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EthicsUpdates Lawrence M. Hinman, editor 

Contemporary Moral Issues:
Diversity and Consensus

Contemporary Moral Issues arose out of my teaching undergraduate ethics courses at the University of San Diego, and I was fortunate to benefit from the comments of many thoughtful undergraduates. The book still retains some of its signature elements, characteristics that I felt were essential to a good undergraduate ethics text:

  • Narrative selections in all the chapters that help us to understand what it means to live through the issues under discussion;
  • A balace among diverse moral voices, appropriate for the controversial nature of the issues under consideration;
  • An emphasis on finding common ground among these various positions;
  • An ethical self-inventory that allows students to determine their initial position and return to it later in the semester to see in what ways, if any, it has changed.  This helps to create a moral autobiography, a theme mirrored in the narrative selections.
  • An emphasis on getting to know the authors in this book through videos and other sources in order to appreciate the ways in which abstract arguments are often grounded in real persons.
  • An emphasis on using the web to explore these issues, something to which my Ethics Updates website has been devoted since its inception in 1994, when I created and maintained the site with Notepad, writing the then-simply HTML code myself.
  • An emphasis on scholarly sources, detailed in the bibliographical essays and expanded on the Ethics Updates website.  In fact, as its name suggests, the website was designed to keep my two ethics texts up-to-date as new research became available.
  • A strong emphasis on ancillary materials to help students to grapple with the difficult ideas presented in this book, including guides to the readings, PowerPoint presentations, and an ever-increasing number of diagrams that began life as scribbled notes on a white board, gradually became more legible in PowerPoint presentations, and now reside most comfortably on the website.
  • An ever-increasing tendency for the book to move from the physical print format to the virtual, web-based medium. 


Lawrence M. Hinman

Contemporary Moral Issues:
Diversity and Consensus

Contemporary Moral Issues, 4th ed.

Order from Amazon:
Contemporary Moral Issues:
Diversity and Consensus

ISBN-13: 978-0205633609
ISBN-10: 0205633609

Routledge, 2012.  544 pp.

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The text retains its original structure, and includes some standard pieces (such as Rachels on active and passive euthanasia and Jane English's piece on abortion) and some excellent new pieces by philosophers, but it also includes important narrative pieces that help situate these issues within the context of everyday life. These include:

  • An exchange of letters between Eva Feder Kittay and her son Leo on the meaning of selective abortion for disabilities both for families and society as a whole;
  • Katy Duke's story in The Lancet about a "savior baby" conceived by Swiss parents in Belgium;
  • Michael Sandel on the case against enhancement;
  • Ruth Padawer's NYT Magazine article (2011) on the "reduction" of pregnancy from twins to a single child;
  • Atul Gawande's New Yorker article about end-of-life decisions, "Letting Go;"
  • Susan M. Wolf's Hastings Center piece on "My Father's Death;"
  • Sr. Helen Prejean's account of ministering to the families of murder victims;
  • David Gelernter, the Yale computer scientist who was almost killed by the Unabomber, on what murders deserve;
  • Nancy Sherman's recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the moral wounds that soldiers suffer in combat;
  • Stephen Carter (Yale Law) on the wrongness of torture, even when it works;
  • Alan Dershowicz in defense of warrants for torture;
  • Michael Walzer on humanitarian intervention;
  • Greg Velasco y Trianoski's "Beyond Mestizaje," on the future of race in America;
  • Kathy Miriam on "Stopping the Traffic in Women";
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2011 address on LGBT rights in an international context;
  • Martha Nussbaum on gay marriage and constitutional law;
  • Tom Pögge on the moral demands of global justice;
  • Jonathan Safran Foer on eating animals;
  • Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson's letter to a southern pastor on the environment;
  • Luciano Floridi's reflections on Julian Assange and the ethics of WikiLeaks;
  • Jim Moor on whether we should let computers get under our skins.