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Contemporary Moral Arguments

Readings in Ethical Issues

Second Edition

Lewis Vaughn

Publication Date - October 2012

ISBN: 9780199922260

736 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $109.99

Offering numerous pedagogical features, this contemporary moral issues reader shows students how to understand and evaluate moral arguments


Taking a unique approach that emphasizes careful reasoning, this cutting-edge reader is structured around twenty-seven landmark arguments that have provoked heated debates on current ethical issues. Contemporary Moral Arguments: Readings in Ethical Issues, Second Edition, opens with an extensive two-chapter introduction to moral reasoning and moral theories that provides students with the background necessary to analyze the arguments in the following chapters. Chapters 3-12 present seventy-six readings that are organized--in the conventional way--into ten topical areas: abortion; drugs and autonomy (new to this edition); euthanasia and assisted suicide; genetic engineering and cloning; the death penalty; war, terrorism, and torture; pornography; economic justice and health care; animal rights and environmental duties; and global obligations to the poor.

Offering a special feature not found in other anthologies, the selections are also organized in an unconventional way, by argument, so that students can more easily see how philosophers have debated each other on these critical issues. Each argument opens with an introduction that outlines the argument's key points, provides context for it, and reviews some of the main responses to it. Each introduction is followed by two to four essays that present the argument's classic statement, critiques and defenses of it, and related debates.

Contemporary Moral Arguments incorporates more pedagogical features than any other reader, including:

* Essay questions--ideal for writing assignments--after each of the twenty-seven argument sections

* Four types of boxes throughout: Facts and Figures, Public Opinion, Legalities, and Time Lines

* A list of key terms at the end of each chapter, all defined in the glossary, and suggestions for further reading

* An Instructor's Manual and Testbank on CD featuring chapter and reading summaries, lecture outlines in PowerPoint format, and essay and objective questions with an answer key

* A Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/vaughn containing the same material as the Instructor's Manual along with such student resources as self-quizzes and flash cards

New to this Edition

  • The most important change is an expanded introductory chapter on moral reasoning that gives students *more help in evaluating arguments* in the rough-that is, in the sometimes bumpy terrain of essays and excerpts. There's a new section that shows by example how to do just that, with *a sample essay dissected step by step, followed by argument exercises for student practice.*
  • A new chapter on drugs and autonomy makes its debut here, focusing on the harm argument against drug use and the argument against paternalism. The readings offered are classics in the field: "Against Legalization of Drugs" by James Q. Wilson; "A Moral Right to Use Drugs" by Douglas N. Husak; "Paternalism" by Gerald Dworkin; and "What Libertarianism Is" by John Hospers.
  • Three additional readings supplement other chapters: Hursthouse's "Virtue Theory and Abortion" in the abortion chapter; John Arthur's "Sticks and Stones" in the chapter on pornography and free speech; and Baxter's "People or Penguins" in the animal rights and environmental chapter.
  • A new section on ethical egoism now appears in chapter 2 (Moral Theories).
  • Many text boxes, including "Facts and Figures" and "Public Opinion," have been updated to reflect the latest information on abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, genetic engineering, capital punishment, war and terrorism, and economic and global justice.

About the Author(s)

Lewis Vaughn is the author or coauthor of several books, including Philosophy Here and Now (2012), Bioethics, Second Edition (2012), The Power of Critical Thinking, Fourth Edition (2012), and Great Philosophical Arguments (2011), all published by Oxford University Press.

Previous Publication Date(s)

October 2012
December 2009


"One of the book's major strengths is the way that it divides the general topics into specific key debates. This allows students to separate the distinct issues associated with the general topics and think more clearly about each specific issue separately. Overall, I would say this is one of the best contemporary moral problems/issues texts that I have come across."--Ken Daley,Southern Methodist University

"This is an excellent introductory ethics textbook. Of particular value are the comprehensive and detailed chapter introductions and the well-selected and edited essays from leading contemporary authors."--Charles R. Carlson, Texas A&M University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    Chapters 3-12 open with an Introduction, Key Terms, and Arguments and Readings.
    Each chapter ends with Suggestions for Further Reading.
    Ethics and the Moral Domain
    Ethics, Law, and Religion
    Moral Relativism
    Moral Arguments
    Argument Basics
    The Structure of Moral Arguments
    Evaluating Moral Premises
    * Reading and Evaluating Arguments
    * Argument Exercises
    Key Words
    Plato: The Ring of Gyges
    Louis P. Pojman: The Case Against Moral Relativism
    James Rachels: Can Ethics Provide Answers?
    Why Moral Theories?
    Important Moral Theories
    Ethical Egoism
    Kantian Ethics
    Natural Law Theory
    Rawls's Contractarianism
    Virtue Ethics
    The Ethics of Care
    Feminist Ethics
    Judging Moral Theories
    The Moral Criteria of Adequacy
    Applying the Criteria: Utilitarianism; Kant's Theory
    Key Words
    John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism
    Immanuel Kant: Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
    Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
    John Rawls: A Theory of Justice
    Annette C. Baier: The Need for More Than Justice
    1. Warren's Personhood Argument for Abortion
    Mary Anne Warren: On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion
    Stephen Schwarz: The Being in the Womb Is a Person
    Louis P. Pojman: Abortion: A Defense of the Personhood Argument
    Don Marquis: Why Abortion Is Immoral
    2. Noonan's Personhood-at-Conception Argument Against Abortion
    John T. Noonan, Jr.: An Almost Absolute Value in History
    Michael Tooley: In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide
    Philip Devine: The Scope of the Prohibition Against Killing
    3. Thomson's Self-Defense Argument for Abortion
    Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion
    Francis J. Beckwith: Arguments from Bodily Rights: A Critical Analysis
    * Rosalind Hursthouse: Virtue Theory and Abortion
    * 4. The Harm Argument Against Drug Use
    * James Q. Wilson: Against the Legalization of Drugs
    * Douglas N. Husak: A Moral Right to Use Drugs
    * 5. The Argument Against Paternalism
    * Gerald Dworkin: Paternalism
    * John Hospers: What Libertarianism Is
    6. The Autonomy Argument for Euthanasia
    Ronald Dworkin et al.: The Philosophers' Brief
    Daniel Callahan: When Self-Determination Runs Amok
    John Lachs: When Abstract Moralizing Runs Amok
    7. The Killing/Letting Die Argument
    James Rachels: Active and Passive Euthanasia
    Winston Nesbitt: Is Killing No Worse Than Letting Die?
    8. The Slippery-Slope Argument Against Euthanasia
    Leon R. Kass: Why Doctors Must Not Kill
    Dan W. Brock: Voluntary Active Euthanasia
    Gene Therapy
    Reproductive Cloning
    9. The Beneficence Argument for Genetic Enhancement
    John Harris: Is Gene Therapy a Form of Eugenics?
    Walter Glannon: Genetic Enhancement
    10. The Open-Future Argument Against Cloning
    Dan W. Brock: Cloning Human Beings: An Assessment of the Ethical Issues Pro and Con
    Søren Holm: A Life in the Shadow: One Reason Why We Should Not Clone Humans
    11. Kant's Retributivism Argument for the Death Penalty
    Immanuel Kant: The Right of Punishing
    Igor Primoratz: A Life for a Life
    Stephen Nathanson: An Eye for an Eye?
    James S. Liebman, et al.: Capital Attrition: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995
    12. The Discrimination Argument Against the Death Penalty
    Paul G. Cassell: Administrative Objections
    Bryan Stevenson: Capital Punishment and The Legacy of Racial Bias in America
    13. The Deterrence Argument for the Death Penalty
    Ernest van den Haag: On Deterrence and the Death Penalty
    Hugo Adam Bedau: Capital Punishment and Social Defense
    14. The Pacifist Argument Against War
    Douglas P. Lackey: Pacifism
    Jan Narveson: Pacifism: A Philosophical Analysis
    15. The Self-Defense Argument for War
    Michael Walzer: The Legalist Paradigm
    John Howard Yoder: When War Is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking
    16. The Just War Argument Against Terrorism
    Haig Khatchadourian: The Morality of Terrorism
    Michael Walzer: Terrorism: A Critique of Excuses
    Andrew Valls: Can Terrorism Be Justified?
    17. The Ticking Bomb Argument for Torture
    Alan M. Dershowitz: The Case for Torturing the Ticking Bomb Terrorist
    18. The Liberty Argument Against Censorship
    John Stuart Mill: On Liberty
    Nadine Strossen: Hate Speech and Pornography: Do We Have to Choose Between Freedom of Speech and Equality?
    Helen E. Longino: Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom
    John Arthur: Sticks and Stones
    19. MacKinnon's Harm-to-Women Argument for Censorship
    Catharine A. MacKinnon: Pornography, Civil Rights, and Speech
    Ronald Dworkin: Women and Pornography
    Wendy Kaminer: Feminists Against the First Amendment
    System Failures
    What Is Just?
    A Right to Health Care
    20. Daniels's Argument for a Right to Health Care
    Norman Daniels: Is There a Right to Health Care and, if so, What Does It Encompass?
    Allen E. Buchanan: The Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care
    21. The Argument for Rationing by Moral Worthiness
    Brian Smart: Fault and the Allocation of Spare Organs
    Carl Cohen et al.: Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation
    22. Singer's "All Animals Are Equal" Argument
    Peter Singer: All Animals Are Equal
    Carl Cohen: The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research
    Immanuel Kant: Our Duties to Animals
    23. Regan's Argument for Animal Rights
    Tom Regan: The Case for Animal Rights
    Mary Anne Warren: The Rights of the Nonhuman World
    Roger Scruton: The Moral Status of Animals
    24. The Suffering Argument for Vegetarianism
    James Rachels: The Moral Argument for Vegetarianism
    R. G. Frey: Moral Vegetarianism and the Argument from Pain and Suffering
    25. Taylor's Argument for the Equality of All Life
    Paul W. Taylor: The Ethics of Respect for Nature
    David Schmidtz: Are All Species Equal?
    Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life
    * William F. Baxter: People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution
    26. Hardin's Lifeboat Argument Against Aiding the Poor
    Garrett Hardin: Living on a Lifeboat
    William W. Murdoch and Allan Oaten: A Critique of Lifeboat Ethics
    27. Singer's Utilitarian Argument for Aiding the Poor
    Peter Singer: Famine, Affluence, and Morality
    Louis P. Pojman: World Hunger and Population