ethics top


mugIn my view, ethics is the most relevant of all subjects - it is fundamental to living the good life in every sense.  Ethics is always moving on; the theories and principles remain the same, but the issues and their relative importance are always changing.

ethics for lifeThis book gives Understand Ethics (in Hodder's Teach Yourself series) an up-date and personal twist. For more information, and to 'Take it further' for when you have already devoured your copy, just click the cover.

It is available in both print and ebook editions.


Aquinas'In terms of secular ethics, Aquinas embraced Aristotle and strangled him at the same time!'

To see my views on Natural Law, written for A-level students and originally published in Dialogue, click here. And for a general introduction to Natural Law click here.

(The image shows Aquinas practising his strangle-hold!)

Here are my notes on two ethical theories that have dominated much modern discussion:

Kant's Ethical Theory, Utilitarianism,

And for a general introduction to the challenge posed to ethical language by Logical Positivism, the resulting theories of emotivism and prescriptivism, and what ethical language is about generally:

Meta Ethics


If you need to look up anything from 'Anselm, Saint' and 'Animals, moral status of' to 'Zeno's paradoxes and 'Zombies': just click here. This really is an amazing resource for anyone interested in philosophy.

Thought Experiments in Ethics

trolleyFed up with diverting trolleys, pushing fat men off bridges or killing one hostage to save twenty? Not sure whether you are prepared to be medically hooked up to a famous violinist for nine months or whether that pig really does want to be eaten? Thought experiments have become an common feature of ethical arguments, but how should we treat them and what are their limitations?

Here is the draft text of a talk, given by Richard Baron in June 2017, on this fascinating topic.  To download the pdf file, and to see some other stuff on thought experiments, click here.

nigel wThe Virtual Philosopher... 

This is Nigel Warburton's blog. It covers a wide range of philosophical issues, with links to many other blogs and sites:

Don't miss Nigel's Philosophy Bites and Ethics Bites - wonderful interviews and bite-sized podcast philosophy!

Without conversation, philosophy is just dogma.

To consider the importance of conversation in doing philosophy, read what Nigel Warburton - the master of the philosophical interview - has to say by clicking here.

quick thoughtsNew to Ethics? Here are some quick thoughts to get you started...

Why be moral? / Should you be free to injure yourself? / It's all relative! / Revenge or self-defence? / Do you own your genes? / Do you have a right to live or die? / What if torture gets results? / Is there a drink in this for me?

Just click my image to take a look and get your discussion started...

saintCan the study of ethics make you a morally better person?

Can studying ethics be a quick root to sainthood? Is there a danger that you might become morally smug? Could ethics make you cynical about human nature?

You can study religion without becoming religious. Can you study ethics without becoming more sensitive to moral issues?

Read more

The Holocaust

The greatest ethical challenge of the 20th century. See my views of Laurence Rees' book by clicking here.

Is progress in ethics an illusion?

We live in a world of change... (see more)

Sam Harris on science and moral values...

Agree with him or not - and I'm one of those who do not agree with him on many points - Sam Harris argues well and gives everyone a great deal to think about. Here is a short lecture in which he claims that science can provide a basis for ethical values.  This is a great way to start the discussion about how facts and values are related. Naturally, being Sam Harris, he has a few juicy criticisms of religion in store, but don't let that (if you are from a religious background) stop you appreciating the logic of his argument.  A great stimulus piece for groups of ethics students!


Whether facts and values should be kept separate has always been a big issue for ethics. Sam Harris, in the lecture featured here, wants to link them. Here, at the other extreme is A J Ayer (in Language, Truth and Logic)…

‘…. in saying that a certain type of action is right or wrong, I am not making any factual statement, not even a statement about my own state of mind. I am merely expressing certain moral sentiments. And the man who is ostensibly contradicting me is merely expressing his moral sentiments. So that there is plainly no sense in asking which of us is in the right. For neither of us is asserting a genuine proposition.’

But does that view – in which moral views are merely subjective wishes, without factual basis – adequate? Does it help or hinder the process of moral decision-making? And particularly, if it is merely a matter of ‘moral sentiments’, should we not ask why we should have such sentiments in the first place?

Listen to Sam Harris critically - the relationship between objective facts, science and moral values is rather more slippery than he would have us believe!



Looking for another subject?



Your basic introduction to the subject.

From an Amazon review of the earlier edition - Understand Ethics:

'A great book either to dip into or to read cover-to-cover. The sheer clarity and accessibility of the language (and hence of the descriptions of complex concepts) never fails to amaze me.'

For further information, click here


sexy carrotsSexy carrots...

Reflecting on why I was amused to come across this pair of entwined carrots in the local supermarket.

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To be happier, focus on what's within your control.

To read Massimo Pigliucci's advice, and try Stoicism, click here.






Violence in God's Name

Click on the cover for my comments on this desperately relevant book, by Oliver McTernan.

The book reviews the history of violence in all world religions, and explores what it is that leads people to this form of radicalism and how it may be countered. There is no ethical topic more relevant today!

'Dishonest to God'  by Mary Warnock


When I bought this book, I assumed from its title that it would contribute mainly to the Philosophy of Religion. I was wrong. It’s a book that everyone studying ethics should read.

The first half of the book gives a wonderfully clear outline of the issues of life and death – abortion, euthanasia, IVF, the status and treatment of the human foetus, cloning, stem cell research – in terms of the debates when these matters were brought before parliament in the UK.  

For anyone doing ethics at A level, this is a wonderful place to start to unpack these issues.

... for the Curious

Curious to know more about Ethics? This double CD audio book may be just what you're looking for. It records a discussion chaired by Mark Vernon.

For further information, click here.

Understand Ethics... now in Spanish!Ethics







Used for the introductory course in Ethics at the University of Zacatecas, Mexico, 'Understand Ethics' has been translated into Spanish by three staff at the University.

Self-published through the Createspace platform on Amazon, it is now available in paperback and Kindle formats, at a price students can afford.

See more...



Peter Singer is always worth reading. He presents ethical issues in the most challenging way.

Richard Baron's blog and website

Richard BarronCalled 'Analysis and Synthesis' he describes his blog is 'largely philosophical' and it contains seriously argued posts on a number of philosophical issues, particular on Ethics and the Philosophy of Mind.

He provides course notes for students taking his adult education classes in philosophy, some of which are also useful for A level students.