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Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach Hardcover – May 26, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0631219026 ISBN-10: 0631219021 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (May 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631219021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631219026
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,639,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Oderberg's discussion of [the] issues is rich and thought provoking. [The] work is, even for non-believers, an important and engaging statement of non-consequentialist moral theory" Kaspar Lippert-Rasmussen, The Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 51, no. 204, July 2001.

"Oderberg writes clearly and with precision in a way that is neither patronising, popularist, or difficult.... His is a serious look at what's gone wrong in recent moral philosophy and at how we ought to recast our theories. As such it offers no feel good John Lennon 'Imagine' type view of the changed world. What it does instead is to remind us of a strangely misplaced aim to morality, that of living the good life, of simply being or trying to be a good and whole person....This is a book that throws a new light in a new direction on an old subject and as such should be widely read by both those in the business of philosophy and, perhaps equally importantly, by those outside the academic circles." Reviewed by Ashley Harrold, bookseller at Blackwell's Bookshop, King's Road Reading

"Moral Theory ... provides a welcome alternative to current debates dominated by the consequentialist approach" CHOICE

From the Back Cover

The last thirty years have seen the burgeoning of applied ethics, in which moral philosophy is applied to concrete ethical problems. While this is a welcome development, it is also true that the discipline has been dominated by one particular ethical theory, namely consequentialism.

Moral Theory, and its companion volume Applied Ethics, provide a much-needed alternative to consequentialist orthodoxy. Moral Theory sets out the basic system used to solve moral problems, the system that consequentialists deride as 'traditional morality' and which they believe is 'dead'. The central concepts, principles and distinctions of traditional morality are explained and defended: rights; justice; the good; virtue; the intention/foresight distinction; the acts/omissions distinction; and, centrally, the fundamental value of human life.

By challenging contemporary thinking, Moral Theory and Applied Ethics make a distinctive and provocative contribution to current debate, which will be useful both to undergraduates and professional philosophers.

Customer Reviews

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Duncan on June 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
David S. Oderberg's Moral Theory (along with its companion volume Applied Ethics)presents itself as a defense of traditional morality. It is in fact a philosophical defense of the substantive teachings of traditional Catholic moral theology, which have been reaffirmed by the current Pope in such writings as the new official Catechism of the Catholic Church and such encyclicals as Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae. Although Oderberg defends these teachings, he does so solely by reference to rational arguments intended to persuade all fair-minded persons, not by appeal to authority or religious dogma. Since I am very sympathetic to this sort of project, I was eager to read Oderberg's two books. However, I am not as delighted as I thought I would be, despite my substantial agreement with most of the views he defends. In Moral Theory, Oderberg lays out the shape of traditional morality by investigating the central notions of moral theory, presenting an essentially Aristotelian/Thomistic account of the human good, virtue and right action, natural law and natural rights. Most of this will be familiar territory to those acquainted with this tradition of moral theorizing. Inter alia, he also attacks consequentialism and utilitarianism, which, while spent forces in moral philosophy are still attractive to Catholic moral theologians hoping to weaken or finesse the traditional teaching to the effect that there are certain actions which are always wrong regardless of the agent's motives, circumstances or the consequences of the act. However, he tends to concentrate his fire on extreme consequentialists, such as Peter Singer and James Rachels, who are hardly representatives of mainstream in moral theory nor, I think, likely to become so.Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hagios on October 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A rough definition of politics is that it is 'who gets what, when, and how.' We live in a world that has absorbed utilitarian thinking - a world that puts human lives through a benefit-cost analysis. If slavery made a racist population happy enough then slavery would be moral according to utilitarianism. The goal is to maximize utility, but utiltiarians don't mind throwing a few sacrificial lambs under the bus in order to reach that goal. Natural rights morality is different. Like utilitarianism is begins with the premise that everyone has equal dignity and moral worth, but unlike utilitarianism is structured in such a way that no one can be thrown under the bus. Let's briefly look at two ways that natural rights differs from utiltiarianism.

The Principle of Double Effect

Consider the classic thought experiment of transplant. Five sick people will die unless they get an organ transplant. A healthy young man goes to see his doctor for a routine checkup. The doctor notices that he has the same tissue type as the five sick people, so he kills the healthy young man and gives them his organs. According to utilitarianism transplant is morally good, but most people strongly disagree. Natural rights morality explains why. For an act to be good three things have to be in harmony. 1) "The Ends" must be good. That's true in the case of transplant (on balance four lives are saved). 2) "The means" must also be good. It is wrong to use a bad means - like killing - to achieve a good end. That's where transplant fails. 3) Intention. Acting with good intentions is the single most important plank of natural rights morality. Transplant probably fails this test as well.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sententiae on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
Oderberg does an excellent job defending classical natural law theory against primarily the consequentialist theories that currently hold sway (Peter Singer features prominently, though contractarian theories also get some discussion). Despite being largely polemical in nature, Oderberg also does a decent job at sketching what the classical natural law theory involves and why it counts as plausible in its own right. Large sections of the book are dedicated to defending parts of natural law theory against contemporary criticisms; these include the principle of double effect, the sanctity of human life, natural (and inalienable) human rights, the intention/foresight distinction, act/omission distinction, and others. Although this is a good introduction to Thomistic-Aristotelian normative theory, as well as ethics broadly construed, it could be improved as an introduction by reserving the polemics for separate sections (that could be skipped by a less technically-inclined audience, e.g. intro ethics students) and more expansively detailing the principles that govern natural law normative theory.

Against the implications of another reviewer, this book is not at all religious in content (it is thus not 'a rational defense of Catholic moral teaching' as such, although the moral conclusions drawn by the Catholic faith and those drawn by classical natural law theory do coincide).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amado Gayol on March 15, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Have not finished it yet but a brilliant book so far. I very much intend to purchase the follow up tome, Applied Ethics, in the near future. AG
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