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The Ethical Life

Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems

Fourth Edition

Russ Shafer-Landau

Publication Date - June 2017

ISBN: 9780190631314

544 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $63.95

A compact yet thorough collection of readings in ethical theory and contemporary moral problems--at the best price!


Brief yet thorough and affordably priced, The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Fourth Edition, is ideal for courses in introductory ethics and contemporary moral problems. Featuring forty-two readings divided into four parts--The Good Life, Normative Ethics, Metaethics, and Moral Problems--it introduces students to ethical theory and a wide range of moral issues. The essays include selections from such historically influential philosophers as Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill alongside work by contemporary philosophers like Philippa Foot, Robert Nozick, Peter Singer, and Judith Jarvis Thomson. Detailed reading introductions provide helpful contextual information.

Designed as a companion reader to Russ Shafer-Landau's textbook, The Fundamentals of Ethics, Fourth Edition, this volume is also comprehensive enough to be used on its own.

New to this Edition

  • Fourteen new readings, including: Brad Hooker's assessment of different theories of well-being and Susan Wolf's popular paper on the relationship between happiness and meaning in life (Part I); Selections from two classics: Thomas Aquinas's presentation of natural law theory and John Stuart Mill's exposition of utilitarian ethics (Part II); Gilbert Harman's influential challenge to the objectivity of ethics, a challenge that unfavorably contrasts morality with the natural sciences (Part III); Kwame Anthony Appiah's piece inviting us to reflect on the morality of contemporary practices by asking what future generations will condemn us for; Eric Posner and Cass Sunstein's discussion of what justice requires when facing the challenges of climate change; Chris Lebron on the need for a new black radicalism; Elizabeth Anderson's argument for the importance of racial integration as a social policy; and Peter de Marneffe's arguments against the legalization of drugs (Part IV)
  • New sections on copyright law and guns in Part IV, featuring two commissioned pieces that focus specifically on the morality of (il)legally downloading music, one by Jon Trerise and another by Tim Anderson and D.E. Wittkower, and two opposing pieces on guns by Jeff McMahan and Michael Huemer


  • Contains forty-two engaging and accessible readings, organized into four parts that introduce readers to each of the major branches of moral philosophy
  • Provides thorough coverage in a compact format that offers instructors flexibility in teaching without covering an overwhelming amount of material in one semester
  • Can be used as a stand-alone reader or as a companion volume to Shafer-Landau's The Fundamentals of Ethics, Fourth Edition
  • Includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter
  • Supported by a comprehensive ancillary program that includes an online Ancillary Resource Center with an Instructor's Manual and Computerized Test Bank, reading summaries, PowerPoint lecture outlines, and a Companion Website with self-quizzes and additional resources for students

About the Author(s)

Russ Shafer-Landau is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of several books including Living Ethics (OUP, 2018) and The Fundamentals of Ethics, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2017). He is also the editor of Oxford Studies in Metaethics.


"The chief strength of the book is that it is perfectly comprehensive, covering essential literature ranging from general issues of value theory to metaethics to ethical theory and then on to applied ethics. Shafer-Landau's writing style is very clear and perfectly appropriate for any college-level student."--Jamie Phillips, Clarion University of Pennsylvania

"This is the best introductory textbook of primary sources in moral philosophy. Paired with The Fundamentals of Ethics, this is perfectly suited for an introductory undergraduate course in ethics."--Aleksander Pjevalica, University of Texas at El Paso

"Shafer-Landau's writing is exceptional. The introductions tend to be spot-on. The book's affordable pricing (especially as part of the package with The Fundamentals of Ethics) and small size are added bonuses."--Robert M. Farley, Hillsborough Community College

"I think that this book is great: I like that it is shorter than the huge 700+-page books out there, and way less expensive too. I also like that there are instructor manual resources available."--Phil Jenkins, Marywood University

"I have always liked the test bank questions that OUP supplies with its course materials, and these are no exception (I can't say the same about every publisher!)."--David Burris, Arizona Western College

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    A Note on the Companion Volume
    1. John Stuart Mill, Hedonism
    2. Robert Nozick, The Experience Machine
    3. Chris Heathwood, Faring Well and Getting What You Want
    * 4. Brad Hooker, The Elements of Well-Being
    * 5. Susan Wolf, Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life
    PART II. NORMATIVE ETHICS: Theories of Right Conduct
    6. Plato, Euthyphro
    * 7. Thomas Aquinas, Natural Law
    * 8. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
    9. Immanuel Kant, The Good Will and the Categorical Imperative
    10. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
    11. W.D. Ross, What Makes Right Acts Right?
    12. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
    13. Hilde Lindemann, What Is Feminist Ethics?
    PART III. METAETHICS: The Status of Morality
    14. David Hume, Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason
    15. J. L. Mackie, The Subjectivity of Values
    * 16. Gilbert Harman, Ethics and Observation
    17. Harry Gensler, Cultural Relativism
    18. David Enoch, Why I Am an Objectivist about Ethics (And Why You Are, Too)
    * 19. Kwame Anthony Appiah, What Will Future Generations Condemn Us For?
    Poverty and Hunger
    20. Peter Singer, The Singer Solution to World Poverty
    21. Jan Narveson, Feeding the Hungry
    Euthanasia and A Modest Proposal
    22. James Rachels, The Morality of Euthanasia
    23. John Harris, The Survival Lottery
    The Moral Status of Animals
    24. Alastair Norcross, Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases
    25. R.G. Frey, Moral Standing, The Value of Lives, and Speciesism
    The Environment
    * 26. Eric Posner and Cass R. Sunstein, Climate Change Justice
    27. Thomas Hill, Jr., Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments
    28. Judith Jarvis Thomson, A Defense of Abortion
    29. Don Marquis, Why Abortion Is Immoral
    30. Philippa Foot, The Problem Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect
    The Death Penalty
    31. Igor Primoratz, Justifying Legal Punishment
    32. Stephen Nathanson, An Eye for an Eye?
    * Guns
    * 33. Jeff McMahan, Why Gun "Control" Is Not Enough
    * 34. Michael Huemer, Is There a Right to Own a Gun?
    The Legacy of Racism
    * 35. Chris Lebron, Time for a New Black Radicalism
    36. Louis P. Pojman, The Case Against Affirmative Action
    37. Daniel M. Hausman, Affirmative Action: Bad Arguments and Some Good Ones
    * 38. Elizabeth Anderson, The Future of Racial Integration
    39. Michael Huemer, America's Unjust Drug War
    * 40. Peter de Marneffe, Against the Legalization of Drugs
    * Copyright
    * 41. Jonathan Trerise, Why Illegally Downloading Files Is Morally Wrong
    * 42. Tim Anderson and D.E. Wittkower, Why Legally Downloading Music is Morally Wrong