We encounter ethical challenges on a day to day basis in matters that involve what we call ethical values. Some of these challenges affect us as individuals but seem beyond our power to influence, such as a political decision about whether our nation should go to war. Other momentous ethical questions confront us in particular situations, such as when a road accident leaves a loved one brain damaged and medical practitioners seek our permission to turn off life support. Understanding Ethics introduces the frameworks of moral philosophy to analyse contemporary moral issues and perennial human dilemmas.
While the early chapters of ethical theory remain substantially the same, the rest of the book is expanded with updated references, new case studies and an improved index. The new edition examines particular issues which reflect many of the social, scientific and cultural changes of the last decade, especially in an Australian context.
Understanding Ethics is constructed in three sections.
Part A introduces the nature, language and frameworks of ethics concluding with a chapter on ethical decision-making.
Part B explores topical applied ethics issues of interpersonal and social significance ranging through bioethics, sexual ethics, environmental ethics, business ethics, political ethics and questions of war and social justice.
Part C considers how we learn ethics and cultivate a moral life by exploring ethics education in schools and the workplace and finally contains an examination of how we sustain our ethical commitments across a lifetime while experiencing constant change.
The Planet and the Environment
- Global warming and energy policy
- Population and poverty
- Global citizenship and the Earth Charter
- Animal rights
- Stem cell research and cloning
- Biotechnology and developing countries
Professional Life and Workplaces
- The media and journalism
- Teachers, schools and values education
- Business ethics
Politics and Policy-making
- Social justice in Australian society
- Public sector ethics
- Conflicts of interest and codes of conduct
Life, Love and Sexuality
- Honesty and truthtelling
- Same sex marriage
War, Terrorism and Violence
- Capital punishment
- War including ‘just war’ theory
- Terrorism and torture
Reviews of previous editions:
Preston provides a superb introduction to moral reasoning in a world where old certainties have vanished. His comprehensive coverage of contemporary modes of ethical reasoning, written in an elegant, accessible style, makes a marvellous text for law students learning to reflect upon law and its limits. - Sandra Berns, Griffith University
A book that aims to comprehend this difficult subject within an internally consistent framework. … the work affords a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of ethical dilemmas encountered in the endeavour to answer fundamental questions about how our lives are to be thought of and lived.
The author has presented the structure of the book in a format of essentially three sections, directed respectively to the nature of ethics, applied ethics and in its later chapters, to a wide variety of topics, of which matters of life and death, public responsibility, politics and the global environment are examples. These culminate in a perspective on ‘cultivating an ethical life’. Throughout Dr Preston develops a benchmark which he calls ‘an ethic of response’ by which the philosophical and practical aspects, and thus the ethics of actions, may be evaluated. …
The book contains in its initial chapters a relatively brief but very useful description of various theories of ethics. This is augmented by a succinct glossary at the end of the volume. Each chapter concludes with a chapter review, a list of suggested further reading and, importantly, questions for discussion and case studies. … - Frank Armer, Alternative Law Jounral Vol 27 No 1
Many issues and themes that arise for consideration in this book lie at the heart of contemporary legal analysis: issues such as individual liberty, protection from harm, the promulgation of a just society; issues of social justice as determined by the “common good” and “public interest’; general principles of justice and fairness; the protection of human rights; exploration of matters of integrity, truthfulness and honesty; appropriate boundary setting for state interevention in a liberal democractic society; the recognition and management of conflicts of interest; and broader perspectives on acting in ways that are consistent with the duties entrusted to persons in professional roles. Understanding Ethics … would serve well as an introductory text or as a reader for either tertiary or secondary teachers who come to the study of ethics from outside the discipline. It would also find an appreciative audience simply with anyone who is interested in these broader philosophical or contemporty moral questions. The text is easy to read, well written and thoughtfully organised. Understanding Ethics should be recommended reading for all legal graduates-in-training. - Sally Kift, 2001 QUT Law and Justice Journal, 1(2) 317
Table of Contents
How to use this book
Part A: What is Ethics?
The Ethical Challenge
Ethical Theory: An Overview
Responsible Ethical Decisions
Part B: What are the Issues?
Truthtelling and Honesty
Sex, Love and Morality
Life and Death: Bioethical Issues
War, Terrorism and Violence
Public Responsibility and Political Ethics
Ethics in Business and the Professions
A Global Ethic for a Global Society
Part C: How to Cultivate an Ethical Life
Sustaining the Good Life