Applied Ethics Primer
  • Print Publication Date: July 14, 2023
  • eBook Publication Date: June 15, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554816149 / 1554816149
  • 100 pages; 6" x 9"

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Applied Ethics Primer

  • Print Publication Date: July 14, 2023
  • eBook Publication Date: June 15, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554816149 / 1554816149
  • 100 pages; 6" x 9"

The Applied Ethics Primer offers a concise introduction to both basic argumentation and normative ethical theory. The concepts discussed reflect the ethical theories that currently ground most professional ethics codes and debates in applied ethics. More inclusive than many similar resources, this primer gives students a sense of the truly global history of ethics, while remaining squarely focused on providing practical tools for ethical decision-making.


“This text is phenomenal, and very dearly needed. It provides an accessible window into ethical theories and traditions, treating theories as ‘lenses’ through which we focus on morally relevant perceptions. What I especially appreciate is the care taken to move beyond traditional western philosophy and to show how these lenses are present in other cultural traditions, including Indigenous, African, and Asian value frameworks. With the Applied Ethics Primer, students will be empowered to hit the ground running, without having to slog through needlessly complex and narrow conceptions of ethical theory. I will definitely adopt this book in all of my applied ethics courses.” — Kira Tomsons, Douglas College

“Kudos to Letitia Meynell and Clarisse Paron for distilling complex moral theories into remarkably clear lenses that readers can use to engage in productive reflection and dialogue. This comprehensive and yet concise introduction goes beyond the usual western philosophical theories by offering readers a taste of the global history and dimensions of applied ethics. It’s an excellent introductory text and resource for anyone interested in thinking through thorny ethical issues in our complex world.” — Anita Ho, University of British Columbia and University of California, San Francisco

“Letitia Meynell and Clarisse Paron have produced an inclusive and engaging introduction to moral reasoning and applied ethics, suitable for use in a wide range of undergraduate ethics courses. Unlike other texts in this area, the Applied Ethics Primer includes feminist and global perspectives on moral reasoning, while clearly covering mainstream and western moral theories.” — Samantha Brennan, University of Guelph

“This primer has the potential to bring long overdue changes to how ethics is taught. Meynell and Paron provide philosophy teachers with the opportunity to engage students in critical reflection about the many starting points (lenses) we use in western democracies. They explain how people can arrive at the same answers using different lenses, and why there can be mild or strong disagreement about whose answer is correct. By including non-western lenses, the authors open the door for students to learn more about other traditions in their inter-philosophy dialogues.” — Sandra Tomsons, Co-Editor of the Canadian Journal of Practical Philosophy

Part I: Introduction

  • 1. Moral Response and Reflection
    • 1.1 Moral Response
    • 1.2 Reflection
    • 1.3 Disagreement
  • 2. Reason and Argument
    • 2.1 Reason
    • 2.2 How to Evaluate Philosophical Arguments
    • 2.3 How to Engage in Productive Debates
    • 2.4 Public Reason

Part II: Ethical Lenses

  • 3. Focus on Consequences
    • 3.1 Mohism
    • 3.2 Utilitarianism
    • 3.3 Final Considerations about Approaches that Focus on Consequences
    • Further Reading
  • 4. Focus on Action (and Duty)
    • 4.1 Duties Based on Roles
    • 4.2 Duties Based on Past Actions
    • 4.3 Duties Based on Reason Alone—The Categorical Imperative
    • 4.4 Final Considerations about Approaches that Focus on Action
    • Further Reading
  • 5. Focus on Character (and Virtues)
    • 5.1 The Good Life, According to Aristotle
    • 5.2 The Good Life, According to Buddhism
    • 5.3 The Exemplar of a Virtuous Person
    • Further Reading
  • 6. Focus on Relations
    • 6.1 Focus on Personal Relationships
    • 6.2 Focus on Political Relations
    • 6.3 Focus on Communal Relations
    • 6.4 Focus on All My Relations
    • Further Reading
  • 7. Reflections on the Ethical Lenses

Part III: Beyond the Ethical Lenses

  • 8. Ahimsa
    • Further Reading
  • 9. Rights and Privileges
    • 9.1 Categorization of Rights
    • 9.2 Privileges
    • 9.3 Rightsholders
    • 9.4 The Function of Rights
    • 9.5 Objections to a Rights Approach
    • Further Reading

Part IV: Final Thoughts

  • 10. Self-Regarding Attitudes
    • 10.1 Selfishness and Self-Interest
    • 10.2 Exceptionalism
    • 10.3 Moral Licensing
    • Further Reading
  • 11. Helpful Heuristics
    • 11.1 Conclusion

Appendix A: Tips for Reading Philosophy Actively

  • 1. Pre-reading
  • 2. Reading
  • 3. Re-reading
  • Reading Philosophy Actively Worksheet

Appendix B: Critical Thinking Worksheet (ARG Assessment)

  • Breakdown of ARG Assessment
  • Interactive Critical Thinking Worksheet
  • Critical Thinking Worksheet


Letitia Meynell is Professor of Philosophy at Dalhousie University. Clarisse Paron is a doctoral student at Dalhousie University.

  • • Concise and approachable, offering just the right amount of material to apply theory to practice.
  • • Pays greater attention to non-western traditions and ideas, discussing concepts such as Ahimsa and filial piety.
  • • Major approaches are examined with reference to more than one tradition: for example, consequentialism is introduced by way of both Mohism and English utilitarianism; virtue ethics is introduced through Aristotle and Buddhism.
  • • A “Critical Thinking Worksheet” is included—a useful tool for making and assessing arguments.
  • • A brief guide to active reading is included as an appendix.
  • • Teaching notes and supplemental quiz questions are available to instructors who assign this book.
  • • An online version of Applied Ethics Primer is also available as a free Open Educational Resource.