Ethics for A-Level
Mark Dimmock, Torquay Boys' Grammar School
Andrew Fisher, University of Nottingham
Pub Date: 2017
ISBN 13: 978-1-7837439-0-2
Publisher: Open Book Publishers
Conditions of Use
The approach taken in this text, while specific to the AQA philosophy and OCR religious programs, would work quite well with lower level/introductory read more
The approach taken in this text, while specific to the AQA philosophy and OCR religious programs, would work quite well with lower level/introductory ethics students, who have no background in philosophy. However, the book covers only 4 major ethical theories: utilitarianism, deontology, virtue theory and natural law theory. So, it misses social contractarianism, divine command theory, ethical relativism, and ethical egoism. I would have to supplement this text. Part I covers the four classical ethical theories traditionally covered by introductory ethics courses plus one on situational ethics. The chapter content is straightforward and peppered occasionally with direct quotes from relevant philosophers. The thought experiments are effective and useful in helping students further connect with the abstract theories. That there is a section of “Problems” with the various theories is also excellent. The idea of helpful sections like “common student mistakes” was appreciated, and it does capture some of what my students tend to struggle with. Another benefit is that the text itself was very clear, basic and thorough in explaining ethical reasoning processes that many introductory students struggle to grasp. For example, they often struggle with conducting the hedonic calculus and recognizing the difference between act and rule utilitarianism, or applying the categorical imperative to various scenarios. Helpfully, this text goes into depth explaining and demonstrating how to understand apply these approaches to sample cases. So, although there are no exercises or quizzes with this text, the text itself provides plenty of discussion fodder. Additionally, the “Issues to Consider” and “Key Terms” sections which are very helpful and can be adapted for student reflection or discussion. Placing the references section at the end of each chapter with some resources that are “freely available” is very helpful for students who want to quickly look up additional resources. However, that drops off as the chapters progress. A nice addition would be a section containing further readings or additional resources. I certainly think it's possible to locate some freely available resources for the chapter on Virtue Theory. Part II could be skipped in an intro to ethics course, or used in an intro to philosophy course. I didn’t review this section as I prefer to take an applied approach to philosophy. Part III: Applied Ethics is pertinent to anyone who likes to incorporate some popular moral arguments and it nicely covers several major ethical dilemmas. The section on euthanasia is structured well in that it provides multiple pro and con arguments for the students to analyze. Initially I was unsure how relevant a section on “Stealing” is for students, but the application of Kantian ethics to the concept of property is quite good. The remaining sections contain theoretical reasoning by applying the ethical theories to the moral issues. These should make for a good beginning to discussion. However, they would be strengthened by the inclusion of pro/con arguments so students would have something to analyze.
Generally the text accurately summarizes the theories themselves and supplies relevant critiques of the theories. However, there is a strong bias toward religious reasoning that is evident throughout and particularly apparent in the treatment of natural law theory and euthanasia. There is also some inconsistency in the headings/section titles used throughout the book, which is confusing at best and at times appears deceptive. For example, the switch in category headings from “Problems” to “Objections” might be confusing to some. As an example of the weaknesses of this text, the chapter on natural law theory only very briefly covers divine command theory, but students usually need more of an explanation on why religious ethics like this are abandoned. Although, I do recognize that even with a thorough analysis many students fail to fully grasp the implications of the Euthyphro dilemma; so, perhaps it is better to gloss over it in favor of Natural Law. Another problem is that while the explication of the Natural Law position is solid, the critique is downplayed and ultimately hidden under a deceptive section title. First the critiques were called “Problems,” then “Objections,” and in this chapter they changed to “Some thoughts.” This is a letdown. It appears biased. The authors, as philosophers (lovers of wisdom and truth) have an obligation to maintain an evenhanded critique of strengths and weaknesses for all theories. It is also an interesting choice to structure the last section as Fletcher’s situationism when I see more problems with relativism and a far greater need to clarify and critique that position. Moderate objectivism or ethical situationalism (see Pojman) would have been a better choice; however, I think again the author’s loyalties/origins have affected its inclusion. In Part III, particularly the section on euthanasia, the authors also skew the analysis toward religion. Since I can’t assume all my students are Catholic, nor do I think that strictly faith based religious or Biblical reasoning is relevant as a critique, this section of the text falls short in modeling true philosophical reasoning and rational critique. However, the analysis of sexual ethics appears forthright and objectively handled, although instead of pro or con arguments we are given the various theories’ treatment of sexual ethics.
I don't think there will be an issue of this book going out of date. The examples/issues remain relevant. The theories are classics.
The text appears very clear and any jargon used is fully defined and explained through copious examples and applications.
As noted above, the switch in headings from "problems" to "objections" to "thoughts" is misleading and confusing. Additionally, there is a definite propensity toward religion and religious reasoning, which leads to uneven analysis in some points.
The layout of this text is lovely. The chapters could be reorganized and as I stated above, the entirety of part two could be skipped. Additionally, the effective use of headings allows certain sections of the text to be cut or supplemented.
The text's flow and organization is consistent and appealing. It is easy to section out, and the examples are appropriately inserted to support and clarify key concepts.
The interface is nice. It is published both as a PDF and online, so readers can choose their preference. The PDF has a nice book like setup, so you can flip to the next page and don't have to scroll downward through pages. Both the web and PDF version are very clear and clean. Additionally, for students who desire a print copy, the web version allows printing of chapters, sections, etc.
While I did not do a close study, I only noticed a few minor grammatical issues like pluralization and possessives.
The text is fine. It might even be too wary of offending at the expense of sound analysis.
Overall, when paired with some additional readings in moral theories and arguments in applied ethics, this secondary text provides a solid basis for a lower level intro to ethics course.
Table of Contents
Part I Normative Ethics
- Chapter 1 Utilitarianism
- Chapter 2 Kantian ethics
- Chapter 3 Aristotelian virtue ethics
- Chapter 4 Aquinas’s natural law theory
- Chapter 5 Fletcher’s situation ethics
Part II Metaethics
- Chapter 6 Metaethical theories
Part III Applied Ethics
- Chapter 7 Euthanasia
- Chapter 8 Business ethics
- Chapter 9 Conscience
- Chapter 10 Sexual ethics
- Chapter 11 Stealing
- Chapter 12 Simulated killing
- Chapter 13 Telling lies
- Chapter 14 Eating animals
About the Book
What does pleasure have to do with morality? What role, if any, should intuition have in the formation of moral theory? If something is ‘simulated’, can it be immoral?
This accessible and wide-ranging textbook explores these questions and many more. Key ideas in the fields of normative ethics, metaethics and applied ethics are explained rigorously and systematically, with a vivid writing style that enlivens the topics with energy and wit. Individual theories are discussed in detail in the first part of the book, before these positions are applied to a wide range of contemporary situations including business ethics, sexual ethics, and the acceptability of eating animals. A wealth of real-life examples, set out with depth and care, illuminate the complexities of different ethical approaches while conveying their modern-day relevance.
This concise and highly engaging resource is tailored to the Ethics components of AQA Philosophy and OCR Religious Studies, with a clear and practical layout that includes end-of-chapter summaries, key terms, and common mistakes to avoid. It should also be of practical use for those teaching Philosophy as part of the International Baccalaureate.
Ethics for A-Level is of particular value to students and teachers, but Fisher and Dimmock’s precise and scholarly approach will appeal to anyone seeking a rigorous and lively introduction to the challenging subject of ethics.
About the Contributors
Mark Dimmock graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Nottingham, defending the theories of Moral Error Theory and Moral Abolitionism. He now works as a Philosophy Teacher at Torquay Boys' Grammar School.
Andrew Fisher is Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and has been lecturing philosophy for fifteen years. He has published in metaethics, philosophy of education, philosophy of sport, philosophy of religion, philosophy for children and how to use technology in teaching. He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and teaches philosophy to local primary school children.