The Federation Press

Understanding Ethics


We experience unprecedented freedom of moral and consumer choice, alongside intrusive regulation of our day-to-day activities. Our major constraints are peculiarly modern - economic expectations, not knowing what to do, or a profound awareness of the impact of our personal and national decisions on others. Understanding Ethics introduces the frameworks of moral philosophy to analyse contemporary moral issues and perennial human dilemmas.

While the early chapters which provide the theory section remain substantially the same, the rest of the book is expanded in theme so that there are now fourteen chapters altogether, where previously there were ten. Reflecting serious issues of our times a new chapter on War, Terrorism and Violence has been provided while Preston has undertaken a complete revision updating his work to reflect developments in:

Key bioethical issues such as: Stell cem research, cloning and genetic patents · Genetically modified cropping · Biodiversity · Impact on developing countries

Key themes in education and the workplace such as: Ethics for teachers and schools · Ethics of disciplinary processes

Global themes: Ethics of population and poverty · Global governance and global citizenship

New Section on War, Terrorism and Violence includes material on: Capital Punishment · War including “Just war theory” · Terrorism and torture

Environmental themes have been updated from previous editions: Earth Charter and eco justice · Animal rights · Ethics, global warming and energy policy

Sexuality: Update on Same sex marriage and human rights.


Reviews of previous editions:Preston provides a superb introduction to moral reasoning in a world where old certainties have vanished. His comprehensive coverage of contemporary modes of ethical reasoning, written in an elegant, accessible style, makes a marvellous text for law students learning to reflect upon law and its limits. - Sandra Berns, Griffith University

A book that aims to comprehend this difficult subject within an internally consistent framework. ... the work affords a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of ethical dilemmas encountered in the endeavour to answer fundamental questions about how our lives are to be thought of and lived. The author has presented the structure of the book in a format of essentially three sections, directed respectively to the nature of ethics, applied ethics and in its later chapters, to a wide variety of topics, of which matters of life and death, public responsibility, politics and the global environment are examples. These culminate in a perspective on ‘cultivating an ethical life’. Throughout Dr Preston develops a benchmark which he calls ‘an ethic of response’ by which the philosophical and practical aspects, and thus the ethics of actions, may be evaluated. ... The book contains in its initial chapters a relatively brief but very useful description of various theories of ethics. This is augmented by a succinct glossary at the end of the volume. Each chapter concludes with a chapter review, a list of suggested further reading and, importantly, questions for discussion and case studies. ... - Frank Armer, Alternative Law Jounral Vol 27 No 1

Many issues and themes that arise for consideration in this book lie at the heart of contemporary legal analysis: issues such as individual liberty, protection from harm, the promulgation of a just society; issues of social justice as determined by the “common good” and “public interest’; general principles of justice and fairness; the protection of human rights; exploration of matters of integrity, truthfulness and honesty; appropriate boundary setting for state interevention in a liberal democractic society; the recognition and management of conflicts of interest; and broader perspectives on acting in ways that are consistent with the duties entrusted to persons in professional roles. Understanding Ethics ... would serve well as an introductory text or as a reader for either tertiary or secondary teachers who come to the study of ethics from outside the discipline. It would also find an appreciative audience simply with anyone who is interested in these broader philosophical or contemporty moral questions. The text is easy to read, well written and thoughtfully organised Understanding Ethics should be recommended reading for all legal graduates-in-training - Sally Kift, 2001 QUT Law and Justice Journal, 1(2) 317

Table of Contents

Part A - What is Ethics?
The Ethical Challenge
Encountering Ethics
Ethical Theory: An Overview
Responsible Ethical Decisions

Part B - What are the Issues?
Truthtelling and Honesty
Sex, Love and Morality
Life and Death: Bioethical issues
War, Terrorism and Violence
Public Responsibility and Political Ethics
Ethics in Business and the Professions
Environmental Ethics
A Global Ethic for a Global Society

Part C - How to Cultivate an Ethical Life
Values education
Sustaining the Good Life

Of interest...