John Doe has decided to clone himself. He is sterile. He cannot find anyone to marry him. He wishes to have children. He knows that he will not be able to love a chil


  • Academic level: College
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  • Subject: Ethics
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Order instructions: 

Required Resources Read/review the following resources for this activity:

· Textbook: Chapters 3, 4

· Minimum of 2 scholarly sources (in addition to the textbook)

Instructions Review the following ethical dilemmas:

1. John Doe has decided to clone himself. He is sterile. He cannot find anyone to marry him. He wishes to have children. He knows that he will not be able to love a child that is adopted or not connected directly to him biologically. He will be making use of a new procedure that involves taking his skin cells to produce a twin. The twin starts out as an embryo and grows into a child. The child in this case will have the same genetic information as John Doe. John Doe and his child will be twins.

2. Jane Doe is eighteen. For as long as she can remember she has been sexually attracted to other females. Her parents belong to a religion that has a religious text stating that God forbids one to be a lesbian. This religion goes on further to say that lesbians will be punished in the afterlife. Jane Doe is debating whether she should tell her parents about her sexual attraction. She has not yet decided if she should come out to her parents and live as a lesbian now that she is a legal adult.

3. Joe and Mary are a couple. Before becoming sterile, they had a child. This child died of a rare disease. Joe and Mary miss their child terribly. They have heard that there is a new IVF procedure that can ensure that they can have another child. However, their religion forbids using IVF. Use the resources assigned for this week and additional research,

Instructions Select two of the situations above and then address 2 of the following:

1. What is the relation between ethics and religion? Formulate and investigate the relation.

2. For each case, determine the ethical path of conduct. Then, determine what paths of conduct would be unethical

3. For each case, what would an emotivism say to appraise what you determine is the ethical form of conduct?

4. For each case, would a natural law ethicist agree with what you say is the ethical form of conduct? Why or why not?

5. Articulate, explain, and evaluate in each case an approach that makes use of divine command ethics.

Writing Requirements (APA format)

· Length: 2-3 pages (not including title page or references page)

· 1-inch margins

· Double spaced

· 12-point Times New Roman font

· Title page

· References page (minimum of 2 scholarly sources)


T he Elements of

Moral Philosophy


James Rachels

Editions 5–9 by

stuaRt Rachels

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Published by McGraw-Hill Education, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Copyright © 2019 by McGraw-Hill Education. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions

© 2015, 2012, and 2010. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of McGraw-Hill Education, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

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All credits appearing on page or at the end of the book are considered to be an extension of the copyright page.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Rachels, Stuart, 1969- author. | Rachels, James, 1941-2003. Elements of moral philosophy.

Title: The elements of moral philosophy / James Rachels, editions 5-9 by Stuart Rachels.

Description: NINTH EDITION. | Dubuque, IA : McGraw-Hill Education, 2018. |

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017059417 | ISBN 9781259914256 (pbk. : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Ethics—Textbooks.

Classification: LCC BJ1012 .R29 2018 | DDC 170—dc23 LC record available at

The Internet addresses listed in the text were accurate at the time of publication. The inclusion of a website does not indicate an endorsement by

the authors or McGraw-Hill Education, and McGraw-Hill Education does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented at these sites.

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About the Authors

James Rachels (1941–2003) wrote The End of Life: Euthanasia and Morality (1986), Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (1990), Can Ethics Provide Answers? And Other Essays in Moral Philosophy (1997), Problems from Philosophy (first edition, 2005), and The Legacy of Socrates: Essays in Moral Philosophy (2007).

His website is

stuaRt Rachels is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama. He has revised several of James Rachels’ books, including Problems from Philosophy as well as the companion anthology to this book, The Right Thing to Do. Stuart won the U.S. Chess Cham-pionship in 1989, at the age of 20, and is a Bronze Life Master at bridge. He is currently writing a book about chess.


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Preface ix

About the Ninth Edition




1.1. The Problem of Definition


1.2. First Example: Baby Theresa


1.3. Second Example: Jodie and Mary


1.4. Third Example: Tracy Latimer


1.5. Reason and Impartiality


1.6. The Minimum Conception of Morality


Notes on Sources




2.1. Different Cultures Have Different Moral Codes


2.2. Cultural Relativism


2.3. The Cultural Differences Argument


2.4. What Follows from Cultural Relativism


2.5. Why There Is Less Disagreement Than There Seems to Be


2.6. Some Values Are Shared by All Cultures


2.7. Judging a Cultural Practice to Be Undesirable


2.8. Back to the Five Claims


2.9. What We Can Learn from Cultural Relativism


Notes on Sources



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3.1. The Basic Idea of Ethical Subjectivism


3.2. The Linguistic Turn


3.3. The Denial of Value


3.4. Ethics and Science


3.5. Same-Sex Relations


Notes on Sources




4.1. The Presumed Connection between Morality and Religion


4.2. The Divine Command Theory


4.3. The Theory of Natural Law


4.4. Religion and Particular Moral Issues


Notes on Sources




5.1. Is There a Duty to Help the Starving?


5.2. Psychological Egoism


5.3. Three Arguments for Ethical Egoism


5.4. Two Arguments against Ethical Egoism


Notes on Sources




6.1. Hobbes’s Argument


6.2. The Prisoner’s Dilemma


6.3. Some Advantages of the Social Contract Theory


6.4. The Problem of Civil Disobedience


6.5. Difficulties for the Theory


Notes on Sources




7.1. The Revolution in Ethics


7.2. First Example: Euthanasia


7.3. Second Example: Marijuana


7.4. Third Example: Nonhuman Animals


Notes on Sources


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8.1. The Classical Version of the Theory


8.2. Is Pleasure All That Matters?


8.3. Are Consequences All That Matter?


8.4. Should We Be Equally Concerned for Everyone?


8.5. The Defense of Utilitarianism


8.6. Concluding Thoughts


Notes on Sources




9.1. Harry Truman and Elizabeth Anscombe


9.2. The Categorical Imperative


9.3. Kant’s Arguments on Lying


9.4. Conflicts between Rules


9.5. Kant’s Insight


Notes on Sources




10.1. Kant’s Core Ideas


10.2. Retribution and Utility in the Theory of Punishment


10.3. Kant’s Retributivism


Notes on Sources




11.1. Do Women and Men Think Differently about Ethics?


11.2. Implications for Moral Judgment


11.3. Implications for Ethical Theory


Notes on Sources


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12.1. The Ethics of Virtue and the Ethics of Right Action


12.2. The Virtues


12.3. Two Advantages of Virtue Ethics


12.4. Virtue and Conduct


12.5. The Problem of Incompleteness


12.6. Conclusion


Notes on Sources





13.1. Morality without Hubris


13.2. Treating People as They Deserve


13.3. A Variety of Motives


13.4. Multiple-Strategies Utilitarianism


13.5. The Moral Community


13.6. Justice and Fairness


13.7. Conclusion


Notes on Sources


Index 197

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P reface

Socrates, one of the first and best moral philosophers, said that morality is about “no small matter, but how we ought to live.” This book is an introduction to moral philosophy, conceived in that broad sense.

The field of ethics is immense. In the chapters that follow, I do not try to canvass every topic in the field, nor do I cover any topic comprehensively. Instead, I try to discuss the ideas that a newcomer to the subject should encounter first.

The chapters may be read independently of one another; they are, in effect, separate essays on separate topics. Thus, someone who is interested in Ethical Egoism could go straight to Chapter 5 and find a self-contained introduction to that theory. When read in order, however, the chapters tell a more or less continuous story.

The first chapter presents a “minimum conception” of what morality is; the middle chapters cover the most important ethical theories; and the last chapter presents my own view of what a satisfactory moral theory would be like.

However, the point of this book is not to provide a neat, uni-fied account of “the truth” about ethics. That would be a poor way to introduce the subject. Philosophy is not like physics. In physics, there is a large body of accepted truth that beginners must master.

Of course, there are unresolved controversies in physics, but these take place against a backdrop of broad agreement. In philosophy, by contrast, everything is controversial—or almost everything.

Some of the fundamental issues are still up for grabs. Newcomers to philosophy may ask themselves whether a moral theory such as Utilitarianism seems correct. However, newcomers to physics are rarely encouraged to make up their own minds about the laws of thermodynamics.

A good introduction to ethics will not try to hide that somewhat embarrassing fact.


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In these pages, you will find a survey of contending ideas, theories, and arguments. My own views, no doubt, color the presentation. I find some of these proposals more appealing than others, and a philosopher who made different assessments would no doubt write a different book. But I try to present the contending ideas fairly, and, when I pass judgment on an argument, I try to explain why. Philosophy, like morality itself, is first and last an exercise in reason; we should embrace the ideas, positions, and theories that our best arguments support.

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About the Ninth Edition

In this edition, sex and drugs get more coverage. The section on same-sex relations (3.5) now discusses gay marriage, adoption rights, employment rights, Russia’s “gay propaganda laws,” teenage suicide, and hate crimes. The section on marijuana (7.3) now dips into the opioid crisis, the origins of the Drug War, the utilitarian rejection of “evil pleasures,” the relationship between state law and federal law, and the harms of tobacco and alcohol abuse.

Here and there, the book has been updated to reflect recent events. For example, the concept of prejudice is now illustrated with a quotation from Donald Trump (5.4), and Mike Pence now represents opposition to gay rights (3.1). Some updates reflect a world that is increasingly online. For

example, the importance of finding reliable sources of information is now discussed solely in terms of internet searches (1.5).

A few thoughts have been added to existing discussions. We now say that different societies may share some of the same values due to their shared human nature (at the end of 2.6), and we now qualify the claim that morality is “natural for human beings” on the grounds that morality may require humans to be unnaturally benevolent (13.1).

The initial explanation of the Principle of Utility now includes the phrase, “maximize happiness” (7.1). The dilemma in which absolute rules might conflict is now about a situation faced by doctors in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, instead of about Dutch fisherman having to lie during World War II (9.4).

Gone are Kurt Baier’s argument that Ethical Egoism is logically inconsistent (from 5.4) and the examples of animal experimentation (from 7.4). I’ve also dropped the claim in Chapter 4 that Exodus 21 supports a liberal view of abortion, because I am no longer sure how to interpret that passage.


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Finally, the age of the universe has been revised to reflect recent findings in astronomy (13.1).

For their help, I thank Caleb Andrews, Seth Bordner, Janice Daurio, Micah Davis, Daniel Hollingshead, Kaave Lajevardi, Cayce Moore, Howard Pospesel, John Rowell, Mike Vincke, and Chase Wrenn. My biggest thanks go to my wife, Professor Heather Elliott, and to my mother, Carol Rachels, for their tremendous help down the stretch.

My father, James Rachels, wrote the first four editions of The Elements of Moral Philosophy. It is still his book.

—Stuart Rachels

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What Is Morality?

We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.

SocrateS, in Plato’S Republic (ca. 390 b.c.)

1.1. The Problem of Definition

Moral philosophy is the study of what morality is and what it requires of us. As Socrates said, it’s about “how we ought to live”—

and why. It would be helpful if we could begin with a simple, uncontroversial definition of what morality is. Unfortunately, we cannot.

There are many rival theories, each expounding a different conception of what it means to live morally, and any definition that goes beyond Socrates’s simple formulation is bound to offend at least one of them.

This should make us cautious, but it need not paralyze us. In this chapter, I will describe the “minimum conception” of morality.

As the name suggests, the minimum conception is a core that every moral theory should accept, at least as a starting point. First, however, we will examine some moral controversies having to do with handicapped children. This discussion will bring out the features of the minimum conception.

1.2. First Example: Baby Theresa

Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, an infant known to the public as “Baby Theresa,” was born in Florida in 1992. Baby Theresa had anencephaly, one of the worst genetic disorders. Anencephalic infants are sometimes referred to as “babies without brains,” but that is not quite 1

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accurate. Important parts of the brain—the cerebrum and cerebellum—

are missing, as is the top of the skull. The brain stem, however, is still there, and so the baby can breathe and possess a heartbeat. In the United States, most cases of anencephaly are detected during pregnancy, and the fetuses are usually aborted. Of those not aborted, half are stillborn. Of those born alive, most die within days.

Baby Theresa’s story is remarkable only because her parents made an unusual request. Knowing that their baby would die soon and could never be conscious, Theresa’s parents volunteered her organs for immediate transplant. They thought that her kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and eyes should go to other children who could benefit from them. Her physicians agreed. Thousands of infants need transplants each year, and there are never enough organs available. However, Theresa’s organs were not taken, because Florida law forbids the removal of organs until the donor has died. And by the time Baby Theresa died, nine days later, it was too late—her organs had deteriorated too much to be transplanted.

Baby Theresa’s case was widely debated. Should she have been killed so that her organs could have been used to save other children?

A number of professional “ethicists”—people who get paid by universities, hospitals, and law schools to think about such things—were asked by the press to comment. Most of them disagreed with the parents, instead appealing to time-honored philosophical principles.

“It just seems too horrifying to use people as means to other people’s ends,” said one such expert. Another explained: “It’s unethical to kill person A to save person B.” And a third added: “What the parents are really asking for is, Kill this dying baby so that its organs may be used for someone else. Well, that’s really a horrendous proposition.”

Is it horrendous? Opinions were divided. These ethicists thought it was, while the parents and doctors did not. But we are interested in more than what people happen to believe. We want to know what’s true. Were the parents right or wrong to volunteer their baby’s organs for transplant? To answer this question, we have to ask what reasons, or arguments, can be given on each side. What can be said for or against the parents’ request?

The Benefits Argument. The parents believed that Theresa’s organs were doing her no good, because she was not conscious and was rac14259_ch01_001-013.indd 2

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bound to die soon. The other children, however, could be helped.

Thus, the parents seem to have reasoned: If we can benefit someone without harming anyone else, then we ought to do so. Transplanting the organs would benefit the other children without harming Baby Theresa.

Therefore, we ought to transplant the organs.

Is this correct? Not every argument is sound. In addition to knowing what arguments can be given for a view, we also want to know whether those arguments are any good. Generally speaking, an argument is sound Plagiarism Free Papers

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