What is this thing called Ethics? Paperback – 29 January 2015
Enhance your purchase
- Publisher : Routledge; 1st edition (29 January 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0415491541
- ISBN-13 : 978-0415491549
- Dimensions : 17.15 x 1.27 x 24.13 cm
- Customer Reviews:
'What is particularly appealing about this volume are its clarity of style, organization, and accessibility. Each chapter presents six or seven aspects of the problem in question, a conclusion, a set of excellent questions for discussion, and a good, short bibliography. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates; general readers.' - CHOICE
'This is an excellent introduction to ethics, and will be of great help and interest to undergraduate students, their tutors, and their lecturers ... It presents a very fair and balanced – not to mention comprehensive and subtle – examination of the subject ... The chapters are full of interesting and thought-provoking examples, and the writing is clear and engaging.' – Michael Brady, University of Glasgow, UK
'Christopher Bennett’s What is this thing called Ethics? is an engaging introduction to moral and applied philosophy. The author guides the reader through some of the central ideas in moral philosophy and introduces them to some of the main traditions of moral thought, such as utilitarianism, Kantianism and Aristotelianism. The author, however, also relates the theoretical issues to practical questions and considers some of the most crucial issues that allied philosophy has to tackle, such as questions concerning life and death and questions concerning the responsibilities that people have towards one another. As such, this book should prove invaluable to readers unfamiliar with philosophy and for students who need a clear and non-technical introduction to moral and applied philosophy.' – Nick Buttle, University of the West of England, UK
'This introduction is outstanding. Christopher Bennett encourages his reader to actively reflect on key moral questions in a highly engaging book covering all major topics. This book is a must have for any student interested in the subject. It is accessibly written without sacrificing sufficient depth. The selection of major topics is wide-ranging and ideal for classroom use. I highly recommend this book.' – Thom Brooks, University of Newcastle, UK
'This is a first rate introduction to ethics. What sets Bennett’s book apart from the rest is the time he devotes to laying out the deep questions and problems that have motivated philosophical inquiry. In addition, Bennett addresses the challenges to ethics – such as skepticism and relativism – with unusual candor and intelligence. This book would fit very well in an undergraduate ethics course, and is engaging and accessible reading for anyone interested in how philosophers have approached moral issues.' - Tamler Sommers, University of Houston, USA
About the Author
Christopher Bennett is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, UK. His research interests include moral, political and legal philosophy. His previous publications include The Apology Ritual: A Philosophical Theory of Punishment (2008).
Review this product
Top reviews from other countries
This book is not only badly written, it is inconsistent in its approach to an otherwise important subject and is riddled with invalid arguments - which for a book about philosophy is more than disappointing.
Bennett claims that he is interested in making ethics 'explicit' and in deciding what we 'ought' to believe there must be an attempt 'to explain what our views are, and defining them, is an essential part of ensuring that our views are the right ones' - which is ironic given the subject topic. Rather, what is delivered is the author's Western humanistic approach which, apparently, has all the answers; 'Those who dismiss the enterprise of ethics deny that ethics is an area in which there really are answers' - more irony.
Against this grand claim the author trivializes the morality of other cultures as examples of 'relativism'. He writes; 'Now consider a different culture - there are quite a lot to choose from - in which women are excluded from the main decision-making forums of their social group'. Readers are not enlightened as to which cultures Bennett actually refers but it is obvious that the author has not read anything by Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at Columbia University. She is Palestinian and has lived with Bedouin people for years and testifies in any of her numerous books, that women, even in those societies which we in the West assume to be 'backward' cultures, particularly with respect to women, that women have a powerful say in social dicourse - often in very imaginative ways. But none of this stops Bennett claiming that who 'try to question these gender roles are treated with ridicule'. Well they might, but that is not the point Bennett is hoping to make which is, ironically, that morality is - relative. He writes, ' ... although it is important to question the moral beliefs through one's upbringing, it is another thing to say that we should be sceptical about all moral beliefs' at which point Bennett looses me.
In the Chapter on ethics and religion (Chapter 7) Bennett outline the arguments for the existence of God. These are well know and may be found in any book dealing with philosophy. There is nothing really new except that for some reason Bennett does not mention the most mentioned argument for the existence of God - Anslem's Ontological Argument. Why, if the matter of the proof of the existence of God is seen as important enough to raise concerning the matter of ethics, is this well-known argument missing from his thesis? I can only guess. I suspect that the ontological argument is bypassed as it raises the significant matter of the what is 'good'. The intricacies of the ontological argument are tricky, particular if you are a humanist and God is not the absolute 'good' then the only alternative is - Bennett? I can understand his reluctance in raising the matter but not to do so seriously compromises the book's contribution.
Bennett's brand of humanism undermines his appreciation of cultural context. In a convoluted text to do with biblical scripture (by which he means Christianity - Islam does not rate a mention) he concludes that the 'holy book' (apparently he cannot write 'Bible'), in order to be morally relevant, must be 'interpreted in a way that is compelling to us' and that 'religious texts cannot replace our moral understanding'. In this Bennett forgets that it was those same biblical texts that led, eventually, to his grandiose claims concerning morality and ethics.
My own work as an anthropologist in Australia provides me with an insight into Aboriginal culture which do not have a written culture as we in the West would understand the term - their culture is 'written' in the landscape. To understand, rather than gaining simply knowledge, is an aspect of philosophy. To understand that morality may be written in a landscape would be, I suspect, be beyond Bennett's understanding. Morality, as part of culture, is relative whether Bennett agrees or not. Failing to appreciate this fact demonstrates a severe weakness for anyone proposing to write on ethics.
Bennett does have some useful things to say but unfortunately what might be worthwhile is hampered by his own bias.