Category Archives: Philosophy and Ethics

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper


Anna Fitzgerald doesn’t want her sister to die. But she’s sick of helping her to live.
Anna was born to be a perfect genetic match for Kate, who at just two years old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. For thirteen years, she has acted as donor to her sister.
Now, Kate needs a kidney, and nobody is asking Anna how she feels about it, they’re just assuming she will donate.
Until the Sheriff serves the papers that will rock their family’s world: Anna is suing her parents for the rights to her own body . . .

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Year 2013
ISBN-10: 1444754343

Prinz, Jesse. Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion

Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense
of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body. This thesis, pioneered
by William James and resuscitated by Antonio Damasio, has been widely criticized for
failing to acknowledge that emotions are meaningful insofar as they represent concerns,
not respiratory function and blood pressure. Fear represents danger, sadness represents
loss. To explain this fact, many researchers conclude that emotions must involve judgments
regarding one’s relationship to the environment. Prinz offers a new unified account
of the emotions that reconciles these two theories. He argues that emotions are embodied
appraisals–they are perceptions of the body, but, through the body, they also allow
us to literally perceive danger, loss, and other matters of concern. 

Demian Whiting HYMS: An interesting
and accessible defence of a Jamesian theory of emotion.

Publisher: OUP USA
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 0195309367


Gaarder, J. Sophie’s World

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

Author: Gaarder, Jostein
Title: Sophie’s World
Publisher: London : Phoenix House
Year: 1995
ISBN: 1897580428

Glover, Jonathan. Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century

A unique and compelling study of history and morality in the twentieth century, this book examines the psychology which made possible Hiroshima, the Nazi genocide, the Gulag, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. In modern technological war, victims are distant and responsibility is fragmented. The scientists making the atomic bomb thought they were
only providing a weapon: how it was used was the responsibility of society. The people who dropped the bomb were only obeying orders. The machinery of political decision-taking was so complex that no one among the politicians was unambiguously responsible. No one thought of themselves as causing the horrors of Hiroshima.One topic of the book is tribalism: about how, in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia, people who once lived together became trapped into mutual fear and hatred. Another topic is how, in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and in Cambodia, systems of belief made atrocities possible. The analysis of Nazism looks at the emotionally powerful combination of tribalism and belief which enabled people to do things otherwise unimaginable. Drawing on accounts of participants, victims and observers, Jonathan Glover shows that different atrocities have common patterns which suggest weak points in our psychology.

Publisher: Pimlico
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0712665412

Lycan, William. Prinz, Jesse (eds). Mind and Cognition: an anthology


First published in 1990, Mind and Cognition:An Anthology is now firmly established as a popular teaching apparatus for upper level undergraduate and graduate courses in the philosophy of mind. This collection of classic and contemporary articles in philosophy of mind and cognition provides the reader with an overview of the complex, sophisticated, and sometimes conflicting developments in theories of mind that have taken place over the last 50 years, making available to students, teachers, and researchers the very best and most influential contributions to the discipline.

Demian Whiting HYMS: a useful collection of articles by leading philosophers of mind, which gives a sense of how the discipline has evolved over the last 50 years or so. Some papers more accessible than others!

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2008
ISBN-10: 1405157852

Dancy, J. Ethics without Principles

Jonathan Dancy presents a long-awaited exposition and defence of particularism in ethics, a view with which he has been associated for twenty years. He argues that the traditional link between morality and principles, or between being moral and having principles, is little more than a mistake. The possibility of moral thought and judgement does not in any way depend on an adequate supply of principles. Dancy grounds this claim on a form of reasons-holism, holding that what is a reason in one case need not be any reason in another, and maintaining that moral reasons are no different in this respect from others. He puts forward a distinctive form of value-holism to go with the holism of reasons, and he gives a detailed discussion, much needed, of the currently popular topic of ‘contributory’ reasons. Opposing positions of all sorts are summarized and criticized. Ethics Without Principles is the definitive statement of particularist ethical theory, and will be required reading for all those working on moral philosophy and ethical theory.

Demian Whiting HYMS: Deserves a mention because it outlines an alternative to a principles based approach to moral theorising! But be warned: not an easy book to read!

Publisher: Clarendon Press
Year: 2006)

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Crane, Tim. Elements of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

Demian Whiting HYMS: An accessible introduction to philosophy of mind by a leading contemporary theorist

This accessible and lively introduction considers the main problems and debates in contemporary philosophy of mind. The central theme of the book is that intentionality, or the mind’s direction upon its objects – sometimes described as the mind’s power to represent or be ‘about’ things – is the essential feature of all mental phenomena. Crane engages in a subsidiary theme, the mind-body problem, asking to what extent a physicalist reductive account of mental phenomena is possible, or even necessary. Proposing an original and unified theory of all the phenomena of mind, Crane opposes those currently popular conceptions of the mind which divide mental phenomena into two very different kinds, the intentional and the qualitative. In the light of his theory, Crane gives an account of the main problems of the philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem, the problem of intentionality (or mental representation), the problem of consciousness, and the problem of perception. He also attempts to give solutions to these problems. This book provides an fresh and engaging exploration of those questions at the centre of the philosophy of mind in an accessible and lucid style which will appeal to all students, including those new to the subject.

Publisher: OUP Oxford
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0192892975

Ayer, A. Language, Truth and Logic

Language, Truth, and Logic is a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936 when Ayer was only 26 (though it was in fact completed by age 24). It was crucial in bringing some of the ideas of the Vienna Circle and the logical empiricists to the attention of the English-speaking world.  This book defines, explains, and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the “criterion of significance” or “criterion of meaning”. It explains how the principle of verifiability may be applied to the problems of philosophy.

Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1990
ISBN: 0140136592

Viewer Comments:


To be honest, I don’t understand the description of this book so to actually read it might be a bit of a mission.

Eliot, G. Middlemarch

This panoramic work–considered the finest novel in English by many critics–offers a complex look at English provincial life at a crucial historical moment, and, at the same time, dramatizes and explores some of the most potent myths of Victorian literature.

Author:  Eliot, George
Title: Middlemarch
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year:  1998
ISBN: 0192834029

 (spoiler alert)

Viewer Comments:


An incredible book, certainly one of the most sophisticated and finely crafted novels i’ve ever come across. Eliot creates an entire (albeit small) society during the 19th century’s great changes in politics & economics (the emergence of middle class wealth and political liberalism) and also in Science. One of the main characters is Lydgate a Doctor who arrives in Middlemarch full of the spirit of evidence based inquiry acquired from the then pioneers of medicine in Paris. He soon comes in to conflict with traditional practitioners who feel threatened by the new knowledge and science they do not understand.

Cronin, A. The Citadel

This novel by Dr A.J. Cronin (1896-1981) is an excellent entrée into the world of British medicine in the 1920s and `30s, a world in which a character in his 50s can be described as “elderly,” and in which doctors specializing in lung diseases are regularly portrayed cigarette in hand.

Dr Jane Adam HYMS: I have just finished re-reading The Citadel, and it has given me enormous pleasure. I must have been in my early twenties when I first read it, and so – although I thought it was a marvellous read then – I was unaware of just how prophetic it was too, particularly about medical education and training. I also have taken great delight in reading a straightforward and romantic narrative novel (ie a story with a beginning, middle, end); made me realise that these ‘post-modern’ novels are so complex nowadays

Author: Cronin, A.J.
Title: The Citadel
Publisher: Gollancz
Year: 1937

 (spoiler alert)

Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears. ‘It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson’s prose, aligned with the sublime simplicity of the language of the bible, is nothing short of a benediction. You might not share its faith, but it is difficult not to be awed moved and ultimately humbled by the spiritual effulgence that lights up the novel from within’ Neel Mukherjee, The Times

Publisher: Virago
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 1844081486

Mirko, D. Western medical thought from antiquity to the Middle Ages

This text covers medical thought from antiquity through to the Middle Ages, reconstructing the slow transformation and sudden changes in theory and practice that marked the birth and early development of Western medicine. Throughout the links between socioeconomics are highlighted, with a focus on the physician, and the scientific ideas, beliefs and techniques behind prevailing medical practices.

Author: Mirko D, Grmek ed
Title: Western medical thought from antiquity to the Middle Ages
Publisher: Harvard UP
Year: 1999
ISBN: 067440355X

Murray, R. Ethical dilemmas in healthcare: a practical approach through medical humanities

Medical humanities is a method of promoting the discussion of health care issues by using literary texts. Poems, short stories and novels about illness can provoke us into discussing not only medical conditions but also the attitudes, emotions, and underlying cultural values of patients and carers. It helps students develop compassion and empathy. In professional practice, it develops and maintains reflective practice. The author defines and explains the nature of medical humanities.
She then gives specific examples and case studies, and provides appropriate pieces of literature so that the reader can use this text as a source book.

Author: Murray, Rowena
Title: Ethical dilemmas in healthcare: a practical approach through medical humanities
Publisher: London, etc., Chapman & Has ll
Year: 1997
ISBN: 0412624303

Maitreau, T. The Troubled Helix: Social and Psychological Implications of the new Human Genetics

This wide ranging and compelling account surveys the exciting opportunities and difficult problems which arise from the new human genetics. The availability of increasingly sophisticated information on our genetic make-up presents individuals, and society as a whole, with difficult decisions. Although it is hoped that these advances will ultimately lead the way to the effective treatment and screening for all diseases with a genetic component, at present many individuals are ‘condemned’ to a life sentence, in the knowledge that they, or their children, will suffer from an incurable genetic disease.

Author: Maitreau, T & Richards, M (Editors)
Title: The Troubled Helix: Social & Psychological Implications of the new Human
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1996
ISBN: 0521586127

Atwood Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale


The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. . . .

Publisher: Vintage
ISBN-10: 0099740915

(spoiler alert)

Lee, H. To kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee tells of Scout and Jem’s childhood in Alabama and how a series of events shook their innocence, shaped their character and taught them about human nature. Lee examines racism and other prejudices through a page turning story told in a wonderful, Southern voice.

Author: Lee, Harper
Title: To kill a mockingbird
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0749398086

Kundera, M. The unbearable lightness of being

A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals—while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being.”

Author: Kundera, Milan
Title: The unbearable lightness of being
Publisher: Faber
Year: 1985
ISBN:  0571135390

Gaita, Raymond. The Philosopher’s Dog

Raimond Gaita is Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College London and Professor of Philosophy at Australian Catholic University. The Philosopher’s Dog is a mixture of storytelling, mostly about Gaita’s own, and his father’s, relationship with their domestic pets, and philosophical reflections on the stories he tells.

The stories are about animals and their character: about Jack the cockatoo, Orloff, Zac and Gypsy the dogs, about cats, spiders, butterflies, about his father’s love and care for bees and his antipathy for insects. All are fascinating and touching stories in themselves. But more than this, Gaita’s aim is to bring philosophy and story-telling together without turning the stories into long-winded philosophical examples and without compromising the philosophy for the sake of a good story.

Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2004
ISBN-10: 0415332877

Bach, Richard. Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The book tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a seagull who is bored with the daily squabbles over food. Seized by a passion for flight, he pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, until finally his unwillingness to conform results in his expulsion from his flock. An outcast, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities as he leads an idyllic life.

Title: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Publisher: Scribner
Book Company
Year: 2006
ISBN: 0743278909

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Gregory, R. Oxford Companion to the Mind

First published in 1987, this second edition contains over 1000 alphabetically arragned entries on all aspects of the mind, including topics in neurophysiology, communication, psychology, and philosophy, as well as people relevant to the field. Returning as editor, Gregory oversees a team of British and American researchers who contribute articles varying in length from a few sentences to longer essays and are generally accessible to the nonspecialist.

Author: Gregory, Richard L. (Editor)
Title: Oxford Companion to the Mind
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2004
ISBN: 0198662246

Hesse, H. The Glass Bead Game

Set in the 23rd century, “The Glass Bead Game” is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

Author: Hesse, Herman
Title: The Glass Bead Game
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1972
ISBN: 0140034382