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The Moral Life

An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature

Sixth Edition

Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn

Publication Date - September 2017

ISBN: 9780190607845

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

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $99.99

Combines classic and contemporary philosophical readings with vibrant literary selections to deepen students' understanding of moral concepts and issues


Ideal for introductory ethics courses, The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature, Sixth Edition, brings together an extensive and varied collection of eighty-eight classical and contemporary readings on ethical theory and practice. Integrating literature with philosophy in an innovative way, this unique anthology uses literary works to enliven and make concrete the ethical theory or applied issues addressed. The readings are enhanced by chapter introductions, study questions, suggestions for further reading, and biographical sketches. The sixth edition adds thirteen new readings, three of which appear in a new chapter, "War and Terrorism."

New to this Edition

  • A new chapter on war and terrorism, with three new readings: Jan Narveson, "Pacifism: A Philosophical Analysis"; Haig Khatchadourian, "The Morality of Terrorism"; and Andrew Valls, "Can Terrorism Be Justified?"
  • Ten new selections added to existing chapters: Philippa Foot, "Natural Goodness"; David Enoch, "Why I Am an Objectivist about Ethics (And Why You Are, Too)"; Susan Wolf, "Moral Saints"; Richard Taylor, "The Meaning of Life"; Maggie Gallagher, "What Marriage Is For: Children Need Mothers and Fathers"; Jonathan Rauch, "For Better or Worse?"; Bonnie Steinbock, "The Intentional Termination of Life"; Tristram McPherson, "How to Argue for (and Against) Ethical Veganism"; Joel Salatin, "Animal Welfare"; and Travis Timmerman, "A Reply to Singer"
  • Four new readings by women writers, bringing the total to sixteen in the text


  • Philosophical essays paired with literary works clarify concepts, draw students into topics, and bring ethical dilemmas and principles to life
  • A balance of both classic and contemporary readings in ethics gives students a broad view of the application and relevance of ethics
  • An appendix on how to read and write a philosophy paper provides advice for instructors who want to include writing assignments in their courses

About the Author(s)

The late Louis P. Pojman was Professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Lewis Vaughn is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Living Philosophy, Second Edition (OUP, 2017), Bioethics, Third Edition (OUP, 2016), and Philosophy Here and Now, Second Edition (OUP, 2015).


"The Moral Life is the best introductory reader on the market. Students like the variety of the readings and the affordable price. The readings are just the right length to cover in class and the variety of sources, including some literature and non-academic writing, makes the philosophy accessible--and relevant. You can't ask for more than that."--David S. Brown, Lindenwood University

"The Moral Life would be ideal for any ethics or moral philosophy course. Its organization and layout are fantastic, and I like the diversity of applied ethics issues covered in the final section."--Andy Sanford, Southwestern Michigan College

"The Moral Life is a high-quality and reasonably priced introduction to the study of ethics. It provides a very easy-to-follow lineup of moral theory, followed by a helpful set of reflection questions. The moral issues section includes readings on up-to-date moral concerns, covering some issues rarely touched upon in other ethics texts."--Christopher Innes, College of Western Idaho

"If there's a more comprehensive textbook on the market, I'm not aware of it. The Moral Life covers all the major areas that I teach in an introductory ethics course."--Tamler Sommers, University of Houston

"The Moral Life is a well-written text combining literature with philosophical theories. It has a good organization, deals with diverse issues, offers applied ethics, and has a list price that is fair for students."--Connie Humphreys, Urbana University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    Each chapter ends with Further Readings.
    Introduction: On the Nature of Morality
    1. What Is the Purpose of Morality?
    William Golding, Lord of the Flies: A Moral Allegory
    Louis P. Pojman, On the Nature and Purpose of Morality: Reflections on William Golding's Lord of the Flies
    Thomas Hobbes, On the State of Nature
    2. Good and Evil
    Herman Melville, Billy Budd
    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Why Is There Evil?
    William Styron, Sophie's Choice
    Philip Hallie, From Cruelty to Goodness
    * Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
    Richard Taylor, On the Origin of Good and Evil
    3. Is Everything Relative?
    Herodotus, Custom Is King
    Ruth Benedict, The Case for Moral Relativism
    * David Enoch, Why I Am an Objectivist about Ethics (And Why You Are, Too)
    James Rachels, Why Morality Is Not Relative
    Jean Bethke Elshtain, Judge Not?
    Mary Midgley, Trying Out One's New Sword
    Henrick Ibsen, The Enemy of the People
    4. Utilitarianism
    Seaman Holmes and the Longboat of William Brown, Reported by John William Wallace
    Jeremy Bentham, Classical Utilitarianism
    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism Refined
    Kai Nielsen, A Defense of Utilitarianism
    Bernard Williams, Against Utilitarianism
    Ursula Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
    5. Deontological Ethics
    Immanuel Kant, The Moral Law
    William K. Frankena, Kant's Theory
    W. D. Ross, Intuitionism
    Ambrose Bierce, A Horseman in the Sky
    Charles Fried, The Evil of Lying
    Plato, Does Morality Depend on Religion?
    James Rachels, The Divine Command Theory
    Thomas Nagel, Moral Luck
    Carl Dennis, New Year's Eve
    6. Virtue Ethics
    Aristotle, Virtue Ethics
    Alasdair MacIntyre, The Virtues
    * Susan Wolf, Moral Saints
    Bernard Mayo, Virtue and the Moral Life
    Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Great Stone Face
    William K. Frankena, A Critique of Virtue-Based Ethical Systems
    Jesus of Nazareth, The Sermon on the Mount; The Good Samaritan
    Leo Tolstoy, How Much Land Does a Man Need? Greed
    Immanuel Kant, Jealousy, Malice, and Ingratitude
    Epictetus and Others, The Stoic Catechism
    Vice Admiral James Stockdale, The World of Epictetus: Courage and Endurance
    7. Feminist Ethics and the Ethics of Care
    Alison M. Jaggar, Feminist Ethics
    Jan Crosthwaite, Gender and Bioethics
    Annette C. Baier, The Need for More than Justice
    Virginia Held, The Ethics of Care
    8. Ethics and Egoism: Why Should We Be Moral?
    Plato, The Ring of Gyges
    Ayn Rand, In Defense of Ethical Egoism
    Louis P. Pojman, Egoism and Altruism: A Critique of Ayn Rand
    James Rachels, A Critique of Ethical Egoism
    9. Does Life Have Meaning?
    Voltaire, The Good Brahmin
    Epicurus, Hedonism
    Albert Camus, Life Is Absurd
    Viktor Frankl, The Human Search for Meaning: Reflections on Auschwitz
    Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, The Four Noble Truths
    Bertrand Russell, Reflections on Suffering
    * Richard Taylor, The Meaning of Life
    10. Sex, Love, and Marriage
    Immanuel Kant, On the Place of Sex in Human Existence
    John McMurtry, Monogamy: A Critique
    Michael D. Bayles, Marriage, Love, and Procreation: A Critique of McMurtry
    Bonnie Steinbock, What's Wrong with Adultery?
    Michael Levin, Why Homosexuality Is Abnormal
    John Corvino, A Defense of Homosexuality
    * Maggie Gallagher, What Marriage Is For: Children Need Mothers and Fathers
    * Jonathan Rauch, For Better or Worse?
    11. Is Abortion Morally Permissible?
    Don Marquis, Why Abortion Is Immoral
    Judith Jarvis Thomson, A Defense of Abortion
    Mary Anne Warren, Abortion Is Morally Permissible
    Susan Sherwin, Abortion Through a Feminist Ethics Lens
    12. The Morality of Euthanasia
    Dan W. Brock, Voluntary Active Euthanasia
    James Rachels, Active and Passive Euthanasia
    * Bonnie Steinbock, The Intentional Termination of Life
    * 13. War and Terrorism
    * Jan Narveson, Pacifism: A Philosophical Analysis
    * Haig Khatchadourian, The Morality of Terrorism
    * Andrew Valls, Can Terrorism Be Justified?
    14. Our Duties to Animals
    George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant
    Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: All Animals Are Equal
    Carl Cohen, The Case Against Animal Rights
    * Tristam McPherson, How to Argue for (and Against) Ethical Veganism
    * Joel Salatin, Animal Welfare
    15. Our Duties to the Environment
    Robert Heilbroner, What Has Posterity Ever Done for Me?
    Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons
    William F. Baxter, People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution
    16. Global Economic Justice
    Garrett Hardin, Living on a Lifeboat
    William W. Murdoch and Allan Oaten, A Critique of Lifeboat Ethics
    Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality
    * Travis Timmerman, A Reply to Singer
    Appendix: How to Read and Write Philosophy Papers

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