Readings in Ethics
Moral Wisdom Past and Present
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554813643 / 1554813646
  • 600 pages; 7¾" x 9¼"

Note on pricing.

Ebook will also be available for purchase upon publication.

Request Exam Copy

Availability: Canada & the US

Readings in Ethics

Moral Wisdom Past and Present

  • Publication Date: May 31, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554813643 / 1554813646
  • 600 pages; 7¾" x 9¼"

Readings in Ethics offers a vast collection of carefully edited readings arranged chronologically across five historical periods. The selections cover many major Western and non-Western schools of thought, including Daoism, virtue ethics, Buddhism, natural law, deontology, utilitarianism, contractarianism, liberalism, Marxism, feminism, and communitarianism. In addition to texts from canonical philosophers such as Plato, Mill, Wollstonecraft, and Rawls, the volume draws from other sources of wisdom: stories, fables, proverbs, medieval mystical treatises, literature, and poetry. The editors have also written substantial introductions, annotations, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading, making for a thorough guided tour of our ethical past and present.


Readings in Ethics contains a generous sample of moral reasoning from many traditions, expressed in proverbs, folk tales, scriptures, and sophisticated philosophical texts. The numerous primary sources, enriched with editorial comment and provocative questions, are sure to stimulate lively classroom discussion.” — Glen Koehn, Huron University College at Western University

Preface: For Instructors
Introduction: For Students
Historical Timeline of Ethical Theories

Part I. Early Sources

  • Chapter 1. The Wisdom in Customary Laws
    • Reading 1A: The Decisions of Hammurabi
    • Reading 1B: Excerpts from the written Torah
  • Chapter 2. The Wisdom in Proverbs
    • Reading 2A: Ancient Jewish Proverbs
    • Reading 2B: Historical Chinese Proverbs
    • Reading 2C: Additional Traditional Chinese Proverbs
    • Reading 2D: Rural Hindi Proverbs
  • Chapter 3. The Wisdom in the Warrior Ethic
    • Reading 3: The Iliad, Book 22
  • Chapter 4: The Wisdom in Indigenous Stories
    • Reading 4A: “The Warrior Maiden,” from the Oneida
    • Reading 4B: “The Greed of the Old Man and His Wife,” a Masai Tale
    • Reading 4C: “Little Rabbit Fights the Sun,” from the Ute
    • Reading 4D: “Incestuous Dangidjara” (Australia)

Part II. Ancient Sources

  • Chapter 5. Early Daoism
    • Reading 5: Excerpts from the Lǎozǐ
  • Chapter 6. Confucius
    • Reading 6A: Kǒngzǐ, K’ung Tzŭ Chia Yü (The School Sayings of Confucius)
    • Reading 6B: Kongzi, the Lunyu (the Analects)
  • Chapter 7. Mencius
    • Reading 7: Mencius, The Mengzi
  • Chapter 8. Buddhism
    • Reading 8: Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, Discourses from the Sutta Pitaka Majjhima Nikaya
  • Chapter 9. Aesop’s Fables
    • Reading 9A: The Life of Aesop by Robert L’Estrange
    • Reading 9B: Aesop, Selected Fables and logoi
  • Chapter 10. Socrates
    • Reading 10A: Plato, Gorgias
    • Reading 10B: Plato, Apology
  • Chapter 11. Plato
    • Reading 11A: Plato, “The Rational Self and Tripartite Soul”
    • Reading 11B: Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave”
    • Reading 11C: Plato, Seventh Letter
  • Chapter 12. The Greek Sophists
    • Reading 12A: Anonymous, Dissoi Logoi: Two-Fold or Contrasting Arguments
    • Reading 12B: Antiphon, Truth
    • Reading 12C: “Protagoras” from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
    • Reading 12D: Plato, Protagoras
    • Reading 12E: Plato, Gorgias
  • Chapter 13. Aristotle
    • Reading 13: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Chapter 14. Skepticism
    • Reading 14A: “Pyrrho” from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
    • Reading 14B: Aristocles of Messene, Peri philosophias (On Philosophy)
    • Reading 14C: Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrhoniae Hypotyposes (Outlines of Pyrrhonism)
  • Chapter 15. Epicureanism
    • Reading 15A: “Epicurus” from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
    • Reading 15B: Lucretius, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things)
  • Chapter 16. Stoicism
    • Reading 16A: “Zeno of Citium” from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
    • Reading 16B: Epictetus, Enchiridion
    • Reading 16C: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Chapter 17. Jesus of Nazareth
    • Reading 17A: Jesus of Nazareth, “The Sermon on the Mount” and Other Excerpts from the Gospel of Matthew
    • Reading 17B: Jesus of Nazareth, “The Widow’s Mite” from the Gospel of Mark
    • Reading 17C: Paul, “First Letter to the Corinthians”
  • Chapter 18. The Desert Fathers and Mothers
    • Reading 18A: Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony the Anchorite
    • Reading 18B: Apophthegmata of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Part III. Medieval Sources

  • Chapter 19. The Jewish Tradition
    • Reading 19: Moses Maimonides, Part III of The Guide for the Perplexed
  • Chapter 20. Christian Neo-Platonism
    • Reading 20A: Augustine, The Confessions
    • Reading 20B: Augustine of Hippo, The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love
  • Chapter 21. Abelard and Heloise
    • Reading 21A: Abelard, Ethica or Scito te ipsum (“Ethics: Know Thyself”)
    • Reading 21B: Heloise, Letters from Heloise
  • Chapter 22. Medieval Mysticism
    • Reading 22A: Catherine of Siena, Letters
    • Reading 22B: Anonymous, A Book Of Contemplation The Which Is Called The Cloud Of Unknowing, In The Which a Soul Is Oned With God
    • Reading 22C: Thomas Haemmerlein, De Imitatione Christi (Of the Imitation of Christ)
    • Reading 22D: Teresa of Avila, The Life of Teresa of Jesus
  • Chapter 23. Thomas Aquinas
    • Reading 23: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Chapter 24. The Islamic Tradition
    • Reading 24A: The Qur’an
    • Reading 24B: Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī, The Book of Fear and Hope

Part IV. Modern Sources

  • Chapter 25. Neo-Confucianism
    • Reading 25A: From the Ch’uan-hsi lu, a Memoir of Wáng Yáng-míng
    • Reading 25B: Wáng Yáng-míng, Inquiry on the Great Learning
  • Chapter 26. Social Contract Theory
    • Reading 26A: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
    • Reading 26B: John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
  • Chapter 27. Anti-Moralism
    • Reading 27: Bernard de Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees
  • Chapter 28. The Anglican Tradition
    • Reading 28: Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel
  • Chapter 29. Emotivism
    • Reading 29A: David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
    • Reading 29B: David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
  • Chapter 30. Kantian Deontology
    • Reading 30A: Immanuel Kant, The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
    • Reading 30B: Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Practical Reason
    • Reading 30C: Immanuel Kant, “On the Supposed Right to Lie from Benevolent Motives”
  • Chapter 31. Utilitarianism
    • Reading 31A: Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
    • Reading 31B: John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
    • Reading 31C: William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
  • Chapter 32. Early Feminism
    • Reading 32A: Some Passages Concerning the Person, Character, Manner of Living and Government of Christina Queen of Sweden by Father Mannerschied SJ
    • Reading 32B: Maxims and Sentences of Christina Queen of Sweden; Being the Employment of Her Leisure Hours
    • Reading 32C: Olympe de Gouges, Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen
    • Reading 32D: Sojourner Truth, Speech Delivered at the Akron, Ohio Convention on Women’s Rights
  • Chapter 33. Pessimism
    • Reading 33A: Arthur Schopenhauer, Über die Grundlage der Moral (The Basis of Morality)
    • Reading 33B: Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World”
    • Reading 33C: Arthur Schopenhauer, “Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit” (“Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life”)
  • Chapter 34. Theistic Existentialism
    • Reading 34A: Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life
    • Reading 34B: Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
  • Chapter 35. Marxism
    • Reading 35A: Karl Marx, Essays
    • Reading 35B: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party
  • Chapter 36. Liberalism
    • Reading 36A: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
    • Reading 36B: John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
    • Reading 36C: Harriet Taylor Mill, from “The Enfranchisement of Women”
  • Chapter 37. Beyond Morality
    • Reading 37A: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
    • Reading 37B: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power: An Attempted Transvaluation of All Values

Part V. Contemporary Sources

  • Chapter 38. Non-Cognitivism
    • Reading 38A: G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica
    • Reading 38B: A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic
  • Chapter 39. Rights-Based Liberalism
    • Reading 39A: Gregory J. Walters, “Human Rights in Historical Overview”
    • Reading 39B: Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
    • Reading 39C: Christine Korsgaard, “A Kantian Case for Animal Rights”
  • Chapter 40. Contemporary Contractarianism
    • Reading 40A: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
    • Reading 40B: Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
  • Chapter 41. Libertarianism and Conservatism
    • Reading 41A: Jan Narveson, The Libertarian Idea
    • Reading 41B: John Kekes, A Case for Conservatism
  • Chapter 42. Communitarianism
    • Reading 42A: Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity
    • Reading 42B: Amitai Etzioni, “Communitarianism Revisited”
    • Reading 42C: Ifeanyi Menkiti, “Person and Community in African Traditional Thought”
  • Chapter 43. Contemporary Virtue Ethics
    • Reading 43A: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
    • Reading 43B: Philippa Foot, “Virtues and Vices”
  • Chapter 44. Atheistic Existentialism
    • Reading 44A: Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism
    • Reading 44B: Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
  • Chapter 45. Contemporary Feminism
    • Reading 45A: Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex)
    • Reading 45B: Virginia Held, “Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory”
    • Reading 45C: Tram Nguyen, “From SlutWalks to SuicideGirls: Feminist Resistance in the Third Wave and Postfeminist Era”
  • Chapter 46. Contemporary Religious Alternatives
    • Reading 46A: Robert M. Adams, “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief”
    • Reading 46B: Carlton Fisher, “Because God Says So”
    • Reading 46C: Parliament of the World’s Religions, Declaration Toward a Global Ethic
  • Chapter 47. Psychological Theories of Morality
    • Reading 47A: Lawrence Kohlberg, From The Philosophy of Moral Development
    • Reading 47B: Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development
  • Chapter 48. Contemporary Science and Morality
  • Reading 48A: Interview with Richard Rorty
  • Reading 48B: Jonathan Haidt, “The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology”
  • Reading 48C: Nick Bostrom, “Transhumanist Values”

Epilogue: The New Cosmopolitanism

Dictionary of Technical Terms

Louis F. Groarke is Professor of Philosophy at St. Francis Xavier University.

Paul V. Groarke, retired from St. Thomas University, is affiliated with the philosophy department at St. Francis Xavier University.

Paolo C. Biondi is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sudbury College (Laurentian University).

  • • An extraordinarily broad survey of the history of ethical, social, and political thought
  • • Includes over 100 readings representative of 48 different historical and contemporary traditions
  • • Canonical works of philosophy are presented alongside religious texts, stories, fables, poems, and other literature
  • • Readings have been thoroughly and carefully edited so as to provide the core ideas of each text in a concise and accessible format
  • • Unfamiliar references and concepts are annotated in footnotes
  • • The editors have provided detailed introductions to each tradition, as well as discussion questions and suggestions for further reading