This book seeks to demonstrate that ethics is not subjective, that ethics has relevance to business and the professions as well as to everyday life, and that no more practical question can be asked than, "What is ethics?"


Is it possible to philosophize in 700 words or less?

Dedication to a Colleague

Has deciding right from wrong become a technical question?

Dedication to My Students

What are the unexamined assumptions underlying my own presence at the university?

Part I: Evasions

Many social scientists maintain that their disciplines will tell us everything we could hope to know about how we should live our lives. I hold, to the contrary, that one's view of life is essentially incomplete if one does not recognize a distinct ethical dimension. In this section, therefore, I highlight ethical features of everyday life, including the work place. I also consider some of the many strategies people employ, however unintentionally, to ignore the ethical dimension: hence the title, "Evasions."

Last Class

What does it mean to say, "I know this is wrong, but I must do it anyway"?

Ethics on the Scales

Is ethics just another consideration in decision-making, to be weighed in the balance along with economic and other factors?

"That's Just Your Opinion"

Is ethics subjective?

"Says Who?"

Who decides what is right?

It's Legal, But Is It Ethical?

Does the law tell us what it is right or wrong to do?

Privatizing Ethics

Should we keep our ethical beliefs to ourselves lest we infringe on the right of others to hold theirs?

"I Don't Want to Argue!"

Should we avoid arguing about right and wrong?

A Bump on the Head

Is suffering always deserved?

Moral Magic

Are good people always innocent?

The Eye of the Beholder

What makes something an ethical issue?

Ethicist, Heal Thyself

Do ethicists have a built-in excuse for not taking stands?

Part II: Theories

Having argued in Part I that right and wrong constitute a genuine subject matter, I proceed in Part II to consider some time-honored suggestions about what sorts of things, considered in the most general terms, actually are right or wrong. This group of essays is labeled "Theories" because these are the traditional media for deciding such questions.


Is unselfishness just a higher form of selfishness?

The Consequentialist Continuum, Part 1

Who matters?

Let Us Boldly Go: The Consequentialist Continuum, Part 2

Do Martians matter?

Moral Identity: The Consequentialist Continuum, Part 3

What's your theory?

Ersatz Ethics: The Consequentialist Continuum, Part 4

Is every "philosophy of life" an ethics?

"Ought" Implies Kant

Does the end justify the means?

"Heil Schicklgruber"?

Do we know what we're doing?

Zen Awareness

Does being more aware make one more moral?

The Kitchen Sink

Is there a right way to wash the dishes?

Part III: Stands

Illustrations of ethical analyses of practical issues.

Off the Hook?

Is it OK to deceive so long as you don't lie?

Guns and Jobs

Does saving jobs trump all other considerations?

A Cock and Bull Argument

Should we refrain from criticizing another culture's practices?

Why Cheating Is Wrong

Is it wrong to cheat in an ethics class?

Why Are We Here?

Do college students need to study ethics?

Part IV: Hazards

The essays in this part take a personal turn in response to the suspicion that ethics tells us more about ethicists than about any presumed real feature of the world.

Occupational Hazards of an Ethicist

Is being an ethicist a hopelessly compromising occupation?

Sitting While Standing

If a philosophy professor can't make up his mind about ethical issues, how can a business major be expected to make up hers?


Is self-interest my real motive for being kind to the neighbors?

Honest to a Fault

Is ethical-mindedness more a personality trait than a virtue?


What kind of an argument is "Feel her belly"?


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