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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Introductory Text, January 18, 2005
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This review is from: The Elements of Moral Philosophy with Dictionary of Philosophical Terms (Paperback)
Supralapsiarian's comments are a bit unfair to Rachels. The book overall is very thought-provoking, despite the occasional strawman (mostly due to his secular bias). It *is* weak on abortion, homosexuality, religious morality, and the divine command theory for example. Rachels picks the most oversimplified positions in these areas to criticize.

There is no real problem with "reification of Reason" though. It's just useful shorthand. All his statements about Reason (capital R) can be translated into statements about reason and reasons (lower case r). And he does not set himself up as "a stable throne in the realm of moral epistemology". He says repeatedly things like:

"Moral truths are truths of reason. Such truths are objective in the sense that they are true independently of what we might want or think."

"Reason says what it says, regardless of our opinions or desires".

These are not statements of a subjectivist about reason or morality, or someone just projecting his own opinions or desires. He regards the relationship between moral conclusions and moral reasons as in some sense necessary, and that is a respectable view. It's analogous to the relationship between the conclusion that "copper melts at 1984 degrees F" and statements about this or that sample of copper melting at 1984 degrees F: "Reason" (i.e. objective rules of reasoning) determines that connection, not us (by what we believe or desire). Regardless of our beliefs or desires, the fact that this or that sample of copper melts at 1984 degrees F *is* (part of) a good reason for thinking that "copper melts at 1984 degrees F".

Similarly, there are good and sometimes conclusive reasons for some moral views (ex. see his section on proof in Ethics), and those are good reasons regardless of what anyone (himself included) believes or desires. In fact, a case can be made for saying that Rachels accepts a sort of Natural Law Theory (a theory that he claims to reject).
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