17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A solid contribution to ethical thinking,
This review is from: Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Paperback)
I picked this book up in Waterstones as an adjunct to another book on professional ethics in my field (software engineering). Once I had started to read it I just kept going, ever more engaged, to the end.
Skepticism has its limits and wielded by less than agile minds can be a very blunt tool. Here, however, Mackie presents a convincing (at least to me) argument against the entire fabric of moral precepts by elucidating not so much their contradictions as their incoherence from a philosophical viewpoint.
Yet this is not a crude argument for moral relativism. Rather, Mackie simply argues that if moral precepts won't do, we need to replace them with something that will. To fill this gap he proposes an ethics based on individual rights and obligations. There is nothing new in this idea for it goes back to the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, Mackie offers it in a clear form without arbitrary prescriptions for the societies in which moral actors live. Thereby he avoids the absurdities propounded by various American thinkers (notably the psychotic-libertarian school represented by Nozick) and that is this book's great strength.
Mackie left me admiring him for having the guts not to be radical but simply to admit that practical ethics does not work unless it has the pragmatism to make frequent sanity checks upon itself.
For its plain words and good sense I cannot recommend this book highly enough.