About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

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