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History of Ethics

Daniel Star (Editor), Roger Crisp (Editor)

ISBN: 978-1-405-19388-7 May 2019 Wiley-Blackwell 496 Pages


Is there an objective moral standard that applies to all our actions? To what extent should I sacrifice my own interests for the sake of others? How might philosophers of the past help us think about contemporary ethical problems?

As the most recent addition to the Blackwell Readings in Philosophy series, History of Ethics: Essential Readings with Commentary brings together rich and varied excerpts of canonical work and contemporary scholarship to span the history of Western moral philosophy in one volume. Editors Star and Crisp, noted scholars in their fields, expertly introduce the readings to illuminate the main philosophical ideas and arguments in each selection, and connect them to broader themes. These detailed and incisive editorial commentaries make the primary source texts accessible to students while guiding them chronologically through the history of Western ethics.

Structured around a thematic table of contents divided into three distinct sections, History of Ethics charts patterns in the development of ethical thought across time to highlight connections between intellectual movements. Selections range from the work of well-known figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Mill to the work of philosophers often overlooked by such anthologies, including Butler, Smith, Sidgwick, Anscombe, Foot, and Frankena. Star and Crisp skillfully arrange the collection to connect readings to contemporary issues and interests by featuring examples such as Aquinas on self-defense and the doctrine of double effect, Kant on virtue, and Mill’s The Subjection of Women.

Written for students and scholars of ethics, History of Ethics is a comprehensive collection of readings with expert editorial commentary that curates the most important and influential work in the history of ethics in the Western world.


Part I: Ancient and Medieval Ethics

1. Plato I, Gorgias and Republic (The Authority of Morality) 

2. Plato II, Republic cont. (Justice and Virtue) 

3. Plato III, Republic cont. (The Good) 

4. Aristotle I, Nicomachean Ethics (The Good Life) 

5. Aristotle II, Nicomachean Ethics cont. (The Nature of Virtue) 

6. Aristotle III, Nicomachean Ethics cont. (Responsibility and Practical Wisdom) 

7. Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus and Leading Doctrines 

8. Epictetus, Discourses and Enchiridion 

9. Augustine, Enchiridion 

10. Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologica 

Part II: Modern Ethics

1. Hobbes, Leviathan 

2. Butler, Fifteen Sermons and a Dissertation upon the Nature of Virtue 

3. Hume I, A Treatise of Human Nature (Reason and the Passions) 

4. Hume II, an Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Virtue and Utility) 

5. Adam Smith, the Theory of Moral Sentiments 

6. Kant I, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Moral and the Metaphysics of Morals (Reason and the Good Will) 

7. Kant II, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals cont. (The Categorical Imperative) 

8. Bentham, an Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation 

9. Mill, Utilitarianism and the Subjection of Women 

10. Nietzsche, the Genealogy of Morals 

11. Sidgwick, the Methods of Ethics

Part III: Foundations of Contemporary Ethics

1. Moore, Principia Ethica

2. Ross, the Right and the Good 

3. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic 

4. Frankena, “The Naturalistic Fallacy” 

5. Anscombe, “Modern Moral Philosophy” 

6. Foot, “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect” 

7. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong 

8. Rawls, a Theory of Justice 

9. Hare, “Ethical Theory and Utilitarianism”