Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics

Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics

Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics

Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics

Synopsis

Designed to immediately engage students and other readers in philosophical reflection, the new edition of Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics bridges the gap between ethical theory and practice. This brief introduction combines a discussion of ethical theory with fundamental elements of critical thinking--including informal fallacies and the basics of logic--and uses case studies and practical applications to illustrate concepts. Author Hugh Mercer Curtler presents a carefully formulated critique of ethical relativism, encouraging students to reason along with him and to question his argument at every point. This approach enables students to think systematically about ethical issues and to acquire basic skills in argumentation at the same time. They will learn how to bring principles to bear on ethical conflict, how to weigh pros and cons, how to recognize good ethical reasons, and how to distinguish sound argumentation from rationalization. The second edition of Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics includes new exercises and examples, summary boxes, cartoons, and sample dialogues that demonstrate how to effectively debate ethical positions. It features more than forty case studies on ethical issues that are interesting and relevant to students. An ideal core text for courses in introductory ethics, this concise volume can be used along with additional primary sources, case studies, or newspaper articles and novels. It is also a helpful supplementary text for courses in applied ethics--including professional, business, and medical ethics--and in critical thinking.

Excerpt

I should begin by noting that the term “argument” as it is used in this book refers to a thoughtful procedure for stating conclusions and finding the best possible support for those conclusions. It doesn't mean what we usually mean when we argue with our friends about which movie we should see tonight or who is the best basketball player ever to play the game. It doesn't even require that we raise our voices!

By presenting a series of arguments that are designed to persuade you that ethics is a suitable arena for rational deliberation, this book asks you to seriously question relativism in ethics. The arguments seek to show that ethics is not just an arena for conflicting personal opinions or feelings and differing cultural perspectives, as you may think. It is hoped that by presenting the book in the form of an extended argument, you will be encouraged to think along with me and to sharpen your critical thinking skills at the same time you are learning some effective critical thinking techniques.

I will adopt the Socratic method that stresses the need for criticism as a positive means to more reliable conclusions. This method was called maieutic by the Greeks. It involves careful scrutiny of truth claims and the rejection of those claims that cannot withstand criticism. The remaining claims can be considered “true” unless or until further criticism dislodges them. This is not to say that truth can be defined in terms of non-falsehood; a claim is not true just because it cannot be shown to be false. That would mean that if the claim “Caesar had freckles” cannot be shown to be false it must be true. But the same thing could be said about the claim “Caesar did not have freckles,” and this would be absurd. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect! What I am saying is that a claim can be considered true if we cannot show it to . . .

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