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The Moral Life

An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature

Seventh Edition

Lewis Vaughn and Louis P. Pojman

Publication Date - October 2021

ISBN: 9780197610060

800 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock

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 brings together a comprehensive collection of classical and contemporary readings on ethical theory and contemporary moral issues. The first two-thirds of the book comprises readings on historical and contemporary ethical theory; the final third is devoted to readings on a variety of contemporary moral issues. Integrating literature with philosophy in an innovative way, this anthology leverages literary works to enliven and make concrete the ethical theories and applied issues it covers.

New to this Edition

  • 6 new chapters: Sexism and Misogyny, Racism, Equity, and Privilege, Free Speech and Hate Speech, Pandemic Ethics, Food Ethics, The Ethics of Climate Change
  • 17 new readings, many of them newer voices or the most authoritative on a particular topic
  • 8 new readings by women writers- including pieces by Ann E. Cudd, Leslie Jones, Kate Mann, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Naomi Zack, Shannon Sullivan, Sigal R. Ben-Porath, and Colleen Walsh, Beatriz Thomé, and Cathy Zhang - bringing the total in the text to 19
  • A revised chapter 9 "Does Life Have Meaning?" with a new piece by John Messerly, commissioned for this volume
  • A revised introduction to the Stoic philosophers (Chapter 6)
  • New fiction: The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  • 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. He is the author or editor of more than thirty books including Classics of Philosophy, Third Edition (OUP, 2010).
Lewis Vaughn is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Bioethics, Fourth Edition (2019), The Power of Critical Thinking, Sixth Edition, (2018), Philosophy Here and Now, Third Edition (2019), and Living Philosophy, Third Edition (2021), all published by Oxford University Press. He also publishes Doing Ethics, Fifth Edition (2018) with W.W. Norton.

Table of Contents

    Part I: The Nature of Morality: Good and Evil
    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
    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
    Part II: Moral Theories and Moral Character
    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
    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
    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
    Part III Moral Issues
    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
    * John Messerly, The Ascent of Meaning
    Bertrand Russell, Reflections on Suffering
    Richard Taylor, The Meaning of Life
    Part IV: Applied Ethics: Moral Problems
    10. Sexism and Misogyny
    Ann E. Cudd and Leslie Jones, Sexism
    Kate Manne with Sean Illing, What We Get Wrong about Misogyny
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper
    11. Racism, Equity, and Privilege
    Lawrence Blum, Racism: What It Is and Isn't
    Naomi Zack, Uses and Abuses of the Discourse of White Privilege
    Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism Without Racists
    Shannon Sullivan, Good White Liberals
    12. Free Speech and Hate Speech
    Sigal Ben-Porath, Free Speech on Campus
    Richard Stengel and Conor Friedersdorf, Two Views of Speech Laws
    Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman, Hate Speech
    13. Pandemic Ehics
    Michael Sandel with Colleen Walsh, Why Some Americans Refuse to Social Distance and Wear Masks
    Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Govind Persad, Ross Upshur, Et Al., Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of COVID-19
    14. Food Ethics
    George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant
    Tristram McPherson, How to Argue for (and Against) Ethical Veganism
    Joel Salatin, Animal Welfare
    Alastair Norcross, Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases
    15. The Ethics of Climate Change
    Robert Heilbroner, What Has Prosperity Ever Done for Me?
    Stephen M. Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change
    John Broome, The Public and Private Morality of Climate Change