Ethics and Politics in a Secular Age

What Should We Do? Volume 1


Who the Book is for and What it is About

This is a book primarily for the general reader without a background in the study of ethics, philosophy or politics To help them think about the nature of morality or ethics and the relationship between them and politics. In modern western democracies a common assumption seems to be that politics is a dirty game with which no sane reasonably moral human being would have anything to do. In the era of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin it may be thought the question of the relevance of Ethics to Politics has been settled decisively in the negative. However the author remains stubbornly convinced that the two should be firmly linked in a well-run Liberal Democracy. In this book I make a plea for a version of the classic position that politics and ethics are intimately related and that a good life must be involved in some political activity and might even be that of a politician. It will be for the reader to reach their own conclusion on the matter by the end of the book!

The book is not designed as a textbook for students on a formal course in Philosophy. Some or all of it might well form the basis for discussions in less formal settings such as U3A (University of the Third Age), WEA, pub philosophy and youth groups. The assumption is that readers are open-minded: are not so committed to a moral and religious position that they wish to impose it on others, and to work issues out for themselves, rather than be given cut and dried answers.

How the Book is Organised

Part 1 looks at the foundations of individual moral action.

Part 2 is concerned with the morality of political action and considers the interaction between morals and politics.

In a later volume it is intended to apply moral ideas to the choices we make in our private lives, as consumers and in our leisure time, considers the choices we make about the way we obtain a living and asks how far life styles may legitimately reflect subjective preferences and be made more satisfying for individuals.



Part I The Basis of Ethics

Chapter 1 Introduction

The Relevance of Ethics

What is an Ethical Problem?

A Secular Approach

The Role of Logic, Science and Common Sense

Chapter 2 What is the Good?

The Good Life or Being Good?

The Meaning of Happiness

Why Should We Be Good?

What Is The Good Life?

My Good Life versus Yours?

Chapter 3 Basic Ethical Concepts



Purposes in Life

Self Development: Virtues

Relationships with People

Relationships with Animals and the Planet


Part II Public Life

Chapter 4 Ethics & Democracy

What is Politics?

Ethics, Interests and Politics

Democracy and Compromise

Localism, Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism

Democratic Rights and Duties

Chapter 5 Public Policies

Social Justice



Freedom and Equality


Chapter 6 Ethics for Politicians

Morality of Politics

Reasons of State

War & Politics

Chapter 7 Ethics for Citizens

Who Should Count?

Duties of Citizens

Right of Rebellion

Secularism / Tolerance



Schools of Ethical Thinking

This copyright material may not be reproduced without permission. It is a draft of the contents and preface of the book I am working on at present.


If you would like to read and comment on a draft of the book please contact me through the feedback page.

Arabic Translation of Politics the Basics

 24th Jan 2014

The fourth edition of Politics: the Basics has been published in Arabic by the Arab Network for Publishing and Research based in Beirut, Lebanon

Politics: the Basics has already appeared in Polish translation as 'Nauki Polityczne' published by Zysk i S-Ka Wydawnnictwo of Poznan. It has sold over 6,000 copies in Polish.

Translation Rights into Chinese have also been sold but we haven't seen any sales figures for this!