The Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels

6th edition (2010) by Stuart Rachels


The Elements of Moral Philosophy is an introduction to ethics. It is organized around the great moral theories--Utilitarianism, the Social Contract Theory, Kantianism, and so on--but it always turns to real-life examples to explain what these theories mean. The Elements of Moral Philosophy might be James Rachels' greatest achievement. It is the best-selling textbook in philosophy, partly because it does not seem like a textbook; it just seems like a great book. Elements achieves the double feat of appealing to students while teaching something to professors. James Rachels died in 2003, but this great thing he created will keep going.

Buy the book from Amazon.

Buy the book from Barnes & Noble.

Read my discussion of the (outdated) fifth edition.





About the Sixth Edition

Here are some links to information about the sixth edition:

Contents. The new table of contents.

Suggested Syllabus for Instructors. This syllabus combines The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 6/e, and The Right Thing to Do, 5/e.

Brief Description of Changes. Here's the description that's given in the book.

Shorter and Easier. The book is now shorter, using easier words.

Lengthy Description of Changes, Chapters 1-5. For those interested in the details.

Lengthy Description of Changes, Chapters 6-8. For those interested in more details.

Lengthy Description of Changes, Chapters 9-13. For those who can't get enough of the details.

94 Improved Sentences. These sentences are taken from chapters 1-5.

34 Improved Sentences. These sentences are taken from chapters 6-8.

78 Improved Sentences. These sentences are taken from chapters 9-13.

This site does not contain test questions, study guides, or lecture notes. Presumably, those must differ from class to class.




Giving Proper Credit

Heather Elliott helped me enormously in preparing the sixth edition. Or perhaps I helped her enormously. That's how helpful she was.

I thanked thirty-three people at the beginning of the book--in a general way--but then I recycled all of my correspondence, so I no longer know who suggested what. If you gave me an idea which I don't give you credit for on this website, please let me know (srachels@bama.ua.edu).



Update!

On p. 46, we say, "Many gay people want to marry, but in America, gay marriage is legal only in Massachusetts and Connecticut." Update: today gay marriage is also legal in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C.

On p. 51, we give Antony Flew's dates as (1923-). Flew died on April 8, 2010.


Email Me Your Thoughts


Are there errors in the book? How can I make it better? Please let me know. My address is srachels@bama.ua.edu. --Stuart Rachels