The Fundamentals of Ethics

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In The Fundamentals of Ethics, Second Edition, author Russ Shafer-Landau employs a uniquely engaging writing style to introduce students to the essential ideas of moral philosophy. Offering more comprehensive coverage of the good life, normative ethics, and metaethics than any other text of its kind, this book also addresses issues that are often omitted from other texts, such as the doctrine of doing and allowing, the doctrine of double effect, ethical particularism, the desire-satisfaction theory of well-being, and moral error theory. Shafer-Landau carefully reconstructs and analyzes dozens of arguments in depth, at a level that is understandable to students with no prior philosophical background.


* Discussion questions at the end of every chapter provide students with immediate ways to test their understanding of the material

* New, real-life extended examples reinforce the importance of the theories discussed in Chapters 4, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, and 19

* Greatly expanded coverage of moral rights (in Chapter 8) and of membership in the moral community (in Chapter 9)

* A new discussion of skepticism about morality in the Introduction

* An Instructor's Manual and Testbank on CD offers chapter summaries, more than 100 essay questions, more than 200 multiple-choice questions, and 200 PowerPoint-based lecture slides.

* A Companion Website at contains all the material from the Instructor's Manual along with students resources including 250 multiple-choice questions, a glossary, and helpful web links.

Ideal for courses in introductory ethics and contemporary moral problems, this book can be used as a stand-alone text or with the author's companion reader, The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Second Edition, which offers original readings on ethical theory and contemporary moral problems.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199773556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199773558
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces

Customer Reviews

The best philosophy textbook I have been assigned to read.

17 people found this helpful.
 on February 19, 2011
By A. Omelianchuk
Russ Shafer-Landau’s The Fundamentals of Ethics was just one of the books assigned in a semester’s worth of reading for my graduate studies. Philosophy texts are usually a chore to read, and many of them are quite boring. However, there was never an instance where I did not look forward to reading Fundamentals when I had to fulfill the week’s reading assignment. I cannot think of any other textbook I have owned that I could say that about!

The Fundamentals of Ethics – An Instructor’s Impressions

10 people found this helpful.
 on July 23, 2012
By Amazon Customer
I’m a graduate student/teaching fellow, and use this book with my introductory ethics students in addition to several primary sources. In my experience it does a good job introducing students to various approaches to ethics. Dr. Shafer-Landau does a very nice job of presenting strong cases + criticisms for positions without ever seeming biased. This book does what most introductory texts seem incapable of: forcing students to stop fence-sitting and choose an approach they find most convincing. I particularly liked the chapters on ethical pluralism, since my students often want to pick several parts of different theories and put them together.

Very Good, but Could Be a little Better

17 people found this helpful.
 on August 26, 2011
By T in Utah
After reading this Shafer-Landau’s 1st edition of the “The Fundamentals of Ethics” in its entirety, I can say it is definitely a very good survey text of ethical theory. That said, it also has a few weaknesses that deserve noting.

Why Moral Objectivism is (almost) certainly true.

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 22, 2015
By W. Cheung
This great book starts by demonstrating that neither hedonism nor desire-satisfaction provides a sound foundation to a value theory. It then explores utilitarianism, Kantian categorical imperatives and contractarianism in depth, and highlights their respective deficiency. As none of these competing normative theories is complete, an intuitionist approach based on prima facie duties needs to be considered. The book then points out that all the aforementioned theories fail to address the issue of moral character, and virtue ethics may therefore complement them. Finally, the author makes a good case that relativism and nihilism are almost certainly false. Five stars.

Shafe gives us a good primer on ethics

4 people found this helpful.
 on December 20, 2013
By Cornell
This is just the first edition and I notice that the second edition came out only two years later, however I still think this book is worth the cheap price that it is being sold for.

It is a beautiful illustration of logic

One person found this helpful.
 on August 2, 2016
By Amazon Customer
It is a beautiful illustration of logic. He weaves long-held contentions of philosophy through this rubric and engages students with mental gymnastics. I am less than half way through the book and I cannot put it down. It is great book for college students.

Easy and concise. Good flow but no depth.

One person found this helpful.
 on July 13, 2015
By Mário Kistenmacher Rodrigues
The book is really simple and easy to read. The author exposes the main approaches to ethics, presenting the underlying principles of each in concise formal statements. He always shows the advantages of each ethical theory followed by arguments against it. The last part of the book deals briefly with metaethics. I recommend for the beginner who seeks a quick and enjoyable understanding of the topic. For that same reason, one shouldn’t expect depth in the discussion, and there are very few excerpts from the classical works in moral philosophy.

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