Ethical Systems or Sin, Evil, Inhumanity
Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, ed. (Cornell University Press: Jan 1, 1989), 317 pages.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the best single volume on the realism/anti-realism dispute in contemporary meta-ethics. Basically, what is at issue between realists and anti-realists is the objectivity of ethics. According to Sayre-McCord, the central issue is the existence of moral facts. Realists claim that such facts exist; anti-realists deny their existence. There is more to the debate than this, however. The following is a list of claims that most realists will make about morality: (i) there are moral facts (or moral truths), and these facts (or truths) are mind-independent in some important way; (ii) cognitivism about moral discourse is true: that is, moral moral claims purport to describe moral facts (or moral truths), and (at least some of) these claims successfully do so; and (iii) moral knowledge is possible, and we have some of it. ~ ctdreyer
Michael Huemer (Palgrave: January 2008), 336 pages.
A defense of ethical intuitionism where (i) there are objective moral truths; (ii) we know these through an immediate, intellectual awareness, or "intuition"; and (iii) knowing them gives us reasons to act independent of our desires. The author rebuts the major objections to this theory and shows the difficulties in alternative theories of ethics. • "Read this. It is the best book ever written on meta-ethics. Even philosophers who know the field may feel as though they are confronting these issues for the first time. I used to think of ethical intuitionism as a silly, naIve, even ridiculous theory, but Michael Huemer has made an intuitionist out of me." ~ Stuart Rachels, University of Alabama • "Huemer's book may be the best, most comprehensive defense of ethical intuitionism since Moore's Principia Ethica...[it] is an outstanding defense of the view that there are objective moral truths knowable through intuition. Whether or not one agrees with Huemer's conclusions, one cannot ignore the power of his arguments." ~ Richard Fumerton, University of Iowa
Louis P. Pojman (Cengage Learning: February 2010), 704 pages.
This authoritative and reader-friendly anthology will help you think through some of humanity's most persistent questions regarding right and wrong, good and bad. Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings cuts through the confusion and delivers a clear and comprehensive selection of readings from classical and contemporary sources. Presented in a dynamic pro and con format, with detailed summaries of each argument, this comprehensive anthology allows you to watch the ethical debate unfold before your eyes. • "This introductory textbook describes the historical schools, major problems, and current trends concerning the study of ethics. Selections from key philosophers cover topics like relativism and objectivism, egoism, value, utilitarianism, deontology, virtue, metaethics, skepticism, religion, sociobiology, feminism, and determinism. Representing the span of the Western canon, selections are drawn from the ancient, modern, and post-modern periods. A glossary is included." ~ Booknews
Bernard Williams (Harvard University Press: March 1986), 244 pages.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is widely acknowledged to be Bernard Williams' most important book and a contemporary classic of moral philosophy. Delivering a sustained critique of moral theory from Kant onward, Williams reorients ethical theory towards "truth, truthfulness and the meaning of an individual life." He explores and reflects on the thorniest problems in contemporary philosophy and offers new ideas about central issues such as relativism, objectivity and the possibility of ethical knowledge. This edition includes a new commentary on the text by A.W. Moore, St.Hugh's College, Oxford. By the time of his death in 2003, Bernard Williams was one of the greatest philosophers of his generation. He taught at the Universities of Cambridge, Berkeley and Oxford. He is the author of Morality; Utilitarianism: For and Against; Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry and Truth and Truthfulness.
Hilary Putnam (Harvard University Press: November 2005), 176 pages.
In this brief book one of the most distinguished living American philosophers takes up the question of whether ethical judgments can properly be considered objective — a question that has vexed philosophers over the past century. Looking at the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century, Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical context. Hilary Putnam's central concern is ontology — indeed, the very idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous consequences of ontology's influence on analytic philosophy — in particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective of ethical judgments — Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are extraneous to mathematics and ethics — and is thus deeply misguided. ~ Product Description
Leonard D. Katz (Imprint Academic: Mar 1, 2000), 352 pages.
Four principal papers and a total of 43 peer commentaries on the evolutionary origins of morality. To what extent is human morality the outcome of a continuous development from motives, emotions and social behaviour found in nonhuman animals? Jerome Kagan, Hans Kummer, Peter Railton and others discuss the first principal paper by primatologists Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal. The second paper, by cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm, synthesizes social science and biological evidence to support his theory of how our hominid ancestors became moral. In the third paper philosopher Elliott Sober and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson argue that an evolutionary understanding of human nature allows sacrifice for others and ultimate desires for another's good. Finally Brian Skyrms argues that game theory based on adaptive dynamics must join the social scientist's use of rational choice and classical game theory to explain cooperation.