FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25.
Only 7 left in stock.
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Moral Literacy: Or How to... has been added to your Cart
+ CDN$ 6.49 shipping
Used: Good | Details
Sold by RevivalBooksUK
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Small annotations in pen/pencil to some of the pages. Over 2 Million items sold. Fast dispatch and delivery. Excellent Customer Feedback. Most items shipped same or next working day from the UK.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Moral Literacy: Or How to Do the Right Thing Paperback – Jan 1993

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
"Please retry"
CDN$ 19.53
CDN$ 12.39 CDN$ 0.96

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • You'll save an extra 5% on Books purchased from, now through July 29th. No code necessary, discount applied at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Pub Co Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (January 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872201961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872201965
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,432,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  •  Would you like to update product info, give feedback on images, or tell us about a lower price?

Product Description


A great resource for beginning ethics courses. The book is short and yet it richly embodies the methods of ethical thinking about practical moral problems that are hard for students to learn unless they see them in action. McGinn perspicuously sets out a small set of basic principles and then attacks the problems of our treatment of animals, abortion, sex, censorship, and so on, with a masterful blend of attention to real-life cases and imaginary thought experiments. McGinn hardly claims to have the last word on the complex issues he discusses, and students will find many exciting problems and points to take up.--Owen Flanagan, Duke University

About the Author

Colin McGinn

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I preface all by saying that I enjoyed the book very much. I am not a professional philosopher and my formal study of philosophy has been very limited. To read a summary of some key ethical issues was illuminating and in many respects helpful.

The book, however, did come across as more than a little preachy. Not that I mind this, I often preach myself. The difference is that McGinn the author is not a preacher, but a philosopher, and his role was to facilitate dialogue and not simply assert a position. McGinn the preacher (that's me, and I bear no relationship with the philosopher that I have been able to trace) bases his assertions on an accepted religious text and normally in a context where that text is accepted. All this personal jibberish now expressed, the book has a sermonic feel to it and a very sloppy logic.

For instance, McGinn early on indicates that he is an atheist, yet he refers to a place he reserves in hell for a particular kind of person. The ability to make such allusions is possible because of the ubiquitous nature of basic Christian values in society. McGinn's alludes to them without making any kind of commitment to them, which is fine. However, many of the positions he takes, while clearly at odds with more fundamentalist or conservative Christian ideals, really are dependent upon Christian social values and not any foundation he has demonstrated from a philosophical point of view.

I think in particular of his arguments for sexual deviance. While he admits that the biological purpose for sexual activity is basic to determining what is normative he expands this to allow for sexual expression that is non-reproductive on a basis that is relational.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Dr. McGinn's book is aimed at the philosophical ameature -- he presupposes no familiarity with ethics or philosophical thought beyond that which a normal person picks up in daily life. The book, in its eight chapters, is a quick and easy read. This is a book for the layman who is unaccostomed to thinking as a philosopher; more experienced philosophers will be disappointed by his glossing over of some of the juicier points. "...but that's just philosophy" is a phrase McGinn uses to ignore a question or argument. That's good for keeping focus on real-world applications, but frustrating for someone with more experience.
That's not to say that a philosophically-minded person has no reason to read this book. McGinn's perspectives on abortion, sex, drugs, etc. are certainly worth reading and will stimulate thought in any reader.
McGinn's thinking is heavily influenced by virtue ethics, which disappointed me, but I hear that a lot of people go for that sort of thing.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Short books seem to be a trend these days. This book is good and short, but it's packed full of all sorts of interesting stuff on how to think about morality and reasonably think about important moral issues. The writing style is fun and conversational. Very good!
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9eeefda4) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f0cadf8) out of 5 stars A path to thoughtful and informed moral judgments Oct. 12 2010
By NYVegan - Published on
Format: Paperback
As Sam Harris recently pointed out, "One of the biggest problems we're facing is in creating a global civilization based on shared values". To face that problem, we need to be giving similar answers to our most pressing problems, not ignore, ridicule, or vilify those who hold different views. Professor McGinn attempts to do that in his easy-to-read but hard-to-dismiss 108-page guide to moral literacy.

As McGinn states in his intro, using informed and thoughtful moral judgments to solve moral problems shouldn't be left to "priests and pundits and politicians." In the best case, these would-be moral guides give people bad reasons to be good when good reasons are actually available. In the worst case, they separate moral thinking from the details of human and animal suffering.

McGinn addresses leading moral issues, including our treatment of nonhuman animals, abortion, violence, sex, non-medical and mind-altering drugs, censorship and virtue. In the rare instances where my knee-jerk biases and vested interests kept me from agreeing with him, I was quickly persuaded of the logic and moral coherence of his argument.

Perhaps the best gem of the book is his shortlist of basic virtues: kindness, honesty, justice and independence, and how they must interact to form a virtuous world. Independence, or the capacity to make up one's own mind and not be swayed by peer pressure or threats, is crucial, but as he notes, "comparatively rare".

While more thorough treatments on the subject exist, you will be hard-pressed to find a more condensed, yet intellectually satisfying approach to moral literacy. I purchased Marvin Brown's The Ethical Process: An Approach to Disagreements and Controversial Issues (3rd Edition) and found it far less satisfying. Brown's work is more of a cookbook approach, while McGinn's work teaches you how to think about solving problems. As McGinn concludes the book, "It is important to be able to read and write. It is also important to have some mathematical proficiency. But more important than either of these is the ability to arrive at informed and thoughtful moral judgments."
An overstatement? Consider this: Founding Father James Madison said, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." In this post-Cold-War era, more than half our federal budget goes to so-called "defense" spending, but we don't allocate a cent to a "Department of Peace". There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better obtained by plant-based foods, yet 50 billion animals live horrific lives until slaughter because they committed the crime of being born nonhuman. The Catholic Church more strongly opposes gay marriage than it does genocide. It is time we all learn to make informed and thoughtful moral judgments.

We can all use this guide to moral literacy.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f0cae4c) out of 5 stars a great little ethics book! Jan. 13 2003
By Nathan Nobis - Published on
Format: Paperback
Short books seem to be a trend these days. This book is good and short, but it's packed full of all sorts of interesting stuff on how to think about morality and reasonably think about important moral issues. The writing style is fun and conversational. Very good!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f2f52a0) out of 5 stars "A Good Philosophy Textbook" Jan. 7 2009
By Dexter J. Epps - Published on
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading Colin McGinn's book, "Moral Literacy: Or How to Do the Right Thing ." I actually needed it for an online class that I took. The book was interesting. I gained a better appreciation of others' viewpoints although I did not (do not) always agree with their viewpoints. McGinn's book is also a good reference/resource for anyone who wants to know about issues that people are very passionate about.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f2f5660) out of 5 stars For ethics class Feb. 12 2012
By meowlfox - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my ethics class. The book is easy to understand and loaded with information. The book is condensed which is a good thing. Theres more than a few interesting facts inside.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f2f560c) out of 5 stars Laughable, Hypocritical Garbage Nov. 16 2015
By Sidney - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the most horribly written and useless book I've ever forced upon myself. McGinn's attempts at logic and morality are laughable and hypocritically best. If you're forced to read this for a class, as I was, I feel your pain. Just power through it and forget about this garbage as soon as you possibly can. There are far better books out there to explain the basic ideas of morality if you so choose to read something more substantial and less ridiculous.