Guns, race, and human rights are among the varied ethical issues tackled in a wide-ranging collection.
New York Times online opinion editor Catapano and philosophy professor Critchley (The New School) have selected more than 40 essays from their previous collection, The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments (2015) and added more than 30 recent pieces from the Times’ “Stone” column, all focused specifically on ethics. A trimmer collection than The Stone Reader, this one, the editors believe, will have more appeal for classroom use. The essays are grouped into a dozen categories: existence, human nature, morality, religion, government, citizenship, guns, race, gender, family, eating, and the future. Topics range from the broad (the meaning of life) to the specific (should we eat animals?). No previous knowledge of philosophy is required to follow the writers’ arguments, and many essays are likely to spur interest in the philosophers discussed. In “How Should We Respond to Evil?” for example, Episcopal priest Steven Paulikas brings in French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who believed that responses to evil must be focused on alleviating victims’ suffering rather than on revenge; Paulikas contrasts that view with that of Bill O’Reilly, who announced on The Late Show that the proper response to evil is “destroy it.” Besides Ricoeur, other philosophers discussed include Aristotle, Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, William James, and Bertrand Russell. Moral relativism recurs as a theme: Adam Etinson, writing about the problem of ethnocentricity, cites Montaigne, who noticed humans’ tendency to privilege their own cultural beliefs and practices over those of other cultures, an issue also considered by philosopher and historian Justin E. H. Smith in “Philosophy’s Western Bias.” Philosophy professor Carol Rovane offers a proposal for resolving moral differences by examining “different moral circumstances” for which individuals “need quite different moral truths.” Overall, the volume asks readers to examine their own contexts and biases for making ethical decisions and judging the behavior of others.
An accessible volume of thoughtful, concise contributions.