Today's Moral Issues: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives
Bonevac (Daniel)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
Colour-ConventionsDisclaimerNotes Citing this Book


Amazon Product Description

  1. Designed for contemporary moral problems courses, Bonevac's Today's Moral Issues is unique in providing theoretical readings related to the contemporary issues readings that follow; students connect theory and practice, thereby making the theory interesting and relevant.
  2. In addition to providing readings on contemporary topics, the book lends historical perspective to current moral issues with its unique inclusion of classic selections by philosophers such as Aristotle, Mill, Kant, and Locke.

  1. This book is a text for courses on contemporary moral issues. Such courses assume that philosophy has something important to contribute to contemporary moral problems. They try to bring philosophical theories to bear on practical questions. From one point of view, this seems difficult. Philosophy is in many ways the most abstract of all disciplines. The questions it addresses are very general: What is real? How do we know? What should we do? But philosophy is also the most practical of all disciplines. It aims at wisdom. Living wisely, displaying good judgment, understanding yourself and your surroundings—these offer immense benefits to all, no matter who they are, how they earn a living, or what kind of society they inhabit. Living wisely is a key to living well. For just that reason, Aristotle thought that philosophy was the highest human activity and that the contemplative life was the highest and happiest form of life possible for a human being.
  2. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to bring theory and practice together in the classroom. Philosophical texts can be hard to read. Philosophers often write primarily for each other. And arguments about contemporary issues are rarely reflective; the underlying principles can be hard to discern.
  3. Contemporary moral problems textbooks often amplify these difficulties. They contain mostly papers by professional philosophers written for a professional audience. They tend to either omit underlying theoretical approaches altogether or segregate them in a separate section of the book. The first strategy leaves students with no moral compass. Students have trouble abstracting ethical principles and methods from treatments of particular issues; even the best students flounder when faced with issues that have not been treated explicitly in class. The result is that students emerge with only the vaguest idea of what ethical thinking is. The second strategy divides courses into two parts that are hard to unify. The theory usually strikes students as dry and irrelevant, while the practical part remains confusing or, at best, an exercise in applying theory.
  4. This book tries to resolve the dilemma by tying theoretical and practical considerations together. Today's Moral Issues combines theoretical and practical readings on four general themes: first principles, liberty, rights and responsibilities, and justice. The theoretical readings relate closely to the contemporary readings that follow. I have found that using philosophical texts helps students connect theory and practice, for writers such as Locke and Mill tend to be more concrete and practical in outlook than most secondary discussions of their thought. Their motivations are not difficult for most students to understand. And I have edited the theoretical texts closely to bring students into direct contact with their chief motivations and arguments.
  5. The classic and contemporary theoretical approaches constitute a foundation for thinking about contemporary issues. Combining these texts with discussions of contemporary problems lets students see the dialectic between theory and practice in ethics. Faced with practical dilemmas and disagreements, it is easy to see why ethical thinkers have sought to construct theories. And contemporary issues provide opportunities not only to apply theories but also to test and evaluate them. Good students, I have found, attain not only a rich understanding of the theories, the issues, and how they relate, but also a real sense of what ethical thinking is all about.
  6. Today's Moral Issues is unique in treating contemporary moral issues in the context of both political philosophy and ethics. Issues such as abortion1, euthanasia, and the environment have political as well as personal dimensions. Others, such as freedom of speech, capital punishment, and economic, racial, sexual, and global equality, are almost entirely political. To treat them adequately, one must consider the proper ends of government and the bounds of state action.

New Features

This edition2 retains the virtues of earlier editions. It combines theoretical and practical treatments of ethical and political issues from a wide variety of perspectives and sources, including court cases, journalists, public figures, public policy researchers, and scientists as well as philosophers. This edition also has some new virtues. It differs from earlier editions in some important ways:
  1. Among the most contentious issues of current politics are gay marriage and the war on terror. I have expanded the book to include them. New sections treat issues of sexual orientation and the ethics of war.
  2. Recent court decisions on flag burning and undergraduate and graduate university admissions have been added to sections on offensive speech and behavior and affirmative action.
  3. More than 21% of the readings are new to this edition.
  4. The "Racial Equality" section has been extensively revised. I have expanded chapters on the environment, offensive speech, abortion3, and capital punishment.
  5. In my own classes, I have found that many students have trouble reading philosophical texts. As always, I have edited classic texts to make them easier to read and understand. I have also added headings to theoretical reading to help students learn to read philosophy by providing them with what amounts to an outline of what they are reading.
  6. The Web page (Link) that accompanies the book4 has been expanded considerably. It includes many features to help both students and instructors, including |aa|
  7. Sample course syllabi
  8. Extensive class notes for all sections of the book, with links to relevant parts of philosophical texts (where they are public domain and available online)
  9. A study guide summarizing key points
  10. A comprehensive glossary of terms
  11. Practice exams
  12. Suggested readings
  13. Relevant court cases
  14. Web links to other sources of information on contemporary issues
  15. A guide to writing philosophical essays
  16. Tips on multimedia presentations
  17. PowerPoint slides for each section of the text

    1. Relativism – 1
    2. Arguments – 2
    3. Evaluating Arguments: Three Arguments for Cultural Relativism – 4
    4. Arguments against Cultural Relativism – 7
    5. Making Moral Arguments – 9
    6. Exceptions to Moral Principles – 11
      → Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics – 20
      → St. Thomas Aquinas, from Summa Theologica – 25
      → David Hume, from A Treatise of Human Nature – 29
      → Immanuel Kant, from Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals – 32
      → John Stuart Mill, from Utilitarianism and "Letter to John Venn" – 38
      → Simone de Beauvoir, from The Ethics of Ambiguity – 46
      → Bertrand Russell, "Our Sexual Ethics" – 53
      → Thomas A. Mappes, "Sexual Morality and the Concept of Using Another Person" – 58
      → Sidney Callahan, "Abortion5 and the Sexual Agenda" – 65
      → Roger Scruton, from Sexual Desire – 69
    3. ANIMALS – 73
      → International League of the Rights of Animals, "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Animals" – 75
      → Peter Singer, from Animal Liberation – 77
      → Tom Regan, "The Case for Animal Rights6" – 85
      → Carl Cohen, "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research" – 90
      → Garrett Hardin, from "The Tragedy of the Commons" – 100
      → Richard Stroup and John Baden, with David Fractor, "Property Rights: The Real Issue" – 103
      → Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, "Risks, Costs, and Benefits" – 110
      → Bill Devall and George Sessions, from Deep Ecology – 114
      → Karen J. Warren, "The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism" – 119
      → Bjorn Lomborg, "Predicament or Progress?" – 122
  3. PART II: LIBERTY – 129
      → Plato, from The Republic – 131
      → Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics – 137
      → Edmund Burke, from Reflections on the Revolution in France – 140
      → John Stuart Mill, from On Liberty – 146
      → Milton Friedman, "An Open Letter to Bill Bennett" – 160
      → William J. Bennett, "A Response to Milton Friedman" – 163
      → Ethan A. Nadelmann, "The Case for Legalization" – 166
      → James Q. Wilson, "Against the Legalization of Drugs" – 177
    3. PORNOGRAPHY – 187
      → Catharine MacKinnon, "Pornography, Civil Rights, and Speech" – 189
      → The Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, "The Question of Harm" – 193
      → Wendy McElroy, from Sexual Correctness – 200
      → Justice Antonin Scalia, Majority Opinion in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota – 209
      → Stanley Fish, from There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing, Too – 215
      → Jonathan Rauch, "Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought" – 221
      → Justice William Brennan and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Majority and Dissenting Opinions in Texas v. Johnson – 226
      → Justice Byron White, Majority Opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick – 240
      → Justice Anthony Kennedy, Majority Opinion in Lawrence et al. v. Texas – 243
      → Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall and Justice Robert J. Cordy, Majority and Dissenting Opinions in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health – 248
      → Jonathan Rauch, "Objections to These Unions" – 263
      → Stanley Kurtz, "The Libertarian Question" – 269
      → Thomas Hobbes, from Leviathan – 275
      → John Locke, from Second Treatise of Government – 280
      → Edmund Burke, from Reflections on the Revolution in France – 287
      → John Stuart Mill, from Utilitarianism – 292
      → Samuel Warren and Louis D. Brandeis, "The Right to Privacy" – 297
      → Richard Posner, from The Economics of Justice – 307
      → Jeffrey H. Reiman, "Driving to the Panopticon: A Philosophical Exploration of the Risks to Privacy Posed by the Information Technology of the Future" – 317
      → Rita C. Manning, "Liberal and Communitarian Defenses of Workplace Privacy" – 327
      → G. Randolph Mayes and Mark Alfino, "Rationality and the Right to Privacy" – 330
    2. ABORTION7 – 336
      → Justice Harry Blackmun, Majority Opinion in Roe v. Wade – 338
      → Judith Jarvis Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion8" – 343
      → Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion9" – 353
      → Jane English, "Abortion10 and the Concept of a Person" – 364
      → Don Marquis, "Why Abortion11 Is Immoral" – 370
      → Robert P George, "Public Reason and Political Conflict: Abortion12" – 382
      → Supreme Court of New Jersey, Matter of Quinlan – 387
      → J. Gay-Williams, "The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia" – 392
      → James Rachels, "The Morality of Euthanasia" – 395
      → Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Thomas Scanlon, and Judith Jarvis Thomson, "The Brief of the Amici Curiae" – 401
      → Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Majority Opinion in Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al. – 407
      → Cesare Beccaria, from On Crimes and Punishment – 415
      → Immanuel Kant, "The Right of Punishing" – 420
      → Albert Camus, from "Reflections on the Guillotine" – 423
      → Justice William Brennan, Concurring Opinion in Furman v. Georgia – 427
      → Justices Stewart, Powell, and Stevens, Majority Opinion in Gregg v. Georgia – 429
      → Ernest van den Haag, from The Death Penalty: A Debate – 433
      → Hugo Adam Bedau, "The Case against the Death Penalty" – 437
      → William Tucker, "Why the Death Penalty Works" – 444
    5. WAR – 448
      → St. Thomas Aquinas, "Whether It Is Always Sinful to Wage War?" – 450
      → Hugo Grotius, from On the Law of War and Peace – 452
      → Carl von Clausewitz, "On the Nature of War" – 457
      → Mahatma Gandhi, "Non-Violence in Various Aspects" – 461
      → Michael Walzer, from Just and Unjust Wars – 465
      → Richard A. Posner and Gary S. Becker, "Preventive War" – 471
      → Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics – 477
      → Aristotle, from Politics – 479
      → John Locke, from Second Treatise of Government – 481
      → Jean Jacques Rousseau, from Discourse on the Origin of Inequality – 491
      → Jean Jacques Rousseau, from On the Social Contract – 499
      → Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, from Manifesto of the Communist Party – 503
      → Albert Camus, "Bread and Freedom" – 509
      → John Rawls, from A Theory of Justice – 511
      → Robert Nozick, from Anarchy, State, and Utopia – 517
      → Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "Commonwealth Club Address" – 527
      → Kai Nielsen, "Egalitarian Justice: Equality as a Goal and Equality as a Right" – 532
      → John Hospers, "What Libertarianism Is" – 535
      → Ronald Dworkin, "Liberalism" – 541
      → Michael Walzer, "Welfare, Membership and Need" – 547
      → Charles Murray, from Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 – 552
      → Michael Tanner and Stephen Moore, "Why Welfare Pays" – 561
    3. RACIAL EQUALITY – 564
      → Chief Justice Earl Warren, Majority Opinion in Brown v. Board of Education – 566
      → Justice Lewis Powell, Majority Opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke – 569
      → Antonin Scalia, "The Disease as a Cure" – 577
      → Bernard R. Boxill, from Blacks and Social Justice – 583
      → Thomas Sowell, "Affirmative Action': A Worldwide Disaster" – 588
      → William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, from The Shape of the River – 603
      → Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Majority Opinion in Gratz et al. v. Bollinger et al. – 608
      → Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Majority Opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger et al. – 613
    4. SEXUAL EQUALITY – 622
      → Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Majority and Dissenting Opinions in United States v. Virginia et al. – 624
      → Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – 632
      → Alison M. Jaggar, "Sexual Difference and Sexual Equality" – 634
      → Christine A. Littleton, "Reconstructing Sexual Equality" – 640
      → Susan Okin, "Justice and Gender" – 644
      → Christina Hoff Sommers, from Who Stole Feminism? – 649
      → E Carolyn Graglia, from Domestic Tranquillity – 652

In-Page Footnotes ("Bonevac (Daniel) - Today's Moral Issues: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives")

Footnote 2: Footnote 4:
  • 5th Edition, 2005;
  • The web page for the 6th Edition is Link.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Jan 2020. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page