Cover Page



Source Acknowledgments

Part I The Status of Morality

Introduction to Part I

1 “Of the Influencing Motives of the Will” and “Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason”

David Hume

Of the Influencing Motives of the Will

Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason

2 A Critique of Ethics

A. J. Ayer

3 The Subjectivity of Values

J. L. Mackie

Moral Scepticism


Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives

The Claim to Objectivity

The Argument from Relativity

The Argument from Queerness

Patterns of Objectification

4 Ethics and Observation

Gilbert Harman

The Basic Issue


Observational Evidence

Ethics and Mathematics

5 Moral Relativism Defended

Gilbert Harman

I. Inner Judgments

II. The Logical Form of Inner Judgments

III. Moral Bargaining

IV. Objections and Replies

6 Cultural Relativism

Harry Gensler

Ima Relativist

Objections to CR

Moral Diversity

Objective Values

7 The Subject-Matter of Ethics

G. E. Moore

8 Ethics as Philosophy: A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism

Michael Smith


II. Ethics as Philosophy

III. Moral Disagreement as a Metaphysical Objection

IV. Moral Disagreement as an Epistemic Defeater

V. The Causal Inefficacy of Moral Facts

VI. Conclusion

9 Realism

Michael Smith

Part II Moral Knowledge

Introduction to Part II

10 Thinking About Cases

Shelly Kagan

I. The Priority of Case Specific Intuitions

II. The Analogy to Empirical Observation

III. Error Theories

IV. Particular Cases and General Claims

V. Conclusion

11 But I Could be Wrong

George Sher

I. Introduction

II. The Challenge to My Moral Judgments

III. The Challenge Not a Form of Skepticism

IV. The Interplay of Controversy and Contingency

V. The Role of Reflection

VI. Practical Solution to These Doubts?

VII. Conclusion

12 Proof

Renford Bambrough

13 Moral Knowledge and Ethical Pluralism

Robert Audi

The Epistemological Resources of Moderate Intuitionism

The Gap between Intuitive Moral Judgment and Rational Action

14 Coherentism and the Justification of Moral Beliefs

Geoffrey Sayre-McCord

Foundationalism and Coherentism

The Regress Argument

Permissively Justified Beliefs and Positive Support

The Nature and Role of Coherence

Some Objections


Part III Why Be Moral?

Introduction to Part III

15 The Immoralist’s Challenge


16 Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives

Philippa Foot

17 A Puzzle About the Rational Authority of Morality

David O. Brink

1. Relativist and Minimalist Solutions

2. Externalist Solutions

3. Agent-Neutral Solutions

4. Metaphysical Egoist Solutions

5. Solutions

18 Moral Rationalism

Russ Shafer-Landau

19 Psychological Egoism

Joel Feinberg

A. The Theory

B. Prima Facie Reasons in Support of the Theory

C. Critique of Psychological Egoism: Confusions in the Arguments

D. Critique of Psychological Egoism: Unclear Logical Status of the Theory

20 Flourishing Egoism

Lester Hunt

I.Virtue and Self-Interest

II. Difficulties for Egoism

III. One Version of Egoism

IV. Difficulties Avoided

V. Consequentialist Egoism

VI. The Possibility of Flourishing-Based Egoism

VII. Virtue and Self-Interest, Again

21 Ethical Egoism

James Rachels

Is There a Duty to Contribute for Famine Relief ?

Three Arguments in Favor of Ethical Egoism

Three Arguments Against Ethical Egoism

22 Moral Saints

Susan Wolf

Moral Saints and Common Sense

Moral Saints and Moral Theories

Moral Saints and Moral Philosophy

Part IV Ethics and Religion

Introduction to Part IV

23 Euthyphro


24 A New Divine Command Theory

Robert Merrihew Adams

My Old Position

The Nature of Wrongness and the Meaning of “Wrong”

A New Divine Command Theory

25 God and Objective Morality: A Debate

William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

God Makes Sense of Objective Values in the World


26 God and Immortality as Postulates of Pure Practical Reason

Immanuel Kant

The Immortality of the Soul as a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason

The Existence of God as Postulate of Pure Practical Reason

27 God and the Moral Order

C. Stephen Layman

I. The Argument Briefly Stated

II. Objections and Replies

III. Completing the Argument

28 God and Morality

Erik Wielenberg

God as the Omnipotent Creator of Ethics

Criticism of the Strong Position

Criticism of the Weak Position

An Alternative Account

God as Divine Commander

Part V Value

Introduction to Part V

29 Hedonism

John Stuart Mill

Of What Sort of Proof the Principle of Utility is Susceptible

30 The Experience Machine

Robert Nozick

31 The Good Life: A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism

Fred Feldman

1. The Good Life

2. Pleasure as a “Feeling” vs. Pleasure as an Attitude

3. The Evaluation of Lives

4. A Simple Form of Hedonism; Why it Fails

5. Attitudinal Hedonism

6. Some Classic Objections to Hedonism

7. A More Complex Form of Hedonism

8. Yet Another Objection

9. Double Desert-Adjusted Hedonism

32 Rationality and Full Information

Thomas Carson

Some Objections to the Full-Information Theory

More Serious Objections to the Full-Information Theory

An Alternative Informed-Desire Theory

33 Desire and the Human Good

Richard Kraut









34 What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best

Derek Parfit

35 What Things are Good?

W. D. Ross

Part VI Moral Responsibility

Introduction to Part VI

36 Determinism and the Theory of Agency

Richard Taylor



“Soft determinism”




37 The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility

Galen Strawson






38 Freedom and Necessity

A. J. Ayer

39 Moral Luck

Thomas Nagel

40 Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility

Susan Wolf

Frankfurt, Watson, and Taylor

The Deep-Self View

The Condition of Sanity

The Sane Deep-Self View

Self-Creation, Self-Revision, and Self-Correction

Two Objections Considered

41 Freedom and Resentment

Peter Strawson







Part VII Moral Standing

Introduction to Part VII

42 We Have No Duties to Animals

Immanuel Kant

43 All Animals are Equal

Peter Singer

44 The Rights of Animals and Unborn Generations

Joel Feinberg

The Problem

Individual Animals


Whole Species

Dead Persons

Human Vegetables


Future Generations


45 On Being Morally Considerable

Kenneth Goodpaster







46 Abortion and Infanticide

Michael Tooley

The Basic Issue: When is a Member of the Species Homo Sapiens a Person?

Some Critical Comments on Alternative Proposals

Refutation of the Conservative Position

Summary and Conclusions

47 An Argument that Abortion is Wrong

Don Marquis

Why the Debate Over Abortion Seems Intractable

The “Future Like Ours” Account of the Wrongness of Killing

Arguments in Favor of the FLO Theory

Replies to Objections


Part VIII Consequentialism

Introduction to Part VIII

48 Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill

49 Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism

J. J. C. Smart




50 Rule-Consequentialism

Brad Hooker

1 Introduction

2 What Constitutes Benefit?

3 Distribution

4 Criteria of Rightness versus Decision Procedures

5 Formulations of Rule-Consequentialism

6 Collapse

7 Rule-Consequentialism and the Distribution of Acceptance

8 Arguments for Rule-Consequentialism

9 Rule-Consequentialism on Prohibitions

10 Doing Good for Others

11 Conclusion

51 Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality

Peter Railton


I. John and Anne and Lisa and Helen

II. What’s Missing?

III. The Moral Point of View

IV. The “Paradox of Hedonism”

V. The Place of Non-Alienation Among Human Values

VI. Reducing Alienation in Morality

VII. Contrasting Approaches

VIII. Demands and Disruptions

IX. Alienation from Morality

52 What is Wrong with Slavery

R. M. Hare

53 Famine, Affluence and Morality

Peter Singer

54 The Survival Lottery

John Harris

Part IX Deontology

Introduction to Part IX

55 Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Immanuel Kant

The Good Will

The Categorical Imperative

56 Kant’s Formula of Universal Law

Christine Korsgaard

I The Logical Contradiction Interpretation

II The Teleological Contradiction Interpretation

III The Practical Contradiction Interpretation


Abbreviations for Kant’s Works

57 Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems

Onora O’Neill

A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics

The Formula of the End in Itself

Using Others as Mere Means

Treating Others as Ends in Themselves

Justice and Beneficence in Kant’s Thought

Justice to the Vulnerable in Kantian Thinking

Beneficence to the Vulnerable in Kantian Thinking

The Scope of Kantian Deliberations about Hunger and Famine

Utilitarians, Kantians, and Respect for Life: Respect for Life in Utilitarian Reasoning

Respect for Life in Kantian Reasoning

Nearby Hunger and Poverty: Hunger and Welfare in Rich Countries

58 The Rationality of Side Constraints

Robert Nozick

Moral Constraints and Moral Goals

Why Side Constraints?

59 The Golden Rule Rationalized

Alan Gewirth




60 The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect

Philippa Foot

61 Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem

Judith Jarvis Thomson





Part X Contractarianism

Introduction to Part X

62 Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes

Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning their Felicity and Misery

Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of Contracts

Of Other Laws of Nature

63 Why Contractarianism?

David Gauthier






64 A Theory of Justice

John Rawls

The Main Idea of the Theory of Justice

The Original Position and Justification

Two Principles of Justice

The Veil of Ignorance

The Reasoning Leading to the Two Principles of Justice

65 Contractualism and Utilitarianism

T. M. Scanlon






Part XI Virtue Ethics

Introduction to Part XI

66 The Nature of Virtue


Book I: Happiness

Book II [Virtue of Character]

Book X

From Ethics to Politics

67 Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach

Martha Nussbaum









68 Normative Virtue Ethics

Rosalind Hursthouse

1. Right Action

2. Moral Rules

3. The Conflict Problem

4. Dilemmas and Normative Theory

69 Agent-Based Virtue Ethics

Michael Slote

1. Agent-Based versus Agent-Focused Virtue Ethics

2. Two Objections to Agent-Basing

3. Morality as Inner Strength

4. Morality as Universal Benevolence

5. Can Agent-Based Theories be Applied?

70 A Virtue Ethical Account of Right Action

Christine Swanton

I. Introduction

II. Rival Accounts

III. A Target-Centered Virtue Ethical Conception of Rightness

IV. Overall Virtuousness

V. Objections

71 Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing

Julia Annas

Part XII Feminist Ethics

Introduction to Part XII

72 In a Different Voice

Carol Gilligan

73 An Ethic of Caring

Nell Noddings

From Natural to Ethical Caring


Right and Wrong

The Problem of Justification

Women and Morality: Virtue

The Toughness of Caring

74 Justice, Care, and Gender Bias

Cheshire Calhoun

I. The Moral Self

II. Moral Knowledge

III. Moral Motivation

IV. Moral Obligations

V. The Charge of Gender Bias

75 The Need for More than Justice

Annette Baier

76 Sexism

Marilyn Frye

77 Feminist Skepticism, Authority, and Transparency

Margaret Urban Walker

Feminist Ethics: Skepticism of Content, Form, and Practice

Different Voices, Critical Epistemology

An Expressive-Collaborative Model and Its Epistemology

Authority, Transparency, and Feminist Skepticism

Feminist Skepticism and That Other Skepticism

Part XIII Prima Facie Duties and Particularism

Introduction to Part XIII

78 What Makes Right Acts Right?

W. D. Ross

79 An Unconnected Heap of Duties?

David McNaughton




80 An Unprincipled Morality

Jonathan Dancy

81 On Knowing the “Why”: Particularism and Moral Theory

Margaret Olivia Little

Varieties of Antitheory

Questioning the Need for Theory

Recovering a Role for Theory

Defeasible Generalizations and Moral Theory

82 Unprincipled Ethics

Gerald Dworkin












Each volume in this outstanding series provides an authoritative and comprehensive collection of the essential primary readings from philosophy’s main fields of study. Designed to complement the Blackwell Companions to Philosophy series, each volume represents an unparalleled resource in its own right, and will provide the ideal platform for course use.

1 Cottingham: Western Philosophy: An Anthology (second edition)

2 Cahoone: From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology (expanded second edition)

3 LaFollette: Ethics in Practice: An Anthology (third edition)

4 Goodin and Pettit: Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology (second edition)

5 Eze: African Philosophy: An Anthology

6 McNeill and Feldman: Continental Philosophy: An Anthology

7 Kim and Sosa: Metaphysics: An Anthology

8 Lycan and Prinz: Mind and Cognition: An Anthology (third edition)

9 Kuhse and Singer: Bioethics: An Anthology (second edition)

10 Cummins and Cummins: Minds, Brains, and Computers – The Foundations of Cognitive Science: An Anthology

11 Sosa, Kim, Fantl, and McGrath Epistemology: An Anthology (second edition)

12 Kearney and Rasmussen: Continental Aesthetics – Romanticism to Postmodernism: An Anthology

13 Martinich and Sosa: Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology

14 Jacquette: Philosophy of Logic: An Anthology

15 Jacquette: Philosophy of Mathematics: An Anthology

16 Harris, Pratt, and Waters: American Philosophies: An Anthology

17 Emmanuel and Goold: Modern Philosophy – From Descartes to Nietzsche: An Anthology

18 Scharff and Dusek: Philosophy of Technology – The Technological Condition: An Anthology

19 Light and Rolston: Environmental Ethics: An Anthology

20 Taliaferro and Griffiths: Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology

21 Lamarque and Olsen: Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art – The Analytic Tradition: An Anthology

22 John and Lopes: Philosophy of Literature – Contemporary and Classic Readings: An Anthology

23 Cudd and Andreasen: Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology

24 Carroll and Choi: Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures: An Anthology

25 Lange: Philosophy of Science: An Anthology

26 Shafer-Landau and Cuneo: Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology

27 Curren: Philosophy of Education: An Anthology

28 Cahn and Meskin: Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology

29 McGrew, Alspector-Kelly, and Allhoff: The Philosophy of Science: An Historical Anthology

30 May: Philosophy of Law: Classic and Contemporary Readings

31 Rosenberg and Arp: Philosophy of Biology: An Anthology

32 Kim, Korman, and Sosa: Metaphysics: An Anthology (second edition)

33 Martinich and Sosa: Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology (second edition)

34 Shafer-Landau: Ethical Theory: An Anthology (second edition)



As a cursory scan through the table of contents will show, the realm of ethical theory is an expansive one. If I had my way, this book would have been half again as long, to reflect this breadth, but then my editor rightly drew my attention to certain practicalities of the publishing world. I am hopeful, nonetheless, that most of the centrally important questions in ethical theory receive attention within these covers.

At the heart of ethics are two questions: (1) What should I do?, and (2) What sort of person should I be? Though philosophers sometimes proceed as if these questions were really quite distinct from one another, it is artificial to suppose that we can plausibly answer the one without making important commitments that go some ways towards answering the other. We can also, of course, ask about the status of our answers to these questions, by asking, for instance, whether such answers are in some way reflective only of personal opinion, or whether they might be best measured against some more objective standard. And again, we might be puzzled at how we can gain ethical knowledge in the first place (if we can), and wonder at the rational authority of morality (if there is any). All of these questions, and many others, are addressed, if not conclusively answered, in the readings that follow.

Any contemporary ethics anthology worth its salt will be sure to include coverage of consequentialism, deontology, contractarianism, and virtue ethics. This book does that, but I have been intent on ensuring that other areas, less often surveyed in such books, receive attention as well. This explains the separate sections on moral standing, moral responsibility, moral knowledge, and a concluding sampling of work that asks about the very possibility of systematic ethical theory. These are matters in which students tend to be quite interested, though for various reasons these issues are usually omitted, or given only scant representation, in anthologies such as this one.

I have also made the difficult decision, in the last several sections devoted to normative ethics, to forgo the usual point-counterpoint sampling of contrasting views, in favor of devoting each such section entirely to proponents of the theory being represented. Thus, in the section on consequentialism, for instance, I omit the usual critics of the doctrine, and restrict myself to allowing only its defenders a voice therein. This makes the reader’s work a bit more difficult, but also, I think, much more interesting. What this approach allows is a richer and subtler representation of the normative theory under scrutiny. Readers will not have criticisms of the theories presented and ready to hand. As a compensation, however, they will have a more nuanced target to aim at when seeking to identify for themselves the vulnerabilities (and the strengths) of the views they are exploring.

The task of comprehending, within the pages of even this large work, the entire compass of ethical theory is not one that any sane philosopher would think possible. (Not that it hasn’t been fun trying.) I’m sure that those with experience of this area will doubtless be disappointed to find that a favorite paper has gone missing here or there. But I hope to have provided enough in the way of pleasant surprises and compensating rewards to make up for that sort of thing. My own goal is to have included here articles that are exemplary in their accessibility, their being centrally representative of an important view within ethical ­theory, and their being first-rate works of philosophy. In a very small number of cases I have included pieces that I know to have failed in one of these aspects, because they have been so successful in the others.

Here is a listing of what is new in this second edition:

In addition to these fine selections, I have added an entirely new part, Part XII, devoted to feminist ethics. The readings in that part are:

I’ve greatly enjoyed acquainting and reacquainting myself with these terrific works. A further source of ­genuine pleasure comes from acknowledging the very kind, expert advice I have received from so many ­talented and generous philosophers. My sincere thanks to Jim Anderson, Steven Arkonovich, Paul Bloomfield, Ben Bradley, Claudia Card, Tom Carson, Terence Cuneo, Jonathan Dancy, Ben Eggleston, Dan Hausman, Dan Haybron, Chris Heathwood, Thomas Hill, Jr., Dan Jacobson, Robert Johnson, Hilde Lindemann, Thaddeus Metz, Carolina Sartorio, Sam Scheffler, Rob Streiffer, and Pekka Väyrynen. Don Hubin, Simon Keller, and James S. Taylor reviewed my introductory essays and offered excellent suggestions for improvement. Bekka Williams and David Killoren significantly aided in the research, and Brad Majors was a superb assistant in every way.

Jeff Dean prompted me to put this book together, and I’d like to express my appreciation to him not only for encouraging me along these lines, but also for being such a thoughtful and reasonable editor. His assistants, Danielle Descoteaux (for the first edition) and Tiffany Mok (for the second), served as my regular correspondents at Blackwell, and were the very model of cheery, intelligent efficiency. I couldn’t have asked for a better editorial team.

Madison, Spring 2012

Source Acknowledgments

The editor and publisher gratefully acknowledge the permission granted to reproduce the copyright material in this book:

1 David Hume, “Of the Influencing Motives of the Will” and “Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason,” from Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, 1737.

2 A. J. Ayer, “A Critique of Ethics,” from Language, Truth and Logic (Dover, 1952), 102–13. First ­published by Gollancz in 1936. Reprinted with permission of The Orion Publishing Group.

3 J. L. Mackie, “The Subjectivity of Values,” from Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Penguin, 1977), 15–18, 29–43. Reprinted with permission of Penguin Books.

4 Gilbert Harman, “Ethics and Observation,” from The Nature of Morality (Oxford University Press, 1977), 3–10. © OUP Inc. 1977. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

5 Gilbert Harman, “Moral Relativism Defended,” Philosophical Review, 85 (1975), 3–22. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.

6 Harry Gensler, “Cultural Relativism,” from Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, 1998), 11–17. Reprinted with permission of Taylor & Francis Books UK.

7 G. E. Moore, “The Subject-Matter of Ethics,” from Principia Ethica, 1903.

8 Russ Shafer-Landau, “Ethics as Philosophy: A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism,” from Mark Timmons and Terence Horgan, eds., Metaethics after Moore (Oxford University Press, 2005). © various authors 2005. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

9 Michael Smith, “Realism,” from Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Blackwell, 1991), 399–410. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

10 Shelly Kagan, “Thinking about Cases,” from Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred Miller, Jr., and Jeffrey Paul, eds., Moral Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2001), 44–63. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press.

11 George Sher, “But I Could Be Wrong,” Social Philosophy & Policy, 18/2 (2001), 64–78. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge Journals.

12 Renford Bambrough, “Proof,” from Moral Skepticism and Moral Knowledge (Routledge, 1979), 11–13, 15–27. Reprinted with permission of Mrs. Bambrough via Taylor & Francis.

13 Robert Audi, “Moral Knowledge and Ethical Pluralism,” from John Greco and Ernest Sosa, eds., Blackwell Guide to Epistemology (Blackwell, 1999), 275–6, 278–85, 288–95. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

14 Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, “Coherentism and the Justification of Moral Beliefs,” from Mark Timmons and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, eds., Moral Knowledge: New Readings in Moral Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 1996). Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

15 Plato, “The Immoralist’s Challenge,” from The Republic, Book II, trans. G. M. A. Grube, revised by C. D. C. Reeve (Hackett, 1992), 357A–367E. © 1992 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

16 Philippa Foot, “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives,” Philosophical Review, 81 (Duke University Press, 1972), 305–15.

17 David O. Brink, “A Puzzle about the Rational Authority of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 6 (1992), 1–26. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

18 Russ Shafer-Landau, “Moral Rationalism,” from Moral Realism: A Defence (Oxford University Press, 2003), excerpted from chapters 7 and 8. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

19 Joel Feinberg, “Psychological Egoism,” from Joel Feinberg and Russ Shafer-Landau, eds., Reason and Responsibility, 12th edn. (Wadsworth, 2004), ­476–88. Reprinted with permission of Cengage Learning.

20 Lester Hunt, “Flourishing Egoism,” Social Philosophy and Policy, 16 (1999), 72–95. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge Journals.

21 James Rachels, “Ethical Egoism,” from The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 4th edn. (McGraw-Hill, 2003), 76–90. Reprinted with permission of McGraw-Hill Education.

22 Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints,” The Journal of Philosophy, 79/8 (1982), 419–39. The Journal of Philosophy.

23 Plato, “Euthyphro,” trans. Benjamin Jowett, Oxford, 1892.

24 Robert Merrihew Adams, “Divine Command Metaethics Modified Again,” Journal of Religious Ethics, 7 (Blackwell Publishing, 1979), 66–79. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

25 William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, “God and Objective Morality: A Debate,” from God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist (Oxford University Press, 2004), 17–21, 33–6. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

26 Immanuel Kant, “God and Immortality as Postulates of Pure Practical Reason,” from Critique of Practical Reason, trans. T. K. Abbott (Longmans, Green and Company, 1873).

27 C. Stephen Layman, “God and the Moral Order,” Faith and Philosophy, 19 (2002), 304–16. Reprinted with permission of Faith and Philosophy.

28 Erik Wielenberg, “God and Morality,” from Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 39–42, 48–65. © Cambridge University Press 2005. Reproduced with permission.

29 John Stuart Mill, “Hedonism,” from Utiliarianism (1859).

30 Robert Nozick, “The Experience Machine,” from Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974), 42–5. Reprinted with permission of Perseus Books Group and Wiley-Blackwell.

31 Fred Feldman, “The Good Life: A Defence of Attitudinal Hedonism,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 65 (2002), 605–27. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

32 Thomas Carson, “The Concept of Rationality as a Basis for Normative Theories,” from Value and the Good Life (University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), 222–39, 304–5.

33 Richard Kraut, “Desire and the Human Good,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 68/2 (1995), 39–49. American Philosophical Association.

34 Derek Parfit, “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best,” from Reasons and Persons (Oxford University Press, 1984), 493–502. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

35 W. D. Ross, “What Things are Good?”, from The Right and The Good (Oxford University Press, 1930), 134–40. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

36 Richard Taylor, “Determinism and the Theory of Agency,” from Sydney Hook, ed., Determinism and Freedom (New York University Press, 1959), ­211–18. © 1959 New York University Press. Reprinted with permission.

37 Galen Strawson, “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility,”originally from Philosophical Studies, 75 (1994), 5, 7–10, 13–15, 25. Updated and reprinted in Real Materialism and Other Essays (Oxford University Press, 2008). Reprinted with kind permission of the author.

38 A. J. Ayer, “Freedom and Necessity,” from Philosophical Essays (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1969), 271–84. Reprinted with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

39 Thomas Nagel, “Moral Luck,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 50 (1976), 137–55. Reprinted by courtesy of the Editor of the Aristotelian Society © 1976.

40 Susan Wolf, “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility,” from Ferdinand Schoeman, ed., Responsibility, Character and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 46–62. © Cambridge University Press 1987. Reproduced with permission.

41 Peter Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment,” Proceedings of the British Academy, 48 (1962), 1–25. Reprinted with permission of British Academy.

42 Immanuel Kant, “We Have No Duties to Animals,” from Lectures on Ethics, trans. Louis Infield (Methuen, now Routledge, 1930), 239–41. Reprinted with permission of Taylor & Francis Books UK.

43 Peter Singer, “All Animals are Equal,” from Animal Liberation, 2nd edn. (Ecco Press, 1990), 1–21. Reprinted with permission of The Random House Group Limited and Peter Singer.

44 Joel Feinberg, “The Rights of Animals and Unborn Generations,” from William Blackstone, ed., Philosophy and Environmental Crisis (University of Georgia Press, 1974), 43–6, 49–50, 55, 57–63. Reprinted with kind permission of Jean T. Blackstone.

45 Kenneth Goodpaster, “On Being Morally Considerable,” The Journal of Philosophy, 75 (1978), 308, 310–25. The Journal of Philosophy.

46 Michael Tooley, “Abortion and Infanticide,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1 (1972), 44–55, 58–64. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

47 Don Marquis, “An Argument that Abortion is Wrong,” from Hugh LaFollette, ed., Ethics in Practice (Blackwell, 1997), 91–102. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

48 John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism,” from Utilitarianism (1859).

49 J. J. C. Smart, “Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism,” Philosophical Quarterly, 6 (Blackwell Publishing, 1956), 344–54. Reprinted with ­permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

50 Brad Hooker, “Rule-Consequentialism,” from Hugh LaFollette, ed., Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Blackwell Publishing, 2000), 183–204. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

51 Peter Railton, “Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 13 (1984), 134–71. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

52 R. M. Hare, “What is Wrong with Slavery,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 8 (Blackwell Publishing, 1979), 103–21. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

53 Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” from Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1/3 (Blackwell Publishing, 1972), 229–43. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

54 John Harris, “The Survival Lottery,” Philosophy, 50 (1975), 81–7. The Royal Institute of Philosophy, published by Cambridge University Press, reproduced with permission of Cambridge University Press and Professor John Harris.

55 Immanuel Kant, from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 7–16, 25–39. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press and The Estate of Professor M. J. Gregor.

56 Christine Korsgaard, “Kant’s Formula of Universal Law,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 66 (Blackwell Publishing, 1985), 24–47. Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

57 Onora O’Neill, “Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems,” from Tom Regan, ed., Matters of Life and Death, 3 rd edn. (McGraw-Hill, 1993), 258–70. Reprinted with permission of McGraw-Hill Education.

58 Robert Nozick, “The Rationality of Side Constraints,” from Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974), 27–33. Basic Books, a member of Perseus Books LLC.

59 Alan Gewirth, “The Golden Rule Rationalized,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 3 (Blackwell Publishing, 1978), 133–47. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

60 Philippa Foot, “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect,” Oxford Review, 5 (1967). 5–15.

61 Judith Jarvis Thomson, “Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem,” The Monist, 59 (1976), 204–17. Copyright © The Monist: An International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry, Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. Reprinted with permission.

62 Thomas Hobbes, from Leviathan (1651).

63 David Gauthier, “Why Contractarianism?,” from Peter Vallentyne, ed., Contractarianism and Rational Choice (Cambridge University Press, 1991), 15–30. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press.

64 John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice,” from A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1971), 11–21, 60–3, 136–40, 153–6. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 1971, 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Reprinted with ­permission of Harvard University Press.

65 T. M. Scanlon, “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” from Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams, eds., Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 1982), 103–29. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press and Professor T. Scanlon.

66 Aristotle, “The Nature of Virtue,” from Nichomachean Ethics, trans. Terence Irwin (Hackett, 1999), 1–5, 7–12, 15–29, 163–9. © 1999 by Terence Irwin. Reprinted with permission of Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

67 Martha Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach,” from Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling, Jr., and Howard K Wettstein, eds., Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 13 (1988), 32–50. University of Notre Dame Press.

68 Rosalind Hursthouse, “Normative Virtue Ethics,” from Roger Crisp, ed., How Should One Live? (Oxford University Press, 1996), 19–33. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

69 Michael Slote, “Agent-Based Virtue Ethics,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 20 (Blackwell Publishing, 1995), 83–101. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

70 Christine Swanton, “A Virtue Ethical Account of Right Action,” Ethics, 112 (The University ­of Chicago Press, 2001), 32–52. Reprinted with permission of The University of Chicago Press.

71 Julia Annas, “Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 78 (2004), 61–74. American Philosophical Association.

72 Carol Gilligan, “In a Different Voice,” from In A Different Voice (Harvard University Press, 1982), 24–9, 70–1, 73–4, 98–101, 105, 173–4.

73 Nell Noddings, “An Ethic of Caring,” from Caring: A Femine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (University of California Press, 1984), 79–103.

74 Cheshire Calhoun, “Justice, Care, and Gender Bias,” The Journal of Philosophy, 85 (1988), 451–63. Reprinted with permission of The Journal of Philosophy.

75 Annette Baier, “The Need for More than Justice,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supplementary ­volume 13 (1987), 18–32. Reprinted with ­permission.

76 Marilyn Frye, “Sexism,” from The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (The Crossing Press, 1983), 17–20, 23–4, 29, 31–8.

77 Margaret Urban Walker, “Feminist Skepticism, Authority, and Transparency,” from Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons, eds., Moral Knowledge? New Readings in Moral Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 1995), 267–92. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

78 W. D. Ross, “What Makes Right Acts Right?”, from The Right and the Good (Oxford University Press, 1930), 18–22, 29–32, 39–41. Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press.

79 David McNaughton, “An Unconnected Heap of Duties?”, Philosophical Quarterly, 46 (Blackwell Publishing, 1996), 433–47. Reprinted with ­permission of Wiley-Blackwell.

80 Jonathan Dancy, “An Unprincipled Morality.” © Jonathan Dancy. Reprinted with the kind permission of the author.

81 Margaret Olivia Little, “On Knowing the ‘Why’: Particularism and Moral Theory,” Hastings Center Report, 31/4 (The Hastings Center, 2001), 32–40.

82 Gerald Dworkin, “Unprincipled Ethics,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 20 (Blackwell Publishing, 1995), 224–38. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright ­material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions in the above list and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.

Part I

The Status of Morality

Introduction to Part I

Suppose that we are puzzled about whether we ought to lend our support to a war that our government has initiated. We mull things over, we talk to our friends, we listen to what politicians and opinion writers have to say about the matter, and then, finally, we do manage to make up our minds. Can our moral view of the ­matter be true? If so, what could make it true?

Suppose that we have thought things out quite a bit, and have arrived, not at a particular assessment of this war or that war, but of all wars – we have developed a theory of just war. This theory tells us the conditions under which the activities of war are just and right. Can this theory be true? If so, what makes it true?

Suppose, finally, that our thinking has become so sophisticated that we are able, after a great deal of effort, to develop an entire ethic. We have, to our satisfaction, identified the conditions that determine whether actions are moral or immoral. Can this sort of theory be true? If so, what makes it true?

The questions I have posed are not questions about the content of morality. I am not asking about what should go on the laundry list of moral dos and don’ts. The questions I posed above are about the status of our moral opinions, and our moral theories. What are we doing when we arrive at moral verdicts and theories? So long as we are speaking sincerely, we are surely ­voicing our personal opinion about such matters. But is that all there is to it? Do our opinions answer to any independent authority? Are actions right just because someone approves of them? Because a society approves of them? Because God approves of them? Or might it be that actions are right independently of all such sources of approval? Or, more pessimistically, might it be the case that morality is a fraud, a system of merely conventional rules that have no real authority at all? On this line, all of our moral talk is fraught with error: we think that genocide is immoral, and think it our duty to tend to the weak, but these views, like all moral views, are (on this line) simply mistaken.

The possibilities just canvassed represent the wide variety of views in metaethics. Metaethics is that branch of ethical theory that asks, not about the content of morality, but about its status. Is morality a human invention? A divine creation? Something else? Can we have moral knowledge, and, if so, how? Are moral requirements rationally compelling – do we always have excellent reason to do as morality says? For ­present purposes, the central metaethical question is whether moral views can be true, and, if so, whether they can be objectively true. A claim is objectively true just in case it is true independently of what any human being ­actually thinks of it. There are lots of objective truths: that two and two are four; that oxygen is denser than helium, that the planet Mars is smaller than the planet Jupiter. The big question here is whether there are any moral claims that share this status.

Many of our writers do not think so. David Hume, our lead-off author, wrote his magnificent Treatise of Human Nature when he was still in his twenties. Contained therein is a series of very powerful ­arguments against the objectivity of ethics. Many of these arguments are, either on their own or with an updating, taken today as cogent reasons for rejecting ethical objectivity. One of the more famous arguments is this:

1. All claims that can be known by reason are either empirical matters of fact, or conceptual truths (such as “all bachelors are unmarried,” or “all cubes have six sides”).
2. Moral claims do not represent empirical matters of fact.
3. Moral claims do not represent conceptual truths.
4. Therefore reason cannot give us moral knowledge.

Hume was also notable for emphasizing the ­impossibility of deducing an ought from an is, i.e., deducing a moral claim, or a prescription about what should be done, from a factual claim that describes what is the case. One is making no logical error in accepting this description: “that action is a premeditated killing of a defenseless child,” but failing to infer that “therefore that action is immoral.” If the person who knows of the killing fails to deem it immoral, she is not making a logical error. But what other sort of error could she be making? It is no error of reason, says Hume, for it is an implication of his argument, above, that errors of reason are limited to two kinds: mistaking empirical matters of fact, or misunderstanding the concepts one is employing. But such a ­callous individual may know all of the nonmoral facts surrounding the killing, and may be as conceptually sophisticated as the rest of us. If there is any error made by such a person, it cannot be that she has failed to get at the truth. For reason is the faculty that gets at truth, and if, according to Hume, there is no error of reason, then there is no failure to light on the truth. Perhaps, as many commentators read him, that is because Hume didn’t believe that there was such a thing as ethical truth.

Here is another argument taken from Hume’s classic work:

1. Moral judgments are intrinsically motivating.
2. Beliefs are not intrinsically motivating – they need desires to generate motivation.
3. Therefore moral judgments are not beliefs.

If moral judgments are not beliefs, then what are they? A. J. Ayer, whose views on ethics clearly bear a Humean influence, claims that our moral judgments are just expressions of our emotions. If I judge that eating meat is immoral, for instance, I am not reporting a putative fact about meat eating. Rather, I am expressing my aversion to it. It’s as if I were saying: “meat-eating – yechhh!” Such an expression, pretty clearly, cannot be true. But neither can it be false. It is not the sort of thing discernible by reason, since it doesn’t seek to represent the way things really are. Moral judgments are not reports or descriptions of the world. They are our emotional responses to a world that contains no values at all.

J. L. Mackie holds a view that is pretty close to Ayer’s. Mackie agrees with Ayer that the world contains no values. Nothing is morally right or wrong. Of course, almost all of us resort to moral vocabulary to register our approvals or disapprovals of things. But our moral judgments are never true.

There is a subtle but important disagreement between these two thinkers. Ayer denies that moral judgments are truth-apt, i.e., capable of being true or false. He thinks this because of his attachment to the verifiability criterion of meaning, according to which a sentence is meaningful only if it is either a conceptual truth or empirically verifiable. Ayer basically takes Hume’s criterion for what could be discovered by reason, and applies it to the theory of meaning. Ayer denies that moral claims are conceptual truths, and he also thinks it impossible to verify them through the evidence of the senses. So Ayer judges them meaningless. And a meaningless sentence is not truth-apt – it is neither true nor false.

Mackie, by contrast, thinks that moral claims are meaningful, but always fail to state the truth. That’s because, for Mackie, there is no moral truth. Morality is entirely made-up, though we all suppose that it answers to some objective criteria of right and wrong. Since there are no such criteria, all of our moral claims rest on a ­massive failure of presupposition. We assume the ­existence of objective values in our moral judgments. We try to ­accurately report on the details of an objective ­morality. But we invariably fail, and lapse into error, because the very thing required to make our moral ­judgments true (i.e., an objective moral reality) does not exist.

Mackie’s arguments for this view are numerous. One of the most important ones is this:

1. The degree of disagreement in ethics is much greater than that found in science.
2. The best explanation of this is that science explores a realm of objective facts, while ethics comprises a set of judgments that reflect non-objective, ­parochial opinion.
3. The view likeliest to be true is the one that best explains the available evidence.
4. Therefore the view likeliest to be true is that ethics comprises a set of judgments that reflect non-objective, parochial opinion.

The comparative breadth and depth of ethical disagreement has long been a source of suspicion about the objectivity of ethics. So, too, has this concern, again well expressed by Mackie in another of his arguments:

1. If there are any genuine moral requirements, then they must be intrinsically motivating and intrinsically reason-giving.
2. Nothing is either intrinsically motivating or intrinsically reason-giving.
3. Therefore there are no genuine moral requirements.

Mackie argues that anything that is either intrinsically motivating or reason-giving would be “queer” – quite unlike anything else we know of in the universe. Following Hume, he thinks that motivation is entirely contingent on what one happens to believe and desire. No fact or putative requirement can motivate all by itself. Mackie also thinks that the very concept of a moral requirement entails that it supply an excellent or overriding reason for all to whom it applies. But again, he thinks that reasons depend on contingent facts about people’s desires or interests. No consideration can supply a reason for action all by itself; whether it does so or not depends on whether it is conducive to one’s ends. Since, by Mackie’s lights, something counts as a moral requirement only if it supplies, by itself, a reason for compliance, and since, as he sees it, there can be no such intrinsically reason-giving entities, it follows that there are no genuine moral requirements.

Gilbert Harman is the last representative in our readings of those who are deeply suspicious of the objectivity of ethics. Updating an argument that can be found in our selection from Hume’s Treatise, Harman argues that we have good reason to deny the existence of objective moral facts. The argument is this: all objective facts are indispensable in explaining what we observe; no putative moral facts are thus indispensable; therefore there are no objective moral facts. We can explain all that needs explaining without introducing any moral features. If we want to discover why people are born or die, why banks operate as they do, why crops flourish or fail, we needn’t invoke moral facts in the explanations. Indeed, everything we observe about the world can be explained, at least in principle, without the use of any moral notions or categories at all. This seems straightforward when we are seeking to explain scientific phenomena, such as the workings of enzymes, or the motions of planets. But it is also true when we are trying to explain why we think, for instance, that (in Harman’s example) setting light to a cat is immoral. We have the moral thoughts we do because of our upbringing. We are not attuned to some odd realm of objective moral fact; rather, we express our socially inculcated views of right and wrong when we issue our moral judgments. This last view, very like one of Mackie’s, says that the simpler hypothesis by far is that our moral judgments are nothing more than expressions of parochial attitudes formed during our maturation. Why complicate things by introducing a realm of objective moral facts, when all that needs explaining – including our propensity to have confident moral views – can be explained without them?

ethical relativism