A Short History of Ethics: A History of Moral Philosophy from the Homeric Age to the Twentieth Century

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A Short History of Ethics is a significant contribution written by one of the most important living philosophers. For the second edition Alasdair MacIntyre has included a new preface in which he examines his book "thirty years on" and considers its impact. It remains an important work, ideal for all students interested in ethics and morality.
"The second edition of this classic will be more widely read than the first, one expects, if only because in the intervening three decades the author has become perhaps the most important moral philosopher in the English-speaking world." —First Things
"This brilliant and provocative book is not so much a history of ethics as it is an essay about the history of ethics, with numerous examples. . . ." —Philosophical Review
". . . MacIntyre is always provocative, and this book will continue to excite engagement with fundamental moral issues." —Choice

Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 2 edition (February 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026801759X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268017590
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces

Customer Reviews

fine discussion of (western) moral theory and its history

3 people found this helpful.
 on August 15, 2012
This is a fine discussion of (western) moral theory and its history up to the early twentieth century. It may not be the best short introduction to the history of ethics, but it is perceptive and serviceable.

Excellent, Profound Work

 on September 24, 2017
By Andre
Excellent! Reread the chapters on Greek ethics twice on the first read and a third time afterwards. Worth it just for that section. Great concise explanations for such a large body of work (Homer to Socrates-Plato-Aristotle). Cannot recommend enough. Much food for thought. Whatever the works shortcomings in covering so much, it’s clarity and incisive observations and exposition more than merit the work 5 stars.

Too much analysis, too little exposition, but it is a good read

5 people found this helpful.
 on March 29, 2009
By Jacob
Edit: I first read this book seven years ago. I now change some of my original observations. His section on Greek ethics is simply too good to warrant anything lower than a five star rating. I do think the writing is clunky at times and the last half of the book is very uneven, but it is still a fine survey.


One person found this helpful.
 on December 31, 2016
By mhshaw
Ethics is a complex field, covering both logical and pragmatic issues, and at the same time addressing issues in which we all have an interest. MacIntyre is a sane and serious guide.

Five Stars

 on February 24, 2015
By Gary E Smith
Purchased for textbook in class.

Five Stars

 on August 24, 2016
By Allison Budaj
As described. Fast shipping.

A Short History of Ethics.

3 people found this helpful.
 on October 10, 2005
By T. Philips
A classic of MacIntyre, written from his Aristotelian point of view.

good Job

 on March 5, 2013
By Dponder
I needed this book for an online class and I received it well within time limit. Thanks for speedy service!


6 people found this helpful.
 on March 20, 2012
By Amazon Customer
I wonder if the other reviewers who panned this book stuff their own shirts or send them out. I suspect that rather than disliking the book they dislike the message. MacIntyre uses this book to drop the bread crumbs to lead moderns back to the foundation of Western Civilization, which curiously enough takes us back to the beginning. “You shall not cease from exploration; and the end of your exploring will be to arrive where you started and to know the place for the first time.” MacIntyre is one of those philosophers who holds that there is a real world, that there are right and wrong choices for human beings, that we have screwed up our language and philosophical discourse to the point where they mean nothing and the only answer is to rectify our basic understanding, to recalibrate our thought to reality. I find the author to be difficult because his thought is so loaded with content and one must follow him carefully. DON’T BUY THE KINDLE EDITION YET. THE GREEK TERMS ARE DISTORED BY POOR SCANNING AND THERE ARE NUMBEROUS TYPOS (LIKE LEAVING OUT THE WORD “NOT” IN A SENTENCE).

Indispensible Classic For Students of Moral Philosophy

8 people found this helpful.
 on February 26, 2004
By cvairag
MacIntyre’s now classic history of moral theory was written in the highly individualistic years of the mid-late sixties. Today, MacIntyre is regarded as one of the world’s most significant moral philosophers, but when he wrote this book, few outside of the discipline had ever heard of him. No doubt, the book reflects MacIntyre’s strong opinions, but they are well-considered, deeply thought, and generally well-argued. Further, the nature of the project keeps MacIntyre in the mainstream of his subject, and the book provides an extremely comprehensive and relatively concise (270 pages) survey of the peaks in the development of western moral theory (which, despite the many claims of post-modern pundits, is still at the heart of the philosophic project as a whole). A number of MacIntyre’s arguments show a fascinating and appropriate application of Wittgenstein’s ideas, which, at the time of this writing, still basked in the glow of the apotheosis they had undergone in the 1950’s.

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