In one of my previous blog posts I tried to give you an overview of what my Master’s program is all about. Ethics is such a broad term that it might be quite difficult to grasp what we actually discuss in class. At least I remember it was for me. Before and during my studies I have read some non-scholarly books that present the topic quite well, and give a nice idea of what (Applied) Ethics is all about.
In this blog post I want to share my favorite books with those of you who want to learn more about the field before they start studying or those who are just interested in exploring a very applied and relevant field of philosophy.
All the books I have chosen are easy to understand and are not academic books. They are written for a broad audience and are thus easy to understand for everyone!
So here comes my list: Enjoy! 🙂
Richard David Precht: Who am I and if so how many? (Wer bin ich und wenn ja wie viele?)
Richard David Precht is a famous German philosopher and author of popular science books. His book „Who am I and if so how many“ is his biggest success and was therefore also translated to English. In this book, Precht takes you on a journey through the milestones of philosophy in a funny and relatable way. Even though the book is not entirely about ethics, quite a big part of it is devoted to this field and almost every major theory is touched. If you have no background of philosophy whatsoever this book is a nice and easy introduction into the field and will give you a good idea about what philosophical ethics is all about.
Peter Singer: Ethics in the real world
I have already mentioned Peter Singer in my older post, and it is an absolute necessity to also include him in this list. Peter Singer is the most popular, and also one of the most influential ethicists of our time. While being widely critisized for some of his views, he has shaped the field immensely! This book is especially nice because it consists of 80+ short essays of Singer, that are no longer than 8 pages each. The book is structured into different chapters covering various topics. For each topic Singer then selected a number of essays that he wrote, which I personally find very stimulating and interesting. Examples are: Global Governance, Science & Technology, Sex & Gender, Bioethics and more. I have the habit of reading one essay a day and since it is sturctured into short essays you can read it alongside other books, and there is no need to read the whole book at once. I also use it to find inspiration for term-papers and my upcoming thesis. I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the range and application of ethical issues in the real world.
Dalai Lama: Beyond Religion: Ethics for the whole world
This is my absolute favorite book and in my opinion a must read for everyone! This book is very small and it takes only an afternoon to read it. This book is structured as an interview between Franz Alt, a German journalist and author, and the Dalai Lama. In this short book, the Dalai Lama defends the importance of a secular ethics for the whole world, even above and beyond religion. I find it absolutely impressive and revolutinary how a religious leader puts his own beliefs back and emphasizes the need for a global ethics that can reach everyone regardsless of religious affiliation. The Dalai Lama further stresses his interest and respect for science, and the importance of solidarity and compassion in the world. This kind of approach to ethics truly is what the world needs and make this book a mandatory read for everyone.
Sam Harris: The Moral Landscape
This is the book I am currently reading, and since I am not all the way through, I have also not yet formed my opinion completely. Sam Harris is an American philosopher and neuroscientist who is best known for his criticism of religion. In this book Harris postulates that there is indeed a right way of life, and that this can and should be determined by scientific findings on human values and well-being. He denies that the way of life he defends (which go contrary to a majority of religious practices and traditions) are superior merely because of cultural imperialism (simply because we are the Western world and we just know better), but because it can be shown by science that this way of life ultimately is what is best for human flourishing and well-being. He denies moral, and to some extent cultural, relativism and postulates that there are a range of lifestyles that are naturally superior to others and that we should promote them globally.
Like I said I have not finished this book yet and Harris is often critisized for his views. I nevertheless find it a very interesting book and always appreciate when people try to address such delicate and difficult topics. I therefore think this book is worth the read already and it will probably stimulate and question your own opinion. (Here is the link to his TED talk about the book).
Do you have any nice book suggestions for the field of philosophy/ethics? If so you can leave your suggestion in the comment section 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this read and that some of you will find their way into thinking about ethical dilemmas through these books!
Title picture: https://elearningindustry.com/