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Quick Takes Ethics

Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life by Russell W. Gough

167p (M) 1998

The title does not mean, of course, that character is always all of destiny, at least I hope not. You can't be too sure with conservatives. This is tolerable low-level introduction to habit ethics. Sometimes, unfortunately, habit ethics is where etiquette and ethics merge. The best section herein is a discussion of Anne Frank’s skills at self-transparency, a discussion found in numerous books. This work includes mild self-revelations that amuse because they are treated by the author as Jerry Springer material. (The author did not wear his seat belt.)


The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War by Bruce G. Blair

364p (H) 1993

Blair argues that the probabilities of accidental nuclear wars are much higher than commonly believed, that we should find ways to reduce arsenals and make arsenals safer. Overly high alert and overly decentralized control could have led to disaster. As recently as 1995, Russians mistook a space rocket from Norway for an incoming ICBM. Worth browsing.


Caging the Nuclear Genie: An American Challenge for Global Security by Stansfield Turner

163p (H) 1997

Not much of an argument. Mostly a collection of recommendations to counter the too high probabilities of nuclear disasters from terrorism and accidental attacks. Among the recommendations: No first-use, storing warheads away from their launchers, and reducing the size of nuclear arsenals to 200 weapons for each nuclear power--a number too low because nuclear weapons are easy to hide. No first-use is a lip service promise.


Biohazard by Ken Alibek

Among the horrible problems with bioweapons is the fact that we may not know about an attack until 100s of hours after the first person is exposed. Figuring out where to target biodefense funds and biodefense in general are both extremely difficult. Alibek, allegedly, was once a head honcho at a Soviet bioweapons plant, where smallpox and all sorts of other micro-scum were part of research and production, most of it in violation of various treaties. The biographical portions of this work are a self-serving waste, but the biological revelations are horrifying. Worth browsing.


How Good Do We Have to Be? —Harold S. Kushner

181pp.  (H) 1996

Better than this book. Not recommended.


Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America’s Arms Trade by John Tirman

310p (H) 1997

When we sell weapons to undemocratic nations and fail to impose requirements, claims John Tirman, in the hope that the nations will not be taken over by worse factions, bad things happen. The nations become more corrupt and tyrannical. The worse factions become more belligerent and fanatical. Or maybe they would become belligerent anyway because evil ideologies keep spreading and keep getting more sophisticated. Maybe the arms trade has little to do with it, except to make killing more efficient. Or maybe it does.


Telling Right from Wrong: What Is Moral, What Is Immoral, and What Is Neither One Nor the Other

—Timothy J. Cooney  160p (H) 1985 

The first chapter bored me till I ran out of tears. Much of the rest weakly argues that we should restrict moral considerations to a handful of actions or horrific things will result—a spurious conclusion. Cooney uses the good idea that many "moral" issues are not moral issues or have little moral component and extends the idea too far. It discounts the horrific things that result from removing morality from situations where morality matters. The evils of indifference outweigh the evils of moralizing.  This works is a shallow sophists best friend.


Integrity by Stephen Carter

This was too banal and plodding for me to finish, a communitarian fantasy of niceness fixing major problems. Not recommended.


5/5/2000 Ice: The Ultimate Disaster

When the planets align, the new age huckstering is fine. Not recommended.


Life 101: the Quotes by Peter McWilliams

This is the best quote book I have seen, but that doesn't make it outstanding. Most of these quotes are terrible advice, many of them contradictory. Some might be helpful if words such as always and never were deleted. A couple dozen are wonderful, some hilarious.


Even seemingly brilliant ideas such as the thing I fear is the thing I must do need qualifications. There are numerous situations in life, if not most, where the thing you fear is a thing to avoid. Fearing heroin does not mean you should try it.  Except in rare cases, fear is not sufficient reason for action.


McWilliams concludes with a weak straw person argument in favor of legalizing drugs and other crimes that, allegedly, do not harm anyone else. He fails to make distinctions among different types of drugs and he explores few other alternatives. Much of this is standard greed-is-good and who-cares-if-you-lose-your-life-to-someone-as-long-as-he-is-punished libertarianism.


The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Depok Chopra

Readers of Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology will definitely want to add this to their collection. Not recommended.


Women and Evil by Nel Noddings

Like William James, Noddings is looking for moral activities as motivational as war. They are not to be found here.

Catch phrases such as "oppressor groups" do not help in assigning fault or duties. Not recommended.




World Health Report 2000

Available for free at


Removing Obstacles to Healthy Development available for free at

Individuals have a right to nourishment and primary health care. They have a duty to contribute to others, including future generations.

books reviewed by J.T. Fournier


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