Human beings have developed and defended various systems of ethics throughout history. Learning how these have changed over time and are commonly perceived is key to understanding humanity itself. This collection of classic works on ethics captures a cross section of insights from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. A variety of volumes from philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists examine the meaning of goodness, inspect the moral impact of the modern world’s mass atrocities, and survey the major philosophical schools of morality and ethics.
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Written at the beginning of the twentieth-century—during the early years of formal sociology—this study from psychologist Mary Whiton Calkins empirically examines, “the dutiful, the good, the virtuous man and his object.” Calkins targets the serious general reader with “clear conception, accurate statement, and consistent terminology.” Calkins’ work is an engaging glimpse into early sociology and a thorough study of early twentieth-century ethics in the aftermath of the Great War.
Mary Whiton Calkins (1863–1930) was an American philosopher and psychologist—the first woman president of the American Psychological Association. She was research professor at Wellesley College. Though she completed all of the requirements for her PhD and was endorsed by the entire faculty at Harvard, university president Charles William Eliot refused to grant her a degree because she was a woman.
Problems of Conduct: An Introductory Survey of Ethics
This introductory text examines the moral problems the modern world has faced on a mass scale. Author Durant Drake focuses on the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War I, Prohibition, and women’s suffrage. This volume is a valuable resource for understanding the ethical problems of modernity and the history of the ethical controversies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Durant Drake earned his MA from Harvard and his PhD from Columbia University and was professor of philosophy at Vassar College. He wrote several introductory volumes in moral and religious philosophy.
A proponent of historical teleology and an ethical evolution, French philosopher Lucien Levy-Bruhl approaches ethics and human conscience as a science—believing they can be studied just as the natural sciences. Levy-Bruhl’s work provides a fascinating look into the modernist philosophy of history, and gives insight into theories that would develop later in the twentieth century.
Lucien Levy-Bruhl (1857–1939) was a French philosopher and early sociologist. His ideas of collective representation influenced the psychological theory of Carl Gustav Jung.
Introduction to Ethics: Including a Critical Survey of Moral Systems, vol. 1
In this work, French philosopher and author Theodore Jouffroy surveys the history of moral philosophy. The first volume includes an introduction to ethics as a science, Baruch Spinoza’s system of pantheism, Thomas Hobbes “selfish system,” and the modern skeptical system. Jouffroy writes in an engaging, concise style which elegantly introduces these thinkers and their philosophical systems.
Theodore Jouffroy (1796–1842) was a French philosopher. He is best known for his enthusiastic popular expositions of philosophical and critical systems.
Introduction to Ethics: Including a Critical Survey of Moral Systems, vol. 2
Written during philosophy’s transition into a professional discipline, this introduction looks at the foundations of ethics as a science. Professor John H. Muirhead begins with basic questions about why philosophy must exist, if it can be a science, and whether it can be said to progress. He surveys historical views on the purpose of philosophy, including hedonism, self-mastery, and advancing the common good. The Elements of Ethics is an elegant introduction to philosophy’s use as a social tool.
John H. Muirhead (1855–1940) was a Scottish philosopher and founder of the Muirhead Library of Philosophy. He was the first chair of philosophy at the University of Birmingham.
“Morality is, without doubt, the most human and urgent of all topics of study; and I should like, if possible, to make it appear so.”
Tired of the mire of “scholastic technicalities,” Harvard professor Ralph Barton Perry seeks to free ethics from its academic chains and examine it only as it pertains to human experience. Perry hopes to “connect ethical theory with every-day reflection on practical matters.” The Moral Economy is a refreshing and eminently readable perspective that recaptures philosophy for the general population.
Ralph Barton Perry (1876–1957) was an American philosopher. He was Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University and president of the American Philosophical Association’s eastern division. He was a leader of the New Realism movement and won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of William James.
Four Phases of Morals: Socrates, Aristotle, Christianity, Utilitarianism
A distinguished classicist and professor of Greek, John Stuart Blackie surveys the history of moral theory from its ancient beginnings in Athens. Four Phases of Morals is grounded in historical research, avoiding abstract discussion. Blackie adresses several issues in light of nineteenth-century British politics, making his work a valuable window into the moral climate of the British Empire near its height.
John Stuart Blackie (1809–1895) was a classicist, theologian, and Scottish nationalist. He studied theology at the University of Aberdeen and University of Göttingen, and was professor of Greek at Edinburgh University for 30 years.
Responding to William Paley on the “moral sense,” William Smith addresses the existence of an absolute right and wrong—regardless of consequences. Smith succinctly and precisely critiques Paley from a nonreligious perspective.
William Smith was a nineteenth-century English lawyer and philosopher.