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The Fundamentals of Ethics

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  149 ratings  ·  16 reviews
In The Fundamentals of Ethics, author Russ Shafer-Landau employs a uniquely engaging writing style to introduce students to the essential ideas of moral philosophy. Offering more comprehensive coverage of the good life, normative ethics, and metaethics than any other text of its kind, this book also addresses issues that are often omitted from other texts, such as the doct ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2009)
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Philipp Schwind
I used this book for an class on contemporary moral issues and I don't think I am going to assign it again. Here is why:
- in general, the book stays too much on the surface, quickly presenting a position and then moving to a long list of objections against it. I (and my students) would have preferred a more in-depth treatment of fewer issues.
- consequently, some difficult issues are presented in a way that don't benefit anyone. E.g. S-L's treatment of moral motivation or his discussion of how Ka
Wing Cheung
This great book starts by demonstrating that neither hedonism nor desire-satisfaction provides a sound foundation to a value theory. It then explores utilitarianism, Kantian categorical imperatives and contractarianism in depth, and highlights their respective deficiency. As none of these competing normative theories is complete, an intuitionist approach based on prima facie duties needs to be considered. The book then points out that all the aforementioned theories fail to address the issue of ...more
Rui Carlos da Cunha
Reading over the reviews of those who dislike this book and yet offer no other books on ethics as ones they favor makes me wonder why people waste their breath and time to complain about a book they chose to read in the first place. It's a good introduction to ethics with excellent use of vocabulary. Some of the syllogistic arguments may seem as contrived as a Socratic dialogue, but unless the reader can create better arguments to offer as examples, it becomes a case of put up or shut up. Other ...more
After reading this Shafer-Landau's 1st edition of the "The Fundamentals of Ethics" in its entirety, I can say it is definitely a very good survey text of ethical theory. That said, it has a few flaws that deserve noting.

Generally speaking, "The Fundamentals of Ethics" has several advantages over some of its competitors. The introductory discussion is quite good, I think; the book splits up the discussion of psychological and ethical egoism into two separate chapters, which makes the topic more m
Cj Guth
I was a philosophy major in college, and read this as something of a refresher on moral philosophy. I confess I was disappointed.

I think it is fair to say that the book is written from the fundamental conviction that ethics is important, and that there are some true ethical claims (think "Killing babies for sport is wrong"). That's surely reasonable, and frankly I appreciate anytime an author of a survey book will honestly tell you where he or she is coming from. Nevertheless, I confess I think
The Fundamentals of Ethics is a useful introductory text to the issues of ethics.

First, the text is written colloquially; it is accessible and engaging for the new ethics student. Second, it holds to a clear structure with each chapter following naturally and easily from the previous. Third, each major argument is simplified into well-crafted argument forms. This encourages the reader to cultivate and apply her logic skills.

One important flaw, however, is the unwarranted assumptions made throu
Elizabeth Kiss
This was a poorly constructed book. I was coping with it, and the absurdity of it, until the author decided to discuss feminist ethics, and to backtrack on the traditional gender stereotypes he decided to engage as if they were not his opinion.
Peter Jana
The strength of this book lies in the step-by-step method the author uses to analyze philosophical justifications and counter-claims. Michael Sandel's *Justice* might have more appeal because Sandel covers similar territory with more case studies and thought experiments, but Sandel does not pick apart premises with the type of consistency of Shafer-Landau, nor does he cover topics like ethical pluralism and relativism. I found this to be an insightful entree into philosophical argumentation. The ...more
As a basic overview of ethics this book is well structured and well-written. For the layperson interested in an overview of the philosophical issues it is a great resource. My only criticism would be that this is the furthest it goes - even for a basic intro to ethics undergraduate class the content is sometimes too basic and some of the issues are glossed over too quickly with some main criticisms of positions (I am thinking specifically of the situationist criticism of virtue ethics) are misse ...more
Michelle Johnson
An excellent introduction to some of the popular ethical theories. Many readers who are already knowledgable in these theories seem to criticize Shafer-Landau's simplification of the subject, but it is exactly why I would compliment him. It's a great way to introduce those who are assigned the reading, by keeping it short and easy to read. It gives enough information about each theory, as well as arguments against them and comparisons to others, and easily instigates much classroom discussion ab ...more
This book sucks. The author talks too colloquially, which makes the chapters skip along, it's true, but also makes you struggle through a lot of slang language where the author is trying to be hip. The author also makes outrageous assumptions, and supports or denies philosophical theories based on the strength of his own assumptions and morals. If you ever wondered what it would be like if Socrates had actually answered any questions, this is it. However, having someone tell you what to think is ...more
A pretty accessible and thorough introduction to contemporary ethical theory. Maybe a few more recommended sources for further reading would have helped, but I take it Shafer-Landau means for readers to get most of that from the companion volume.
Hannah Givens
My ethics textbook. Shafer-Landau does a great job of describing a variety of ethical views. He's (relatively) simple to understand and unbiased, although if he finds a theory to be unconvincing he'll say so. Very helpful.
A really enjoyable read that hits the balance between being a quick read and generally rigorous. I especially enjoyed it as a means toward grasping the general assessment of theory-groups for strengths and weaknesses.
It was alright. There are better works out there.
Patrick Brown
Good overview of Ethical Theories.
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