Philipp Schwind's Reviews > The Fundamentals of Ethics

The Fundamentals of Ethics by Russ Shafer-Landau
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Jun 09, 12


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 Kant would respond to the amoralist. He treats these subjects in a page or two, and all that happens is that students shrug their shoulders and move on. Leave it out or have a longer section on it.
- the coverage of natural law theory is way too dumbed down and makes the theory look totally stupid. Even if you don't agree with natural law theory, it is more complicated and deserves a fairer treatment
- in the first section on well-being, S-L discusses a very implausible version of hedonism and let's it then fail. He only mentions in a footnote that Aristotle has a different understanding of happiness and never again comes back to it. Please! Concluding the section, S-L states that an objective list-theory is probably the most convincing candidate, but never explains why or how. Please!
- too few examples; those he uses are not very appealing. No comparison to authors like Sandel (e.g. in his 'Justice', a great introduction to pol phil and public policy)
- on the bright side, I liked the fact that the book comes with Power Point presentations and a test bank. This has saved me a lot of time
- the introductory treatment of how arguments in ethics can fail was quite nice
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message 1: by Simon (new)

Simon I looked at this book briefly in preparation for teaching Ethics a while back, and was put off by the way everything was forced into a two premise argument form. Interesting to read your comments on the book.


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