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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Being Good: An Introduction to Ethics

Being Good by Simon Blackburn is a re-read for me. Why now? Why re-read this book after re-reading Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy" during my Year of Living Philosophically reading list? Because there's so much to this very slim and wonderful book and I want to share it in my blog. I am also teaching a World Literature advanced course (seniors only), and the main connecting theme is virtue/ethics. As a result, we've read a wide variety of entries on that topic, including "Meno," and a lot of Voltaire, Kant, Shopenhauer, and even Nietzsche. Blackburn's little book (like Durant's excellent volume) is a clear and concise summary of what it constitutes to live ethically. But the book is much more. Instead of beginning with a dull history, Prof. Blackburn starts with "The Seven Threats to Ethics." He actually doesn't get to the history or chronology until the last chapter, which deals primarily with the foundations of ethics. And even then the book doesn't turn into a chronology, but continues to relate ethics to different polemics and scenarios that make the reader think rather than read passively. This is a must for any student of ethics, or for anyone seeking a strong foundation of the study of right and wrong. Some of the examples Blackburn uses include (but are not limited to) abortion, summus bonus, etc. You can't go wrong with this quick and accessible read.

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