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Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 8 May 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804426
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 10.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

Review from previous edition Simon Blackburn's short book takes the big moral questions head on and does so brilliantly. . . a witty, vivid writer with an enviable popular touch . . . this is a wonderfully enlightening book. (Ben Rogers, Sunday Telegraph,)

full of good sense (Sunday Times)

But for anyone wondering how big questions have bothered us over the years, this witty, rigorous book fills in the gaps. (PLAY, The Times)

always lively and never simplistic (Waterstone's Quarterly January 2002)

Good clearheaded stuff (Ted Honderich, The Times)

enjoyable and extremely readable . . . Blackburn . . . is breezy, helpful, reassuring (The Philosopher's Magazine)

sparklingly clear (Guardian)

a first rate and accessible guide which tackles the huge, perpetual questions (Nottingham Evaning Post)

About the Author

Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Until recently he was Edna J. Doury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, and from 1969 to 1999 a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford. His books include Spreading the Word (1984), Essays in Quasi-Realism (1993), The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (1994), Ruling Passions (1998), and Truth (co-edited with Keith Simmons, 1999), and the best-selling Think (1999). He edited the journal Mind from 1984 to 1990.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Renda on 15 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a good book if you need an overview of the main theories within ethics, but does not go into much depth, as the name might suggest. A note though, this is the same book as Simon Blackburns 'Being Good' just in a different cover!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Brown on 30 July 2008
Format: Paperback
I greatly enjoy Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. I work with some very able pupils who are studying Critical Thinking and in the process of applying for courses in medicine and law at highly competitive universities, and I chose this book to help me engage with them. I also wanted to learn more about the field for myself. As the author, a Cambridge professor, says in the introduction, this book was previously published as 'Being Good'. It begins by addressing seven perceived threats to mature ethical thinking, the first of which is religion. For Blackburn, this seems chiefly to mean the Bible: a few pages are spent on Jesus' 'moral quirks' and the old internet chestnut 'Dr Laura', and Nietzsche who is quoted 'in full flow'. The book is premised on an argument that ethical living need take no account of God/a god/gods. Throughout, by examining specific areas of difficulty and the history of ethical thought, Blackburn exposes difficulties with relativism, utilitarianism and other views. He writes elegantly, using helpful illustrations and thought-provoking images, and with some humour. If I found some parts hard to follow because of the necessary compression of explanation, it only prompted me to re-read those parts and explore the works of ethical philosophers for myself. For these reasons I would recommend this book as an excellent starting point. Readers may also wish to visit Blackburn's witty website, easily reached by searching under his name.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Mann VINE VOICE on 2 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These very short introductions are usually longer versions of a wikipedia article on a particular subject - giving the reader a good overview of the subject, often with a general history of the subject, the main theories and thinkers and the state of the subject today.

The Very Short Introduction to Ethics is a narrower version of this. It jumps straight in and says `there is no God, how can we make sense of ethics?' and then spends the rest of the book responding to this question.

The author starts with negative theories that claim there is are no ethical values, or we can never know them, or no one ever really does a good act, it is all self-interest really - he covers whether evolution means we are naturally selfish ("it's in our genes") and whether the power of our unconscious means we can really choose to do good of it is isn't really some deeper, darker desire that is motivating us.

He looks at various attempts to link ethics to reason or knowledge (Kant and Plato) and whether being good is the same as enlightened pleasure seeking or willing the general, optimal happiness (Utilitarianism), finally he looks at more recent attempts to define doing good, such as Rawls' theory of justice.

His conclusion is that it is possible to discuss ethics rationally, we can give an account of why we think something is good or bad, but that ultimately we can't simply equate goodness with any one theory, although each theory is often able to shed light on what we mean by ethics.

I found the book enjoyable, although it seemed somewhat limiting to shut down the spiritual/religious side so early on.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By BG123 on 17 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
The 'Very Short Introduction' series by OUP are, in general, perfect for their market - insightful, unbiased and simply-set out introductions.

I felt that this effort felt somewhat short of these measures. While the author is clearly knowledgeable and highly intelligent, in his writing he comes across as rather arrogant and opinionated. The book comes across at times as simply a stream of Blackburn's consciousness (appropriately!). This would, of course, not be a problem if this was a thesis or his own view on a certain theory of ethics, however for an introduction, was not perhaps pitched correctly.

On the other hand, the book gives a flavour of the difficult subject of 'Ethics', and it did lead to some further reading. So on this count, then, it did 'introduce' me to Ethics, although it could certainly have done so with slightly more delicacy.
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By SMASK on 2 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is excellent, it does what it says. The book is divided into sections and is easy to read, a good introduction to ethics for any student or beginner with philosophy.
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By Amazon Customer on 2 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did not like the format in which this book is written. For a introduction to ethics is way too confusing. It is more like a summary of ethics but it is not useful for someone who is looking for an introduction to the subject.
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