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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, April 01, 2011

Still reading - The Fundamentals of Ethics by Russ Shafer-Landau

This still seems to me to be an excellent introductory ethics text - I continue to prefer it to the similar book by James Rachels, though someone starting out in this field could do worse than reading both about the same time. They cover a lot of the same territory (Shafer-Landau must surely have been influenced by Rachels), but where they differ Shafer-Landau usually seems (to me) to be better. E.g. he offers a much more sympathetic, and I think superior, discussion of contractarianism. Rachels also wrote an excellent introductory textbook, but was too often guided by his own personal and contestable views.

That said, I find the metaethical discussion rather shallow and naive. E.g, the sophisticated relativist theories of such people as Gilbert Harman are not discussed at all. I realise that Shafer-Landau has written separate books on these issues, but I don't think he has done justice here to anti-realist or relativist views. There's still room for someone to put together a better textbook than this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I just ordered a desk copy from the publisher. I use Rachels in my elementary ethics class, but I'm looking forward to seeing how this one compares.

Charles Sullivan