HISTORY OF ETHICS by Vernon J. Bourke


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A history of ethics is not a book that one reads for pleasure but for instruction. From that standpoint, Professor Bourke's work fills a hitherto distressing gap in that it provides a synthetic survey of the history of the science ""of moral duty"" or ""of the ideal human character."" The standard work on the subject, Sidgwick's Outlines, is almost a century old, while the only recent notable work, McIntyre's A Short History of Ethics, is more concerned with presenting the thought of the most important ethical scientists than in surveying the field as a whole. Bourke's work, on the other hand, not only updates that of Sidgwick, but also covers the work of many thinkers and schools that McIntyre passed over in silence. It is divided into five parts, each covering a chronological era in ethical thought (Graeco-Roman, Patristic and Medieval, Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary), and each era is subdivided into ""schools."" Bourke's treatment is expository rather than critical; he gives an objective presentation of each theory without attempting to evaluate it in terms of his own (Roman Catholic) convictions. The work will therefore be suitable for use by teachers and students of any religious conviction or of none at all, and it may be highly recommended to that audience as an objective and complete treatment of the subject. The exhaustive bibliography alone is worth the price.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1968
Publisher: Doubleday