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Ethics: A Very Short Introduction

Simon Blackburn

May 2003

ISBN: 9780192804426

152 pages

In Stock

Very Short Introductions

Price: £7.99



Our self-image as moral, well-behaved creatures is dogged by scepticism, relativism, hypocrisy, and nihilism, by the fear that in a Godless world science has unmasked us as creatures fated by our genes to be selfish and tribalistic, or competitive and aggressive. In this 'sparklingly clear' (Guardian) introduction to ethics Simon Blackburn tackles the major moral questions surrounding birth, death, happiness, desire and freedom, showing us how we should think about the meaning of life, and how we should mistrust the soundbite-sized absolutes that often dominate moral debates.

  • Written by Simon Blackburn, author of the best-selling Think
  • Short, lively, humorous, and accessible
  • Unique combination of depth, rigor and sparkling prose
  • Ethics is the area of philosophy which touches most on everyday life - its central theme is how we ought to live
  • Discusses topics such as birth, death, desire,and the meaning of life

About the Author(s)

Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

    List of Illustrations
    Seven Threats to Ethics
    1: The Threat of the Death of God
    2: The Threat of Relativism
    3: The Threat of Egoism
    4: The Threat from Evolutionary Theory
    5: The Threat of Determinism and Futility
    6: The Threat of Unreasonable Demands
    7: The Threat of False Consciousness
    Some Ethical Ideas
    8: Birth
    9: Death
    10: Desire and the Meaning of Life
    11: Pleasure
    12: The Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number
    13: Freedom from the Bad
    14: Freedom and Paternalism
    15: Rights and Natural Rights
    16: Reasons and Foundations
    17: Living Well and Doing Good
    18: The Categorical Imperative
    19: Contracts and Discourse
    20: The Common Point of View
    21: Confidence Restored
    Further Reading


Review from previous edition Simon Blackburn's short book takes the big moral questions head on and does so brilliantly. . . a witty, vivid writer with an enviable popular touch . . . this is a wonderfully enlightening book. - Ben Rogers, Sunday Telegraph,

full of good sense - Sunday Times

But for anyone wondering how big questions have bothered us over the years, this witty, rigorous book fills in the gaps. - PLAY, The Times

always lively and never simplistic - Waterstone's Quarterly January 2002

Good clearheaded stuff - Ted Honderich, The Times

enjoyable and extremely readable . . . Blackburn . . . is breezy, helpful, reassuring - The Philosopher's Magazine

sparklingly clear - Guardian

a first rate and accessible guide which tackles the huge, perpetual questions - Nottingham Evaning Post

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