Student Review: What's Good on TV? Understanding Ethics through Television

May 24, 2012

Authors: Jamie Carlin Watson and Robert Arp

Edition: First

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Pages: 320

Price: £55.00 and £19.99

ISBN: 9781405194761 and 4754

This book approaches an ancient subject in an up-to-date way, providing an excellent introduction to an impressively broad range of moral philosophy issues and using examples from popular television to illustrate each topic. It broaches questions from meta-, normative and applied ethics, and introduces arguments from both classic and contemporary philosophy to explore them. The topics covered range from the classical debates on nihilism, religion, consequentialism and virtue, to the more contemporary issues of applied ethics and the environment, animal rights, abortion and homosexuality, along the way introducing the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Aristotle and Immanuel Kant among others.

Each chapter identifies the major ethical arguments relating to the topic, and discusses the most relevant literature from moral philosophy. The everyday examples employed in each chapter and in each chapter's two case studies, using episodes from television programmes such as Scrubs, Family Guy and House, add to the book's appeal. The case studies serve to illustrate the complexity of the ethics and moral philosophy considered in each chapter, while showing how the issues are applicable to everyday characters and situations. In addition to the case studies, alternative examples are suggested at the end of each chapter, alongside recommended study questions.

Apart from being an excellent introductory text, this book is also comprehensive, and is more impressive in its breadth of topics than in the depth in which it covers them. This is certainly not a weakness for an introductory text, and it is suitable for students who are completely new to the area of ethical philosophy as well as offering a good stepping-stone for students continuing beyond a brief introduction to these main arguments. As an introductory text, it has the benefits of being innovative and accessible while also complementing core teaching texts. A companion website ( adds further scope to the discussions and case studies, and is useful in expanding the book's shelf-life.

In short, this is an excellent book: pleasant and easy to read while imparting essential philosophical knowledge. It deserves a place on the bookshelf (or coffee table) of any student new to the ethical dilemmas of moral philosophy.

Who is it for? Beginners - undergraduates or students new to moral philosophy.

Presentation: Clear and concise, accessible and engaging.

Would you recommend it? Yes, very highly, not only to philosophy undergraduates but to anybody with an interest in the questions posed by moral philosophy.

Highly recommended

Environmental Philosophy: From Theory to Practice

Author: Sahotra Sarkar

Edition: First

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Pages: 224

Price: £60.00 and £19.99

ISBN: 9780470671818 and 1825

Ethics and War: An Introduction

Author: Steven P. Lee

Edition: First

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Pages: 342

Price: £55.00 and £18.99

ISBN: 9780521898836 and 17570

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