Duquesne University Among the First to Select Gordon Marino’s Ethics: The Essential Writings

October 20, 2010 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

ethicsIn Ethics: The Essential Writings, philosopher Gordon Marino skillfully presents an accessible, provocative anthology of both ancient and modern classics on matters moral. The philosophers represent 2,500 years of thought—from Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche to Alasdair MacIntyre, Susan Wolf, and Peter Singer—and cover a broad range of topics, from the timeless questions of justice, morality, and faith to the hot-button concerns of today.

“Here in this wide-ranging collection of essays are ideas, suggestions, and condemnations that in their sum give the abstract side of contemplation a connection to the particulars of a vigorous life—our sense of the right, the wrong, the valuable, and the inappropriate. Here is a book that offers much to us needy readers as we try to figure out how we ought to live—for what purpose and why.” —Robert Coles

The book will be used in a course at Duquesne University on Communication Ethics in Spring 2011.

Here is a note from Professor Marino about his new book:

Ethics is all about relationships, our relationship to ourselves, to others, to the environment. It consists of the body of beliefs that tell us how we ought to comport ourselves with respect to the various poles of our existence. Some base their moral views on sacred texts, others on cultural and familial customs. But when disputes about right and wrong arise, when we are torn between one course of action and another, it is essential to be able to articulate public reasons for our views and to grasp both the strengths and weaknesses of these positions and the conduct they recommend.

In the first part of this anthology, I present some of the canonical texts on the foundations of ethics. The student will soon learn that Aristotle believed ethics is grounded in virtue; Kant held that it is anchored in reason, freedom, and respect for moral law; whereas Mill and the Utilitarians believed that the moral worth of a deed could be measured by the consequences of that deed. The reader is sure to find problems with each of these theories and in turn to understand that his or her deepest convictions do not rest on anything akin to a geometrical proof. Aristotle forewarned us that we should not expect to find the precision of mathematics in the murky matters of ethics and politics.

The second part of this book contains a veritable library of modern classics on ethics. Some of these offerings, such as Bernard Williams’ brilliant essay on moral luck, hint at problems in important moral theories. Kant, to take an example, teaches that it is essentially your moral intentions alone that count. And yet Williams establishes that sheer luck can play a definitive role in our moral self-understanding. For instance, one person is busy on his cell phone as he backs out of the driveway and nothing happens. Another is doing the same and runs over a child. Both were negligent but consider what the latter individual has to live with.

Over the last half century, the field of applied philosophy has risen up like a volcanic island in the sea. Philosophers are no longer solely occupied with gauzy, abstract problems. They have entered into the fray of such worldly issues as environmental ethics, abortion, poverty, and animal rights. In order to provide practice in moving from the theoretical to the concrete, I have included some of the definitive essays on these topics.

In fact, many of the scandals on Wall Street and in the corporate world are thought to have been due to the poison of greed. There are selections here that will stimulate reflection on the problem of avarice. What is it? And what is to be done about appetites so boundless as to swallow all concern for others, and for justice? Moreover, there is a creedal belief in the business community that the duty to share holders trumps all other obligations. But does it? There are resources aplenty in this text for pondering that problem.

In the end, I hope that students will find this book to be a pain in the neck. That is, I hope it will make their lives harder, by lighting up problems that they were blinkered to before. After completing a section on environmental ethics, one of my students jokingly complained, “Thanks to our class, I can’t even leave my light on in my dorm room when I go out without feeling guilty.” I took this admission to be the mark of a pedagogical bull’s eye and I will count this volume a success if it can help produce many such direct hits.

For the Table of Contents, click here.

To order an examination copy, click here.

For more Ethics books published by Random House, Inc., click here.

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