Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ethics Resources

I find one of the sad things about working in the biomedical sciences to be the exclusion of what might be called “classical ethics” in favour of either a broad consequentialism or Kantianism (or various mixtures of the two). You might like to have a read of this essay for a critical view on the state of the field that has come to be known as “bioethics”.

It is very heartening, therefore, to find effective modern resources in support of what might be called the perennial wisdom. Here are two books (twins as it were) that cover the theory and practice of classical ethics.

David Oderberg, “Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach, Wiley-Blackwell.

David Oderberg, "Applied Ethics: A Non-Consequentialist Approach" , Wiley-Blackwell.

In particular, these are books on moral philosophy, rather than on moral theology, so that in using the arguments presented in them with secular audiences, one does not have to overcome anti-theological prejudice before attacking ethical prejudice. (Of course, since they are built on philosophical realism, they inhabit a thought world in which at least natural theology must be taken seriously.)

I don’t have time for a full review of these, but I’d like to point to the care and precision of the presentation of “Moral Theory” (which includes one of the best presentations of the doctrine of double effect that I’ve seen) and to the watertight analyses in “Applied Ethics” to the cases of abortion and euthanasia. (If there is a weakness in “Applied Ethics” it is in the discussion of the death penalty; I would not be happy defending the author’s point of view in public debate based on the argument he constructs here). Overall these are excellent books.

Hat-tip to Edward Feser and his blog.

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