Readers will need to have a basic understanding of, and significant interest in, the historical fluidity of philosophy and its impact on moral development; those who lack that grounding will find this textbook a struggle to read. Joy goes to great lengths to establish his anti-religious mindset and associate it with living “by logic” and perceiving “facts as the truth,” an approach that’s unlikely to resonate with religious and agnostic readers. He also detours into a discussion of racism that is insufficiently explored. The author’s overall deduction rising from his extensive review of morality is that it is “one hell of a matter to discuss,” which feels more like a starting point than a conclusion.
Though it will leave readers wanting more answers, Joy’s work offers an opportunity for self-exploration and application of moral theories. Some asides are tangential and extraneous, and attempts at humor amid a heavy topic often fall flat; however, the author unabashedly deals with current events and their moral dilemmas, which many readers will find an appealing theme. The illustrations are dark and out of place at times. More enlightenment comes from the topic summaries, a handy reference for readers craving a more organized understanding of the immense amount of information packed into this book. The work’s strength lies in its meticulous categorization of philosophical theories and moral beliefs that have shaped our understanding of ethics.
Takeaway: Atheists interested in the philosophy of morality will find this exhaustive chronicle a useful reference.
Great for fans of A.C. Grayling’s The History of Philosophy, Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie’s Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C