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on August 21, 2016
He can be a little biased against certain opinions. I felt his treatment of Kant was a bit negative. Yes, Kant was strange but he still had some decent ideas. It was interesting to see the reaction of the class I took which used this book: No one liked Kant's ideas after reading Rachel's take on him. When I took an ethics class prior to this with a book that treated him more "neutrally," about half the room seemed like they were partial to his ideas (if you can't tell, I was one of those).

There were some other spots where I was wondering: are you educating us about the perspectives, or trying to subtlety convince me of yours? But overall it is good.
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on October 9, 2017
The Elements of Moral Philosophy

I am troubled by the fact this textbook on Moral Philosophy fails to define what a moral is. Instead, the authors go straight into making statements about morality. (It should be noted that James Rachel was the sole author of the first four editions and passed away in 2003. He work is continued by Stuart Rachel.) It would seem to me that a textbook of this nature would make a distinction between a moral and morality giving definitions for both.

A moral and morality are quite different things. In my opinion, a moral is a statement or concept that defines that action that a person might take as either right or wrong. One can argue to length what “right” and “wrong” mean. They are not the same as true or false, or for matter, good or bad, although common dictionaries defined them in that manner. Specifically, we look at a moral as having two possible or binary states, right and wrong. An action consistent with the moral is right while an action inconsistent with the moral is wrong. It is not inconceivable that some might hold that morals may have more states but for purposes of this philosophy, we should consider them binary. Thus for a given moral, an action can be right, bad and false, all at the same time, although one would expect a right action under an accepted moral to good and true. By accepted, I mean a moral that one chooses, thus accepts, to honor in their life. Clearly, for people who have never thought about morals, their society has chosen them for those people in absentia.

Morality is a system of beliefs about accepted morals. A system contains elements, in this case, an group of morals accepted into the system. Some subset of the moral group may allow a common principle of action to emerge under analysis. The morality system may also start from a principle a priori from which separate morals then can be derived.

The authors hold there is a minimum system for morality, to wit, “Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual affected by one’s action.” But this definition contains moral statements and can not be accepted as an impartial definition. The authors, who in the last chapter of the book propose their support for “Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism,” admit that their biases may have intruded into their work in the Preface.

Their concept of a moral is biased by prejudged concepts of what morals are right and wrong and thus is reflexive. It is important that any student using this as a textbook understand that prior to their study of this book.

However, once that is understood, and the biases of the author in several contemporary issues, the book is an easy read. The authors discuss several prominent morality theories and try to present the unbiased pro’s and con’s of the theories.

Among the theories discussed are Utilitarianism, the Categorical Imperative, Ethical Egoism (others have term this Objectivism,) Virtue Ethics, and the Social Contract Theory. There is a chapter on feminist theories of care which I feel is either misplaced or underdeveloped but consistent with the authors’ biases for contemporary issues.

I think, with the criticisms above noted, the authors have achieved a goal of teaching Moral Philosophy in their textbook. I also believe this is an introduction, a starting point for the subject. I would encourage the student to read original sources, in their original language if they have the ability to do so.
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on June 4, 2016
I know a lot of educational programs are using this "textbook", but the real winner is the author. It is expensive for simply reading somebody's opinion on different philosophical concepts without many footnotes to even refer to.
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on June 23, 2016
I rented this book for my Intro to Ethics class. I thought te class and this book were going to be boring, but I was wrong. I really enjoyed the class and this book. Every chapter was really interesting and I learned a lot from reading this book. Because of this book I now understand morality and ethics a little better and some of my views and beliefs even changed thanks to this book. I might just buy this book just so I have it in case I want a refresher on what I learned or if I just want to read it for fun.
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on February 3, 2017
In today's world, we can all benefit from understanding this topic.
This is a frequently cited college text and is very deep and broad in its coverage of the topic.
I much prefer the Jonathan Sanford series which presents the same material using the context of pop culture references:
My favorite two are: "Spider-Man and Philosophy: The Web of Inquiry" & "Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul"

This is more of a textbook and as such is dryer but, is one of the highest rated on the topic you can find.
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on June 26, 2017
He does a great job at using examples to explain his concepts for readers to understand basic principles of morality/ethics. I think it's a decent read but kind of dry to a certain extent. It would be beneficial for those who need some sort of "dummies guide to ethics" or if you're just curious about different morality issues/standpoints and don't want to read a philosopher's whole work.
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on April 12, 2012
I am not widely read in ethics or philosophy in general. I took an introductory philosophy course as an undergrad and did not return to studying ethics until graduate school, which is where I came into contact with this book. For me, as a novice in ethics, I found Rachels' text enlightening. He neither dwells on theory too long nor dabbles too much in case studies. He provides enough to give you a foundational understanding of the big theories in ethics. Sure, there are probably holes in the material and you probably won't be able to dazzle others with your sudden powers of ethical thought, but it does get you to think about ethics in ways that are almost exciting. Compared to the other textbooks I had in my ethics class, this was a joy to read. The price, as others have said, is too high. But if you have to study it in class, you can't really get around that anyway.
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on November 18, 2014
Rachels and Rachels' text is clear, concise and engaging. It is a wonderful introduction to ethics. I am well versed in philosophy, having majored in it, and I know quite a bit about ethics, but I thought that it would be fun to compare introductory texts.

By far, this is one of the better introductory ethics texts; although I think that it could have been a lot better if about 100-150 pages longer. It could have covered my ground.

I find this book engaging because of the examples given in the book. Powerful stuff.

I find the book, or the writing, near flawless. I do dislike, however, that the Atlantic Book Company, the sellers, advertised the book's condition as being 'like new'. That is quite untrue. I would say it is in good condition, seeing as how the bottom of all the pages are kind of screwed up. The only reason I tolerate this is due to the text not being compromised.
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on August 29, 2017
Although this book has great information, it is very basic and can be found in other texts that are much less expensive. When I received this in the mail, I could hardly believe how small and short it was in comparison to the price. If you have the extra 60 bucks to spare, it's worth it. Otherwise, I would suggest finding a book that more bang for your buck.
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on May 31, 2014
This book was required for an ethics course that I took. I did not enjoy the companion book and this one was barely more tolerable. If it was not required I would not have gotten it and I was extremely disappointed with the cost especially considering that this book is very thin and small and does not have much content for the price tag. Wish I would have saved myself $60 and gotten an earlier edition.
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