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Noel Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-745-64067-9

Jan 2009, Polity

200 pages

Out of stock



This book provides a much-needed, straightforward introduction to moral philosophy. It will particularly benefit students following courses containing an ethics module, including philosophy from AS level onwards, religious studies, law and medicine, but it has also been written for any reader puzzled by moral disputes and dilemmas.

Written in an easy and approachable style and packed with lively examples from everyday life, the first section of the book clearly explains and assesses the arguments for and against the rival moral theories of utilitarianism, Kantianism, Divine Command Theory and virtue ethics. The second section develops this by analysing the conflicting advice each moral theory gives regarding four controversial areas of life, namely euthanasia, abortion, animal rights and the environment. The final section concludes with an account of the vital debate concerning whether the difference between right and wrong is an objective fact discovered by us, like gravity, or is instead a human creation and invented by us, like tax laws.

Throughout the book moral arguments are broken down into their component parts and explained in clear and simple stages so that readers not previously familiar with philosophical reasoning are aware at all times of where they are in the debate, and where the strengths and weaknesses lie in each position. As such, it is an ideal introduction to critical thinking as well as to moral philosophy.





Chapter 1. Utilitarianism.

Chapter 2. Deontological Theories.

a) Kant’s Moral Theory.

b) Divine Command Theory.

Chapter 3. Virtue Ethics.


Chapter 4. Euthanasia.

Chapter 5. Abortion.

Chapter 6. Animal Rights.

Chapter 7. Environmental Ethics.


Chapter 8. Cognitivism.

a) Ethical Transcendentalism.

b) Naturalism.

c) Nonnaturalism.

Chapter 9. Noncognitivism.

a) Emotivism.

b) Prescriptivism.

Chapter 10. The Case for a Contemporary Naturalism.



Selected Bibliography

"Noel Stewart presents us with a long-awaited undergraduate text that combines normative ethics, practical (or applied) ethics, and metaethics. This excellently written book can be used for a sophisticated one-semester ethics course or for two separate courses, one combining normative and practical or combining normative and metaethics. The metaethics section is a clear, elegant, and accessible introduction to the topic. All in all, the text provides a lucid introduction to the themes and issues across the spectrum of ethics."
Sherrill Begres, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

"Noel Stewart’s tripartite survey of normative, practical and meta-ethics is extremely engaging, good humoured and clearly laid out. The work is ideally suited to a second year A-level student or first year undergraduate."
Jon Phelan, Hills Road Sixth Form College

  • A highly accessible introduction to ethics for students from AS level upwards.

  • Has been designed to cover all the material taught on the AS level moral philosophy module, but also goes beyond this for more advanced students.

  • Clearly assesses different approaches to ethics in a way designed for students with no prior knowledge of philosophy, before going on to apply these theories to the areas of euthanasia, abortion, animal rights and the environment.

  • Written in a very approachable, conversational style, peppered with everyday examples.