I have a bleg.  Can anyone recommend papers in ethics — preferably on value-theory or meta-ethics — that (i) are good pieces of philosophy, (ii) are very clearly written, (iii) are not exceptionally long, and (iv) could be profitably read by an intelligent but young undergrad who knows next to nothing about philosophy?


12 Replies to “Bleg Time

  1. I have my intro students read Nagel’s “Death” (along with some passages from Epicurus). They seem to understand it and to enjoy it.

  2. For someone like that, I would also recommend Parfit’s “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best?”. I think it may be an excerpt from a longer work, but the longer work’s name escapes me (I don’t think it’s _Reasons and Persons_)

  3. Parfit’s “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best” is one of the appendixes to Reasons and Persons. I second this recommendation, and add Peter Singer’s “Why act morally?”, the final chapter of his Practical Ethics

  4. Also: Thomas Nagel’s “The Absurd”, and, for that matter, most of the other papers anthologized in his Mortal Questions, including Scott’s recommendation above.

  5. For something in the authority of morality and moral psychology vein, I recommend “The Nature of Immorality” by Jean Hampton. It is in “Foundations of Moral and Political Philosophy” (ed. Paul, Miller, and Paul) ISBN 0631173056. It has nice, clear snapshot discussions of Kant, Aristotle, and Genesis, and even includes discussion of a Bill Cosby joke!

  6. I would recommend Peter Singer’s, The Singer Solution to World Poverty, James Rachels’ The Morality of Euthanasia, Don Marquis’ Why Abortion is Immoral, Judith Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion, and Plato’s Crito. I also concur with those who suggest Epictetus.

  7. J.L. Mackie’s widely reprinted argument against the objectivity of moral values (from his Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong) might work. It can be found in shortened versions in more than a few intro to ethics texts.
    A few other pieces I use in intro to phiosophy courses: Feinberg’s “Psychological Egoism” (from Reason and Responsibility) and Rachels’ “Ethical Egoism” (from his Elements of Moral Philosophy).
    Several people have suggested readings on issues in applied ethics…if you go that route, Singer and Marquis are great choices. You may also want to consider Rachels’ “Active and Passive Euthanasia” and John Harris’ “The Survival Lottery.”

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