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Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach [Paperback]

By Oderberg (Author)
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Item description for Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach by Oderberg...

The last 30 years have seen the burgeoning of applied ethics, in which moral philosophy is applied to concrete ethical problems. While this is a welcome development, it is also true that the discipline has been dominated by one particular ethical theory, namely consequentialism. This text, and its companion volume Applied Ethics, provide a much-needed alternative to consequentialist orthodoxy. The text sets out the basic system used to solve moral problems, the system that consequentialists deride as traditional morality and which they believe is dead. The central concepts, principles and distinctions of traditional morality are explained and defended: rights; justice; the good; virtue; the intention/foresight distinction; the acts/omissions distinction; and centrally, the fundamental value of human life.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wiley-Blackwell
Pages   197
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.05" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.68"
Weight:   0.71 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 18, 2000
Publisher   Wiley-Blackwell
ISBN  063121903X  
ISBN13  9780631219033  

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More About Oderberg

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David S. Oderberg is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Reading. A graduate of the Universities of Melbourne and Oxford, he is author of The Metaphysics of Identity over Time (1993); co-editor, with Jacqueline A. Laing, of Human Lives: Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics (1997), and editor of Form and Matter: Themes in Contemporary Metaphysics (Blackwell, 1999).

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach?

The Machinery of Natural Rights  Oct 25, 2006
This is an essential book for anyone who wishes to defend a political philosophy based upon the doctrine of natural rights. I frequently debate politics, abortion, the morality of war, and other ethical positions. Many of my "sparring partners" employ thought experiments to refute rights-based ethics. A common example is Ellen Goodman's thought experiment in which an IVF clinic is on fire. You can save either a test tube with an embryo, or a small child. Who do you choose?

'Moral Theory' by David Oderberg is the perfect rebuttal. Study the mechanics of natural rights ethics, particularly the Acts/Omission distinction and the Principle of Double Effect. The Principle of Double Effect is particularly important. It resolves conflicts of rights while still upholding the moral worth, dignity, and rights-bearing status of the "losing" side. Utilitarianism cannot do this. Even though it starts from the premise that everyone's interests get equal consideration, the hard fact remains that a leading cancer researcher had a greater ability to benefit the interests of society than a homeless man.

Natural rights ethics avoid this problem because it takes into account more than your ability to benefit the rest of society. Natural rights ethics lead to the principle that "the ends do not justify means." Natural rights ethics also factor in the importance of intention - actions that are taken with selfish intent are not considered to be morally good even if the outcome is good. For example, giving money to charity to impress people is not a morally good act (it is not necessarily bad either - it may be indifferent).

I have been using abortion as a running example, but conservatives also have to abandon some positions to consistently apply natural rights to politics. This is particularly true on natural security issues such as torture and domestic spying when there is no immanent threat ("they might be up to something" is not sufficient), as well as warring against a nation outside the principles of a Just War.

There are many other books that I would recommend to interested readers. Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy) It is a good general introduction to ethics. The great strength is that Gensler's book is to the Golden Rule as 'Moral Theory' is to natural rights.
A Rational Defense of Catholic Moral Teaching  Jun 3, 2000
David S. Oderberg's Moral Theory (along with its companion volume Applied Ethics)presents itself as a defense of traditional morality. It is in fact a philosophical defense of the substantive teachings of traditional Catholic moral theology, which have been reaffirmed by the current Pope in such writings as the new official Catechism of the Catholic Church and such encyclicals as Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae. Although Oderberg defends these teachings, he does so solely by reference to rational arguments intended to persuade all fair-minded persons, not by appeal to authority or religious dogma. Since I am very sympathetic to this sort of project, I was eager to read Oderberg's two books. However, I am not as delighted as I thought I would be, despite my substantial agreement with most of the views he defends. In Moral Theory, Oderberg lays out the shape of traditional morality by investigating the central notions of moral theory, presenting an essentially Aristotelian/Thomistic account of the human good, virtue and right action, natural law and natural rights. Most of this will be familiar territory to those acquainted with this tradition of moral theorizing. Inter alia, he also attacks consequentialism and utilitarianism, which, while spent forces in moral philosophy are still attractive to Catholic moral theologians hoping to weaken or finesse the traditional teaching to the effect that there are certain actions which are always wrong regardless of the agent's motives, circumstances or the consequences of the act. However, he tends to concentrate his fire on extreme consequentialists, such as Peter Singer and James Rachels, who are hardly representatives of mainstream in moral theory nor, I think, likely to become so. Oderberg is at his best when he presents and defends the Principle of Double Effect and the acts/omissions doctrine as alternatives to consequentialist calculation in situations involving moral dilemmas and is well worth reading on these points. In his discussion of the vexing idea that the moral quality of an act is determined by its "object", Oderberg seems to endorse the 17th century Jesuit view that the object of an act is determined by subjective intention. Adopting this view (so famously ridiculed by Pascal)seems to me a false step. Recent defenders of the position that the morality of an act is determined by its object tend to stress that it is the inherent features of the acts themselves, as objects of deliberate choice with full knowledge, which determine the moral quality of the act, rather than one's subjective intention (to the extent that this can be separated from one's motive). For example, the wrongness of adultery resides simply in the fact that it is an act of intercourse with someone else's spouse, which is a sin against the good of marriage and hence can never knowlingly be the object of the free choice of a good will, but instead always makes that will an evil one. This may be only a verbal dispute, but I am not sure. I do not find Oderberg's response to the objection that we can change the moral quality of our act simply by wilfuly directing our intentions convincing. However, let each reader judge for himself whether I am right about this. There is a polemical undertone to Moral Theory which some readers may find irksome; I rather enjoyed it myself. At any rate, those who are interested in these matters will find this a thought-provoking book but in many respects tantalizingly incomplete. I hope we can look forward to a more sustained and detailed account of these matters at the hand of this author.

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