Source: Purchased from a used book sale
Although published 11 years ago, this book touches on three issues that are very much relevant today. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy, or in any of the three topics presented in this book. Our society is still struggling with environmentalism, feminism, and multiculturalism in the social and political, and even educational spheres. This very fact is what makes the implications of these topics on ethics so vital. In his book Three Challenges to Ethics, James P. Sterba outlines the challenges these topics present to traditional ethics, and his suggestions for addressing these challenges.
This is my first experience reading anything about ethics, and going into this adventure I was a little worried about the accessibility of the text to someone inexperienced with the topic. There was little to worry about, however. The introduction was a little difficult, since the author is setting up his reasoning for leaning toward a Kantian ethics. I had to look up a few terms to see what they meant in the field of ethics (question-begging for example) but a few simple web searches answered any questions I had. Once into the actual subject matter of the book, Sterba covers the topic in an easy to understand style and does an adequate job explaining his reasons for his stance.
From a personal standpoint, I agree with his stance on all three topics, but some of the ways he proposes to meet these challenges (especially in the feminism chapter) seem a little far-fetched to me. I would be interested to see if his ideas have adapted over the past decade, or if they remain the same. I especially liked the conclusion, where he talks about how the field of ethics as a whole meets challenges, and his idea that instead of a war-like confrontation and win/loose scenario, society and the professional/academic arena of ethics should adopt a more peaceful way of “doing philosophy.” He outlines how the same, or possibly better results can be achieved with this new method, and how it would benefit the field (and in my opinion that benefit would probably filter down to society) as a whole. Assuming that this is his personal way of approaching situations, I’m sure the past decade of politics and social unrest surrounding these three challenges to ethics would bring about some new ideas and possibly revisions to old ideas for this author.
The book covers the topics of environmentalism, feminism, and multiculturalism from a Kantian perspective and Sterba offers his own revisions to the traditional Kantian ethics on these challenges. Even if you do not subscribe to Kantian ethics, it could still be worthwhile to read this book, even if only to see the ideas he proposes with these three challenges in order to begin to address them within the views of your own ethical standpoint. After reading this book, I would most certainly be interested to read other works by philosophers who subscribe to a different ethics (besides Kantian) to see if and how they address these three challenges in comparison to Sterba’s work.
** I read and reviewed this novel by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the authors or publisher.