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Morality: an introduction to ethics (Harper torchbooks, TB 1632) Paperback – 1972

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"Brief but excellent; a clear, vigorous, fertile introduction to ethics." Philosophy --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Bernard Williams' remarkable essay on morality confronts the problems of writing moral philosophy, and offers a stimulating alternative to more systematic accounts that seem nevertheless to have left all the important issues somewhere off the page. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Harper torchbooks, TB 1632
  • Paperback: 107 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; First Harper Torchbooks Edition edition (1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061316326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061316326
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,399,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By ctdreyer on May 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This slim volume is an introduction to moral philosophy, and it has the distinction of being one of the few introductions written by a major figure in the field. It's a fine book for the beginner, as Williams does not assume that the reader will be coming to this book with any prior engagement with moral philosophy. And it's worth reading for people with more philosophical background as well, since Williams doesn't shy away from presenting original thoughts about the issues. Indeed, this is more of an original essay on some of the basic issues in moral philosophy than a summary of the various positions found in the literature. So, for the reader looking for a summary of the competing positions in the field or an introduction to the literature on these topics, this book's lack of engagement with the existing literature makes it less than an ideal choice as an introductory text. But if you'd rather introduce yourself to the subject of moral philosophy by seeing an especially competent person wrestling with the not insignificant task of arriving at a defensible moral view, this is the book for you.
Behind much of what Williams says here is a skepticism about the usefulness of moral theory, and about the role that philosophy can play in elucidating issues about morality. This is motivated not by a philosophically-based skepticism about morality itself--as a matter of fact, much of the book argues against such skepticism--but by a skepticism about the philosophers' ability to tell us much of substance about how we ought to moralize. What he's especially quick to repudiate is the suggestion that philosophical thinking will enable us to arrive at a better conception of how we ought to think morally.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By RW on June 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although this text presents nothing new to the professional philosopher or graduate student, it is a supremely rewarding introduction to moral thought for two reasons. One, it is short. At 97 pages, this book can be covered in one day. Second, although some of Williams' own views are discussed, this essay is a lucid, easy to read survey of the major modes of ethical thinking - from amoralist to utilitarian.
If you want to know more about moral philosophy but are not sure where to begin, try here.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By snalen on October 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a very short, highly polemical introduction to moral philosophy comprising ten brilliantly concise little essays. There are extremely few good introductory texts in ethics and the best way into the subject is probably via its more accessible classics such as Plato's `Gorgias' and Mill's `Utilitarianism'. But if you are looking for a good intro text, this would be hard to improve on and in the 30 years since it was published I doubt if anyone has improved on it. It's inexhaustibly rich, witty, judicious and illuminating. Famously, the late Professor Williams write in the preface that `most moral philosophy at most times has been empty and boring, and the number of good books in the subject... can be literally counted on the fingers of one hand.' This and the other books he went on to write are among the strongest reasons one could adduce in arguing that at least two hands would now be required.
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By A Customer on March 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
...which is worth the attention of more advanced students, too. The arguments here are crisp without being technical, and deeply engaging. His discussions of the attributive "good", of the point of morality, and of the connection between morality and religion are exemplary. The book ends with a subtle critique of utilitarianism.
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