book is the presence of students for a course entitled 'Persons and Values', a module of the degree in Humanities offered at the University of the West of England at Bristol. This solemn title may sound somewhat woolly, but the content of the course is quite down-to-earth, being effectively an introduction to applied philosophy, with particular reference to ethics. Over the twenty years of its life, the course has never covered the same ground twice, hence the amount of relevant available material has become, to put it mildly, extensive. If what follows seems therefore discursive, perhaps these details will explain why this is so. I am aware that 'to explain' sometimes means 'to explain away', and can only hope that this is not deemed to be the case here.

As will be noted by perusing the table of contents, the book falls into three main sections. In the first, the general philosophical issues of ethics are given an airing, though not, on the whole, by way of the delineations used by most modern writers on the subject (more of this in a moment).

In the second part, an examination is made of certain schools of philosophy in which moral theory and practice play an important role. I am conscious that the selection here will seem rather arbitrary: Aristotle and Spinoza, to name but two, merit a chapter to themselves, while some readers will think, with an element of justice, that Freud and Marx are scantily covered - a situation unlikely to please their devotees whichever way you look at it. But to be comprehensively comparative in this field would be to miss out on the book's purpose. For those whose appetites are whetted by the second section, there are many histories of ethics to explore, one of the best of which is mentioned in the text.

In the third section, I take up a number of issues which, while not falling directly under the umbrella of ethics, involve certain (to me) fundamental moral questions. They are issues with which any active, thinking person can hardly avoid getting involved, and they bring some of the earlier more theoretical considerations to a point where they must be applied in practice. Each of them, of course, merits a book to itself. All that can be hoped is that the central issues in each topic are touched on sensitively enough to reveal their basic importance within the framework of the book as a whole. (A 4th section is added in the third edition.)

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