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Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry Paperback – 24 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (24 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415668530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415668538
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 469,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Selected by The Philosopher's Magazine as one of 'The best books of 2012'.

'A first-class examination of where philosophy meets public policy by one of the leading political philosophers today. I have no doubt that this book will set a new benchmark for all future work, as well as offer a substantial contribution to policy analysis. I cannot recommend it highly enough.' - Thom Brooks, Durham University, UK

'Clearly, this is a book intended to be good to teach with - in relevant courses in applied ethics, social policy and healthcare - and accessible too to policy workers seeking a critical angle on their work. That it manages this while also enhancing our understanding of what is philosophically at stake is an impressive achievement. And that it does this while factoring in the process of policymaking - its possibilities, pitfalls and limits - makes it valuable in a different way again. I hope it marks the start of a thriving, long-term genre.' - Gideon Calder, Ethics and Social Welfare

'Wolff illustrates the importance for political philosophy of extensive, detailed knowledge of public policy issues for the development of good philosophy and effective contributions to urgent social issues. Wolff has extensive experience as a member of policy-making boards dealing with a wide range of issues: the treatment of animals in research, gambling, recreational drugs, public health funding, disabilities, and the cost of public safety. ... Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above.' - CHOICE

'Wolff's book will benefit anyone (student or professional) who wants to know more about how good moral philosophy can make a valuable contribution to decisions about public policy. It is worth remembering that Wolff's objectives are ones that we all have a stake in (if not as philosophers, then at least as potential victims of bad policy-making). Wolff is to be applauded for making a valuable contribution to progress in such important areas.' - Daniel Halliday, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

'This is the book we have been waiting for: a treatise on the ethics of public policy by a major political philosopher. An ideal text for a course on practical ethics, or on contemporary social problems: understandable but not at all dumbed-down.' - Daniel Wikler, Harvard University, USA

'Not only does Jonathan Wolff provide the invaluable service of helping us explore the ethical dimension of decision making through a historical and concrete understanding of specific policy dilemmas but he does so in a way which is authoritative, clear and engaging. This book is strongly recommended for putative decision makers who want to think and act wisely and for the philosophically-inclined wishing to test their ideas against the hard realities of policy making.' - Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA

'This book sets the bar for how moral philosophy can inform, and be informed by, public policy debates. It will be of great value to students interested in ethics, philosophy, political science, economics, and public policy as well as those with interests in the important social issues Wolff addresses.' – Debra Satz, Stanford University, USA

'Many books promise to introduce the reader to philosophy and ethics; very few do it with such wit, elegance, and intellectual honesty.' - Richard Ashcroft, Queen Mary University, UK

'A model contribution of political philosophy to the development of public policy - and, as importantly, of the practice of public policy to theory. Policy makers and philosophers will learn an enormous amount from reading it.' - Leslie Pickering Francis, University of Utah, USA

'A beautifully crafted, clear and concisely formulated survey of many controversial and pressing issues in public policy. Wolff’s writing conceals an apparently effortless command of a wealth of philosophical argument, and helps painlessly to steer the reader through complex material.' - David Archard, Lancaster University, UK

'Written with his customary clarity, elegance, and intelligence, Jo Wolff’s excellent new book sheds some much needed light on the under-explored connections between applied ethics and public policy. It will be of real interest to anyone with even a passing interest in these issues.' - Gerald Lang, University of Leeds, UK

About the Author

Jonathan Wolff is Professor Philosophy at University College London, where he is also Director of the UCL Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health. He is a member of the Nuffield Councils on Bioethics and Working Party on Research Involving Anmials. He is a member Demos and was a Trustee for the Responsibility on Gambling Trust (2003-9). He is editor, with Tim Crane, of the Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks series. He also writes a monthly column on higher education for the Guardian newspaper.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N. J. Phillips on 3 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well as Jonathan Wolff would admit it's not really philosophy though any political or moral philosopher would get a great deal from it. The book is one of the rare examples of philosophy meeting the real world, based on Wolff's own experiences as a philosopher interacting with public policy.

Wolff deals carefully with issues such as legislation on gambling, drugs, safety (this one by far the most interesting to my mind) and others. The difficulties of making decisions on these topics is well brought out by Wolff who also deals well with the fact that public policy requires that these difficulties are somehow solved - philosophers can just walk away from the problems, legislators have to achieve a solution. Often they achieve a poor solution which requires further thought down the line. Frequently it is philosophers who inspire that further thought.

Anyway a fascinating and stimulating book, written in a very acessible style. This is certainly not a book only available to those who have studied philosophy. If you enjoy reading a broadsheet newspaper you will follow this easily. Sixth-form students could get a lot out of it - particularly as the topics are ones that are endlessly debated in common rooms.

A final point: obviously many teachers could enjoy it and it would be very useful for PSE, but anyone teaching A-level Critical Thinking will find a wealth of useful material in this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mole on 30 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a well written book, with lots to think about. Wolff makes critical thinking possible without overloading the reader with heavily academic term. I was particularly impressed with the chapter on disability, my area.
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