Friday, 1 April 2011

Another Great Moral Philosopher with Lots for Download: James (Jim) Rachels (RIP)

I only met James (Jim to his friends) Rachels (1941-2003) once (more than ten years ago at a nice, cozy conference in Cape Town about the ethics of everyday life, brilliantly put together by David Benatar) and I remember how stunned I was that he immediately impressed me as being just the sort of person I had unconsciously imagined him to be through reading some of his rich writings on moral philosophy and applied ethics: kind, warm and with a passionate temper not for arguing or making a point, but for getting to the heart of matters discussed without any sort of megalomaniac fantasy about himself ever succeeding. Just because of that, he often came closer than many others – willing as he was to embrace the idea of the map of ethics and philosophy having to both being made readable to folks in general and being in need of constant revision. James Rachel's textbooks on moral philosophy are still widely used all over the world – and that for the best of reasons: they have yet to meet their match. His popular and encyclopedic essays are a school in itself for anyone wanting to attain the skill of writing simple and clearly about complicated and enigmatic matters. Much of his academic contributions still hold up to the most critical of scrutiny and continue to be standard references in contemporary debates.

Lucky for us all, then, that his son Stuart Rachels (himself a philosopher in his father's spirit) has had the most generous kindness of making most of what James Rachels ever wrote available for free online viewing and download.

Bon Appetite!