Here is a brief description of the changes I made in the sixth edition of The Elements of Moral Philosophy (2010). It appears on pp. xi-xii of the book.

About the Sixth Edition

Professor Heather Elliott and I read the fifth edition of this book aloud to one another, pausing to discuss each paragraph. Our discussions helped me to clarify arguments, fix organizational problems, and remove about 10,000 words from the text without loss of content. Here is a summary of some of the changes in the new edition:

  In Chapter 2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism," I reversed the order of the final two sections, and I added a brief discussion of polyamory (section 2.9).
  In Chapter 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics," I expanded the discussion of "family values" (section 3.7).
  In Chapter 4, "Does Morality Depend on Religion?" I added a third reason to reject Natural Law Theory (section 4.3), and I now cite additional pro-choice passages in the Bible (section 4.4).
  In Chapter 5, "Ethical Egoism," I added two amazing examples of altruism by Oseola McCarty and Wesley Autrey (section 5.2), and I eliminated the argument that Ethical Egoism cannot handle conflicts of interest (section 5.4). Section 5.4 is still called "Three Arguments against Ethical Egoism" because the argument about wicked actions now gets its own billing.
  In Chapter 6, "The Idea of a Social Contract," I changed the terminology in the Prisoner's Dilemma from "acting egoistically" to "acting selfishly" (section 6.2); I improved the discussion of the theory's second and fourth advantages (section 6.3); I added examples of civil disobedience (section 6.4); and I revised the section on objections (6.5). This chapter now follows "Ethical Egoism" in recognition of the contract theory's egoistic roots.
  In Chapter 7, "The Utilitarian Approach," I replaced the Matthew Donnelly example--which turned out to be fictitious--with the story of how Sigmund Freud died (section 7.2). I also added a section on marijuana (7.3) and updated the discussion of vivisection (section 7.4).
  In Chapter 8, "The Debate over Utilitarianism," I revised the treatment of Rule Utilitarianism (section 8.5).
  In Chapter 9, "Are There Absolute Moral Rules?" I now note a limitation to the "Conflicts between Rules" argument (section 9.4).
  In Chapter 10, "Kant and Respect for Persons," I rewrote the opening section; I corrected the discussion of rehabilitation in American prisons (section 10.2); and I now mention both "turning the other cheek" and the possibility of wrongful execution (section 10.3).
  In Chapter 11, "Feminism and the Ethics of Care," I added empirical data to the discussion of how women and men think (section 11.1).
  In Chapter 12, "The Ethics of Virtue," I revised the section arguing that radical virtue ethics is incomplete (section 12.5).

For their help, I thank Robert Agnew, Aysha Akhtar, Colin Allen, Torin Alter, Luke Barber, Lance Basting, Saul Brenner, Nicole Bridge, Dave Bzdak, Michael Cholbi, Edgar Dahl, Kyle Driggers, Kym Farrand, Talia Finkelstein, Daniel Hollingshead, Mike Huemer, Larry James, Kevin Kukla, Carlo Maley, Christina Matthies, Sean McAleer, Cayce Moore, Nathan Nobis, Michael Patton, Vida Pavesich, Howard Pospesel, Jesse Prinz, Roger Rigterink, Amy Robinson, Robert Veatch, and McGraw-Hill's outstanding anonymous reviewers. My biggest debts are to David Blatty, the gold standard of editors; my mother, Carol Rachels, who proofread and vetted each change; and my fiancee, Heather Elliott, whose brilliant mind improved the book on every page.

We all miss James Rachels, who was the sole author of this book in its first four editions. To learn more about him, visit

--Stuart Rachels