Mr P. H. Nowell-Smith's book on ethics is one of a series of philosophical works which are appearing in a similar form. The series consists mainly in original studies of the work of certain outstanding philosophers, but it covers also a number of more general topics, including, besides ethics, political philosophy, logic, the theory of knowledge, and the philosophy of science.
The series is not designed to reflect the standpoint or to advance the views of any one philosophical school. Since it is addressed to an audience of non-specialists, as well as professional philosophers, the contributors to it have been asked to write in as untechnical a manner as their subjects allow, but they have not been expected to achieve simplicity at the cost of accuracy or completeness.
There is a distinction, which is not always sufficiently marked, between the activity of a moralist, who sets out to elaborate a moral code, or to encourage its observance, and that of a moral philosopher, whose concern is not primarily to make moral judgements but to analyse their nature. Mr Nowell-Smith writes as a moral philosopher. He shows how ethical statements are related to, and how they differ from, statements of other types, and what are the criteria which are appropriate to them. His book deals with the most important problems in the field of moral philosophy, from the objectivity of values to the freedom of the will.
A. J. AYER