We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox

Fourth Edition

Anthony Weston

Publication Date - October 2017

ISBN: 9780190621155

608 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $89.99

Offers a uniquely practical, hands-on, and socially engaged introduction to ethics


Thoroughly optimistic, A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox, Fourth Edition, invites students to approach ethical issues with a reconstructive intent--to make room for more and better options than the rigid "pro" and "con" positions that have developed around tough problems like abortion and our obligations to future generations and the Earth. Employing an accessible, consistently engaging writing style, Anthony Weston covers the skills that are vital to making real progress in ethics, including critical thinking, creative problem-solving, moral vision, and genuine dialogue. Provocative selections from a wide range of philosophers, essayists, activists, and students are interwoven with Weston's own discussions.

The text is enhanced by extensive "Exercises and Notes" sections at the end of each chapter and new and expanded "Going Farther" sections between many chapters. Join instructors and students around the country who are using the experiential and applied activities inspired by this "toolbox" of skills to design interactive and collaborative ethics courses.

New to this Edition

  • Streamlined and more focused content for a total of fourteen chapters, ideal for a one-semester course
  • Additional and more varied "Using Your Tools"--now called "Going Farther"--sections and Review Questions
  • Increased, timely emphasis on the respect and care of the earth
  • New readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Esperanza Guisan, Rebecca Solnit, Richard and Val Routley, and others
  • A glossary of key terms and an annotated list of major issues discussed in the text


  • A uniquely positive, constructive, and practical approach to ethics and contemporary moral issues
  • Works from the hypothesis that it is actually possible to make progress on the ethical issues of the day: seeing farther into the issues; understanding each other better; and devising new, mutually agreeable ways forward, while strengthening and enlivening the ethical community that enables us to take up any issue constructively in the first place
  • A conversational style and readings drawn from non-academic sources of high relevance to daily life make this text accessible and engaging to today's students
  • Covers a far wider range of skills than traditional ethics texts
  • Traditional and non-traditional readings include a variety of works ranging from Aristotle to Alice Walker
  • Includes a Teacher's Guide, which pushes for a more active and collaborative classroom

About the Author(s)

Anthony Weston is Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Elon University. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Mobilizing the Green Imagination (2012) and A Practical Companion to Ethics, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2010).


"Weston's A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox is one of a kind: it radically approaches ethics and critical thinking from the perspective of everyday experience, value, and problem solving. It provides a diverse array of selections from within and without the traditional philosophical canon."--Albert R. Spencer, Portland State University

"Weston stands above the competition because of his emphasis on developing practical skills for navigating a complex, interrelated world. He includes a wide range of ethical approaches--from Kant to the Lakota to Confucius--and provides the best range of exercises and pedagogical devices that I have seen."--Tayo Basquiat, Bismarck State College

"I believe that A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox is far and away the most significant primary ethics textbook that I can select for the lives of the students who enroll in my course."--James H. VanderMey, Mid Michigan Community College

"A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox is superbly written, passionate, and poignant, and savvy about contemporary values."--Frank Ryan, Kent State University

"This is a comprehensive, wide-ranging, and erudite book that students will find accessible, interesting, and intellectually challenging. It covers all the topics and thinkers that need to be there (Kant, Utilitarianism, etc.) and some that are less standard but that enrich the ways our students can think about ethics."--Anna Peterson, University of Florida

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    1. What Is Ethics?
    Taking Care
    Ethics as a Learning Experience
    * Reading 1: C.P. Ellis, "It Was Almost Like Being Born Again"
    Going Farther #1: Toward an Interpersonal Ethics
    * Reading 2: Margaret Urban Walker, from "Moral Understandings"
    Going Farther #2: Two Views of Ethics and Other Animals
    Reading 3: Alice Walker, "Am I Blue?"
    Reading 4: Ted Kerasote, from Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt
    2. Ethical Short-Circuits (and How to Avoid Them)
    Flying by Instinct
    Offhand Self-Justification
    Ethics and Diversity
    Who Needs Ethics?
    Going Farther #3: Ethics in Extraordinary Times?
    * Reading 5: Rebecca Solnit, "By the Way, Your Home Is on Fire"
    3. Ethics and Religion
    An Approach to Religious Ethics
    Let the Stories Be Stories
    Thinking for Yourself
    Reading: Jamal Rahman, "Making Peace with the Sword Verse"
    4. Taking Values Seriously
    Moral Values Among Others
    Attending to Values
    Families of Moral Values
    Notes on the Families
    Going Farther #4: An Abortion Story
    Reading 7: Rayna Rapp, "XYLO"
    5. The Ethics of the Person
    Valuing Persons
    Reading 8: Philip Hallie, "Le Chambon"
    Kant's Categorical Imperative
    Reading 9: Immanuel Kant, From Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
    Rights and Persons
    Reading 10: From The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Going Farther #5: Pornography and the Ethics of the Person
    * Reading 11: Gloria Steinem, from "Erotica vs. Pornography"
    Going Farther #6: Inside Racism Today
    * Reading 12: Ta-Nehisi Coates, From "A Letter to My Son"
    6. The Ethics of Happiness
    * Reading 13: Barbara Frederickson, From Positivity
    Reading 14: John Stuart Mill, From Utilitarianism
    * Reading 15: Esperanza Guisán, "An Ethic of Liberty and Solidarity"
    Going Farther #7: Ethics and Conceptions of Justice
    Going Farther #8: A Utilitarian Approach to Poverty
    7. The Ethics of Virtue
    An Abundance of Virtues
    A Greek View of Virtue
    Reading 16: Aristotle, From Nicomachean Ethics
    Chinese Views of Virtue
    Reading 17: Lao Tzu, From the Tao Te Ching
    Cultivating Virtue
    Reading 18: John Sullivan, From Living Large
    8. The Ethics of Relationship
    Care Ethics
    Reading 19: Nel Noddings, From Caring
    Ethics and Community
    The Expanding Circle
    Reading 20: Aldo Leopold, From "The Land Ethic"
    Going Farther 9: Building a Student Code of Ethics
    * Reading 21: Brook J. Sadler, "What's Wrong with Plagiarism?"
    Going Farther #10: Values on the Edge?
    Reading 22: Edward Abbey, "The Great American Desert"
    9. Minding the Evidence
    Facts and Sources
    Reading 23: Martin Fowler, From The Ethical Practice of Critical Thinking
    More Pitfalls
    Quick Reference: Critical-Thinking Basics
    10. Judging Like Cases Alike
    Consistency is a Challenge
    Achieving Consistency
    The Golden Rule
    * Reading 24: Harry Gensler, From Ethics and the Golden Rule
    Constructed Analogies
    * Reading 25: Richard and Val Routley, "The Nuclear Train to the Future"
    Quick Reference: Judging Like Cases Alike
    Going Farther #11: Reconsidering Other Animals: Consistency Challenges for Everyone
    * Reading 26: Jonathan Safran Foer, "A Case for Eating Dogs"
    * Reading 27: Rhys Southan, From "The Vegans Have Landed"
    Going Farther #12: Children's Liberation?
    * Reading 28: Amy Glaser, "Beyond Adultism"
    11. Dialogue
    How to Have a Fruitless Debate
    How to Have a Useful Discussion
    Reading 29: Mary Jacksteit and Adrienne Kaufmann, The Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, "Common Ground Rules"
    Reading 30: Spoma Jovanovic, "Deepening Ethical Dialogue"
    Quick Reference: Ethical Dialogue
    12. When Values Clash
    Right Versus Right
    What Is Each Side Right About?
    Bringing Values into Congruence
    Big Decisions
    Reading 31: Roger Gottlieb, "Can We Talk? Understanding the 'Other Side' in the Animal Rights Debates"
    Quick Reference: When Values Clash
    Going Farther #13: Class Ethical Commitments
    13. Creative Problem-Solving
    A Feeling for Possibility
    Creative Explorations
    Creative Provocations
    Reframing Problems
    Quick Reference: Methods for Creative Problem-Solving in Ethics
    Going Farther #14: Can the Abortion Debate be Reframed?
    Going Farther #15: Where Ethics Meets Politics
    14. Moral Vision
    What is Moral Vision?
    The Uses of Moral Vision
    Toward a New Vision of Aging
    Reading 32: Bill Thomas, "Eldertopia" (From What Are Old People For?)
    * Reading 33: Ursula K. LeGuin, "The Space Crone"
    Quick Reference: Moral Vision
    Going Farther #16: Ethics and Sustainability
    * Reading 34: William McDonough, "Design for a New World"
    Eight Maxims for Making a Difference
    1. You Can Do It
    * Reading 35: Danusha Goska, "Living Ideals"
    2. There Are Many Ways
    * Reading 36: Ian Frazier, from On the Rez
    3. Trust in Better Possibilities
    4. Keep At It
    * Reading 37: Maggie Castor, "Malala"
    5. Creative Leveraging
    6. Stay Open to Complexity
    7. There Is No Way to Ethics; Ethics Is the Way
    * Reading 38: Sarah van Gelder, "At Standing Rock, a Sense of Purpose
    8. Bring Your Whole Toolbox
    Going Farther #17: Personal Ethical Mission Statements, by Nim Batchelor
    Going Farther #18: Ethical Change Projects
    Endnotes: Teaching Like a Pragmatist
    Key Terms in This Book
    Major Ethical Issues Discussed