94 Improved Sentences and Short Passages

Here are 94 examples of how I've improved the writing in chapters 1-5 of The Elements of Moral Philosophy. I'll give you the fifth edition (5/e) versions followed by the sixth edition (6/e) versions.


Examples from the Preface

"Suppose there is someone who knows nothing about the subject, but who is willing to spend a modest amount of time learning about it." (5/e, ix)
"Suppose someone knows nothing about ethics but wants to learn about it." (6/e, ix)

"I do not try to cover every topic in the field; I do not even try to say everything that could be said about the topics that are covered." (5/e, ix)
"I do not try to cover every topic in the field; I do not even provide a complete account of the topics I do cover." (6/e, ix)

"There are, of course, disagreements in physics and unresolved controversies, but these generally take place against the background of broad and substantial agreements." (5e, ix-x)
"There are, of course, unresolved controversies in physics, but these take place against the backdrop of broad agreement." (6/e, ix)

"I have not tried to conceal the fact that I find some of these ideas more appealing than others, and it is obvious that a philosopher making different assessments might lay out the ideas differently. But I have tried to present the contending theories fairly, and whenever I have endorsed or rejected one of them, I have tried to explain why." (5/e, x)
"I find some of these ideas more appealing than others, and a philosopher who made different assessments would no doubt write a different book. But I do try to present the contending ideas fairly, and when I endorse or reject an argument, I try to explain why." (6/e, x)

Examples from Chapter 1, "What Is Morality?"

"Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, an anencephalic infant known to the public as 'Baby Theresa,' was born in Florida in 1992. Anencephaly is among the worst congenital disorders." (5/e, 1) [Note that the word 'anencephalic' is used before it is described.]
"Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, an infant known to the public as "Baby Theresa," was born in Florida in 1992. Baby Theresa had anencephaly, one of the worst genetic disorders." (6/e, 1)

"Baby Theresa's story would not be remarkable except for an unusual request made by her parents. Knowing that their baby could not live long and that, even if she did survive, she would never be conscious ..." (5/e, 2)
"Baby Theresa's story is remarkable only because her parents made an unusual request. Knowing that their baby would die soon and could never be conscious ..." (6/e, 2)

"The parents' suggestion was based on the idea that, because Theresa was going to die soon anyway, her organs were doing her no good." (5/e, 3)
"The parents believed that Theresa's organs were doing her no good, because she was going to die soon anyway." (6/e, 3)

"Is this a sound argument?" (5/e, 3)
"Is this argument sound?" (6/e, 3)

"Discrimination against any group is, of course, a serious matter. It is objectionable because it involves treating some people worse than others, when there are no relevant differences between them that would justify it." (5/e, 9)
"Discrimination against any group is a serious matter, because it involves treating some people worse than others, without any good justification." (6/e, 8)

"However, it is dangerous to engage in this kind of thinking." (5/e, 10)
"However, it is dangerous to think like this." (6/e, 9)

"One source of difficulty is that the 'facts' are sometimes hard to ascertain--matters may be so complex that not even the experts can agree." (5/e, 12)
"Sometimes key facts are unknown. Other times, matters are so complex that even the experts disagree." (6/e, 11)

"Most moral arguments consist of principles being applied to the facts of particular cases, and so the obvious questions to be asked are whether the principles are sound and whether they are being intelligently applied." (5/e, 13)
"Most moral arguments consist of principles being applied to particular cases, and so we must ask whether the principles are justified and whether they are being applied correctly." (6/e, 12)

"He is happy with a situation in which the major corporate executives, government officials, and so on are white ..." (5/e, 13)
"He would like all the doctors, lawyers, business executives, and so on, to be white." (6/e, 12)

"The requirement of impartiality, then, is at bottom nothing more than a proscription against arbitrariness in dealing with people. " (5/e, 14)
"The requirement of impartiality, then, is at bottom nothing more than a rule against treating people arbitrarily." (6/e, 13)

Examples from Chapter 2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism"

"He had found, for example, that the Callatians (a tribe of Indians) customarily ate the bodies of their dead fathers." (5/e, 16). [Note how strongly "a tribe of Indians" suggests Native Americans.]
"He had found, for example, that the Callatians, who lived in India, ate the bodies of their dead fathers." (6/e, 14)

"The Callatians were horrified and told Darius to not even mention such an awful thing." (5/e, 16)
"The Callatians were horrified and told Darius not to speak of such things." (6/e, 14)

"It is easy to give additional examples of the same kind." (5/e, 17)
"There are many such examples." (6/e, 15)

"These customs cannot be said to be 'correct' or 'incorrect,' for that implies that we have an independent standard of right and wrong by which they may be judged. But no such independent standard exists ..." (5/e, 18)
"To say that a custom is 'correct' or 'incorrect' would imply that we can judge that custom by some independent standard of right and wrong. But no such standard exists ..."(6/e, 16)

"It is mere arrogance for us to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures." (5/e, 19)
"It is arrogant for us to judge other cultures. We should always be tolerant of them." (6/e, 16)

"... it would be ironic if their theory actually supported people in intolerant cultures being intolerant of other societies. However, it need not have that implication." (5/e, 19)
"... it would be ironic if their theory actually supported the intolerance of warlike societies. However, it need not do that." (6/e, 17)

"The first thing to notice is that at the heart of Cultural Relativism is a certain form of argument. Cultural relativists argue from facts about the differences between cultural outlooks to a conclusion about the status of morality." (5/e, 20)
"Cultural Relativists often employ a certain form of argument. They begin with facts about cultures and end up drawing a conclusion about morality." (6/e, 17)

"Progress means replacing a way of doing things with a better way." (5/e, 23)
"Progress means replacing the old ways with new and improved ways." (6/e, 20)

"If the old ways were in accordance with the social standards of their time, then Cultural Relativism would say it is a mistake to judge them by the standards of a different time." (5/e, 23)
"If the old ways conformed to the standards of their time, then Cultural Relativism would not judge them by our standards." (6/e, 20)

"Within the constraints imposed by Cultural Relativism, there is only one way this might be done. If a society is not living up to its own ideals, the reformer may be regarded as acting for the best in promoting those ideals. After all, those ideals are the standard by which we judge his or her proposals." (5/e, 23)
"But according to Cultural Relativism, there is only one way to improve a society: to make it better match its own ideals. After all, the society's ideals are the standard by which reform is assessed." (6/e, 20)

"The original impetus for Cultural Relativism comes from the observation .." (5/e, 23)
"Cultural Relativism starts by observing ..."(6/e, 21)

"It is true that there are differences. However, it is easy to overestimate the extent of those differences. Often, when we examine what seems to be a dramatic difference, we find that the cultures do not differ nearly as much as it appears." (5/e, 23)
"It is true that there are differences, but it is easy to exaggerate them. Often, when we examine what seems to be a big difference, we find that the cultures differ less than we thought." (6/e, 21)

"The society's values are only one of them. Other matters, such as the religious and factual beliefs held by its members, and the physical circumstances in which they live, are also important. We cannot conclude, then, merely because customs differ, that there is disagreement about values. The difference in customs may be attributable to some other aspect of social life." (5/e, 24)
"Not only are the society's values important, but so are its religious beliefs, its factual beliefs, and its physical environment. We cannot conclude that, because customs differ, values differ. The difference in customs may be due to something else." (6/e, 21)

"A fundamental postulate of Eskimo thought was this: 'Life is hard, and the margin of safety small.'" (5/e, 24)
"To quote an old Eskimo saying: 'Life is hard, and the margin of safety small.'" (6/e, 22)

"So, even in the best of times, there were limits to the number of infants that one mother could sustain." (5/e, 24)
"So, even in the best of times, one mother could sustain very few children." (6/e, 22)

"Babies are helpless and cannot survive if they are not given extensive care for a period of years." (5/e, 25)
"Babies are helpless and cannot survive without extensive care." (6/e, 23)

"(I ask you what time it is, and you say, "Four o'clock." But there is no presumption that you are speaking truly; you could just as easily have said midnight. So I have no reason to pay attention to your answer. In fact, there was no point asking you in the first place.)" (5/e, 26)
"If I want to know what time it is, why should I bother asking anyone, if lying is commonplace?" (6/e, 23)

"It follows that in any complex society there must be a presumption in favor of truthfulness. There may, of course, be exceptions to this rule; that is, there may be situations in which it is thought to be permissible to lie. Nevertheless, these will be exceptions to a rule that is in force in the society." (5/e, 26)
"It follows that every society must value truthfulness. There may, of course, be situations in which lying is thought to be okay. No matter. The society will still value honesty." (6/e, 23)

"Here is one more example of the same type." (5/e, 26)
"Consider another example." (6/e, 23)

"Suppose people were free to kill one another at will, and no one thought there was anything wrong with it." (5/e, 26)
"Suppose people were free to kill one another at will, and no one disapproved." (6/e, 23)

"There is much that can be said against excision." (5/e, 28)
"Excision is bad in many ways." (6/e, 25)

"Does the practice promote or hinder the welfare of the people whose lives are affected by it? " (5/e, 29)
"Does the practice promote or hinder the welfare of the people affected by it?" (6/e, 25-26)

"Although they are personally horrified by excision, many thoughtful people are reluctant to say it is wrong, for at least three reasons." (5/e, 29)
"Many people who are horrified by excision are nevertheless reluctant to condemn it, for three reasons." (6/e, 26)

"But there is nothing in the nature of tolerance that requires us ..." (5/e, 29)
"But nothing about tolerance requires us ..."(6/e, 26)

"However, we shouldn't be tolerant of everything." (5/e, 34)
"However, we shouldn't tolerate everything." (6/e, 29)

"Perhaps this was the understanding of the Callatians." (5/e, 30)
"Perhaps this is how the Callatians saw it." (6/e, 29)

"But what of it?" (5/e, 30)
"But so what?" (6/e, 29)

"CBS quickly cut to an aerial view of the stadium, but as far as the country was concerned, the damage had been done. Half a million viewers complained ..." (5/e, 31)
"CBS quickly cut to an aerial view of the stadium, but it was too late. Half a million viewers complained ..."(6/e, 30)

"We can understand the appeal of Cultural Relativism, then, even though the theory has serious shortcomings." (5/e, 32)
"We can understand the appeal of Cultural Relativism, then, despite its shortcomings." (6/e, 31)

Examples from Chapter 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics"

"Others, however, may retain confidence in the basic idea, and so they will try to refine it, giving it a new, improved formulation." (5/e, 37)
"Others, however, retain confidence in the basic idea, and so they refine it." (6/e, 34)

"The simplest version of the theory, which states the main idea but does not attempt to refine it very much, is this ..." (5/e, 37)
"The simplest version of the theory is this ..."(6/e, 34)

"Now, of course, it is possible that [Falwell] is not speaking sincerely--it is possible that he really does not disapprove of homosexuality, but is merely playing to his conservative audience." (5/e, 38-39)
"Of course, [Falwell] might have been speaking insincerely--it is possible that he didn't really mind homosexuality but was merely playing to his conservative audience." (6/e, 35)

"Others, however, have worked to produce a version of the theory that would be less vulnerable to such objections. ... The improved version was a theory that came to be known as Emotivism." (5/e, 39)
"Others, however, have worked to improve the theory. ... The improved version came to be known as Emotivism." (6/e, 36)

"Emotivism begins with the observation that language is used in a variety of ways." (5/e, 39)
"Language, Stevenson said, is used in many ways." (6/e, 36)

"Shakespeare is the author of Hamlet." (5/e, 39)
"Shakespeare wrote Hamlet." (6/e, 36)

"However, there are other purposes for which language may be used." (5/e, 39)
"However, language is also used for other purposes." (6/e, 36)

"Now this may seem to be a trivial difference, one not worth mentioning. But from a theoretical viewpoint, it is important. One way to see this is to consider ..." (5/e, 41)
"This difference between Simple Subjectivism and Emotivism may seem trivial. But it is important. To see why, consider ..."(6/e, 37)

"Here it is not our beliefs that are in conflict but our desires--I want something to happen that you do not want to happen." (5/e, 41)
"Our beliefs are not in conflict, but our desires are--I want something to happen that you want not to happen." (6/e, 38)

"... science provides our paradigm of objectivity, and when we compare ethics to science, ethics seems to lack the features that make science so compelling. For example, it seems a great deficiency that there are no proofs in ethics." (5/e, 45)
"... science provides our paradigm of objectivity, and when we compare ethics to science, ethics seems lacking. For example, there are proofs in science, but there are no proofs in ethics." (6/e, 41)

"If one of our reasons for saying that Jones is a bad man is that he is a habitual liar, we can go on to explain why lying is bad." (5/e, 46)
"If we criticize Jones for being a habitual liar, we can go on to explain why lying is bad." (6/e, 42)

"First, when proof is demanded, people often have in mind an inappropriate standard. They are thinking about observations and experiments in science; and when there are no comparable observations and experiments in ethics, they conclude that there is no proof." (5/e, 47)
"First, when proof is demanded, people often want scientific proof. They are thinking about observation and experimentation; and because there are no such methods in ethics, they conclude that there is no proof." (6/e, 43)

"You may have an impeccable argument that someone refuses to accept. But that does not mean that something is wrong with the argument or that proof is somehow unattainable. It may mean only that the person is being stubborn. When this happens, it should not be surprising. Ethics may require us to do things we don't want to do, so it is only to be expected that sometimes we try to avoid listening to its demands." (5/e, 47)
"An argument may be impeccable yet fall on deaf ears. When this happens, it should not be surprising. Ethics tells people to do things they don't want to do; sometimes people don't want to listen. We cannot conclude from this that proof in ethics is unattainable." (6/e, 43-44)

"Sex is a particularly strong urge--it isn't hard to understand why--and few people are able to fashion a happy life without satisfying their sexual needs." (5/e, 47-48)
"Sex is a particularly strong urge, and few people can be happy without satisfying their sexual needs." (6/e, 44)

"Achieving the good life, for gays and lesbians as well as for everyone else, may mean uniting with someone you love, with all that this involves." (5/e, 48)
"Achieving the good life, for gays and lesbians as well as for everyone else, may mean building a life with someone you love." (6/e, 44)

"The idea that it is wrong to use things for any purpose other than their 'natural' ones cannot reasonably be maintained, and so this version of the argument fails as well." (5/e, 49)
"The idea that things should be used only in "natural" ways cannot be maintained, and so this version of the argument fails." (6/e, 45)

"This question will strike some people as vaguely offensive." (5/e, 50)
"This question will offend some people." (6/e, 46)

Examples from Chapter 4, "Does Morality Depend on Religion?"

"The ACLU might not have thought much of Moore, but Alabama voters did." (5/e, 52)
"The ACLU may not have liked Moore, but Alabama voters did." (6/e, 48)

"Thus, the "Ten Commandments judge" came to assume the most powerful judgeship in the state of Alabama." (5/e, 52)
"Thus, the "Ten Commandments judge" became the most powerful jurist in the state of Alabama." (6/e, 48)

"77% of Americans thought that he should not be forced to remove his monument." (5/e, 52)
"77% of Americans thought that he should be allowed to display his monument." (6/e, 48)

"Priests and ministers are assumed to be wise counselors who will give sound moral advice when it is needed." (5/e, 53)
"Priests and ministers are assumed to be wise counselors who will give sound moral advice." (6/e, 49)

"What could be more natural, then, than to think that "morality" is a part of the religious view of the world, whereas the atheist's world has no place for values?" (5/e, 54)
"What could be more natural, then, than to think of "morality" as part of religion, while the atheist's world has no place for values?" (6/e, 50)

"In the major theistic traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, God is conceived as a lawgiver who has laid down rules that we are to obey." (5/e, 54)
"Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe that God has told us to obey certain rules of conduct." (6/e, 50)

"This conception has been elaborated by some theologians into a theory about the nature of right and wrong known as the Divine Command Theory. Essentially, this theory says that ..." (5/e, 54)
"This idea has been expanded into a theory known as the Divine Command Theory. Essentially, it says that ..." (6/e, 50)

"Moreover, the Divine Command Theory suggests an answer to the perennial question of why anyone should bother with morality." (5/e, 54)
"Moreover, the Divine Command Theory explains why anyone should bother with morality." (6/e, 50)

"The Theory of Natural Law rests on a certain view of what the world is like." (5/e, 58)
"The Theory of Natural Law rests on a certain view of the world." (6/e, 53)

"A central feature of this conception is the idea that everything in nature has a purpose." (5/e, 58)
"The Greeks believed that everything in nature has a purpose." (6/e, 53)

"Only one thing was missing: God was needed to make the picture complete." (5/e, 59)
"Only one thing was missing: God." (6/e, 54)

"Values and purposes were, therefore, conceived to be a fundamental part of the nature of things, because the world was believed to have been created according to a divine plan." (5/e, 59)
"Values and purposes were thus conceived to be part of the divine plan." (6/e, 54)

"Things are as they ought to be when they are serving their natural purposes." (5/e, 59)
"The world is in harmony when things serve their natural purposes." (6/e, 54)

"We are morally required to be concerned for our neighbor's welfare ..." (5/e, 60)
"We are morally required to care about our neighbors." (6/e, 55)

"Religious thinkers have traditionally condemned 'deviant' sexual practices, and the theoretical justification of their opposition has come more often than not from the Theory of Natural Law." (5/e, 60)
"Religious thinkers often condemn "deviant" sexual practices, and they usually justify their condemnation by appealing to the Theory of Natural Law." (6/e, 55)

"How are we to go about determining what is right and what is wrong?" (5/e, 61)
"How can we determine what is right and what is wrong?" (6/e, 56)

"The 'natural laws' that specify what we should do are laws of reason, which we are able to grasp because God, the author of the natural order, has made us rational beings with the power to understand that order." (5/e, 61)
"The 'natural laws' that specify what we should do are laws of reason, which we are able to grasp because God has given us the power to understand them." (6/e, 56)

"Whatever the merits of such theories, there are still the moral teachings of one's religion about particular issues." (5/e, 62)
"What matters are the moral teachings of one's religion." (6/e, 57)

"The Bible contains a number of general precepts that might be thought relevant to many issues, such as the injunctions to love one's neighbor and to treat others as one would wish to be treated. But, worthy as those precepts are, they do not yield definite answers about exactly what position we should take concerning the rights of workers ..." (5/e, 63)
"The Bible contains a number of general moral principles, for example, to love one's neighbor and to treat others as one would wish to be treated. Those principles are commendable, but they do not yield definite answers about what to do regarding the rights of workers ..."(6/e, 57)

"The debate over the humanity of the fetus is enormously complicated ..." (5/e, 64)
"The abortion debate is complex ..."(6/e, 58)

"Neither abortion, the sanctity of fetal life, nor anything else of the kind is being discussed in this passage." (5/e, 64)
"The sanctity of fetal life is not discussed in this passage." (6/e, 59)

"The Law of Israel apparently regarded fetuses as something less than full human beings." (5/e, 65)
"The Law of Israel seemed to regard the fetus as something less than a person." (6/e, 60)

"I only want to make a point about the relation between religious authority and moral judgment. Church tradition, like scripture, is reinterpreted by every generation to support its favored moral views." (5/e, 67)
"My point is this: every generation reinterprets scripture to support its favored moral views." (6/e, 61)

"Because this conclusion is contrary to conventional wisdom, it may strike some readers as anti-religious. Therefore, it should be emphasized that this conclusion has not been reached by questioning the validity of religion." (5/e, 67)
"This conclusion may strike some readers as anti-religious. However, it has not been reached by questioning the validity of religion." (6/e, 61)

Examples from Chapter 5, "Ethical Egoism"

"Most of us, if asked the question directly, would probably be a bit embarrassed, and we would say that we probably should do more to help. The explanation of why we do not is, at least in part, that we hardly ever think about the problem." (5/e, 68)
"Most of us, if asked the question directly, would probably be a bit embarrassed, and we might say we should do more to help. We don't do more partly because we hardly ever think about the problem." (6/e, 62)

"We might think of this as the "commonsense" view of the matter: Morality requires that we balance our own interests against the interests of others." (5/e, 69)
"Common sense might tell us to balance our own interests against the interests of others." (6/e, 63)

"This way of thinking involves a general assumption about our moral duties: that we have moral duties to other people, and not merely duties that we create, such as by making a promise or incurring a debt. We have 'natural' duties to others simply because they are people who could be helped or harmed by what we do." (5/e, 69)
"This way of thinking assumes that we have duties to others simply because they are people who could be helped or harmed by what we do." (6/e, 63)

"Two arguments have often been advanced in favor of Psychological Egoism." (5/e, 71)
"Two arguments are often given for Psychological Egoism." (6/e, 65)

"It is sometimes suggested that in such cases we carry out the action because, after all, we most want to keep our promises." (5/e, 72)
"It is sometimes suggested that we do such things because we most want to keep our promises." (6/e, 66)

"Also, people are drawn to it because it is beautifully simple." (5/e, 74)
"People may also like its simplicity." (6/e, 69)

"Thus, we may conclude that morality has nothing to fear from Psychological Egoism." (5/e, 75)
"Thus, morality has nothing to fear from Psychological Egoism." (6/e, 69)

"It is said that we should adopt those policies because doing so will promote the betterment of society--but according to Ethical Egoism, that is not something we should be concerned about." (5/e, 77)
"It is said that adopting those policies will promote the betterment of society--but according to Ethical Egoism, that is not something we should care about." (6/e, 70-71)

"Among 20th-century writers, the idea of Ethical Egoism is probably more closely associated with her than with anyone else." (5/e, 77)
"Ethical Egoism is associated with her more than with any other 20th-century writer." (6/e, 71)

"We need people to be honest with us, but we can hardly expect them to do so if we have not been honest with them." (5/e, 80)
"We need people to be honest with us, but they won't be unless we are honest with them." (6/e, 74)

"Suppose that, by doing such things, someone could actually gain some benefit for himself." (5/e, 82)
"Suppose that someone could actually benefit by doing such things." (6/e, 75)