Rachels, James 1941-2003

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Rachels, James 1941-2003


Born May 30, 1941, in Columbus, GA; died of cancer, September 5, 2003, in Birmingham, AL; son of James and Velma Rachels; married Carol Williams, August 12, 1962; children: David and Stuart. Education: Mercer University, B.A., 1962; University of North Carolina, Ph.D., 1967.


Philosopher, educator, writer, and editor. University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, faculty member, 1966-68; New York University, New York, NY, faculty member, 1968-72; University of Miami, Miami, FL, faculty member, 1972-77; University of Alabama at Birmingham, faculty member, chair of Department of Philosophy, 1977-2003, dean of the School of Humanities, 1973-83, academic vice president (acting), 1983, University professor, 1984-2003. Also taught at Duke University, 1975.


(Editor) Moral Problems: A Collection of Philosophical Essays, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1971, 3rd edition, 1979.

(Compiler, with Frank A. Tillman) Philosophical Issues; A Contemporary Introduction, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1972.

(Editor) Understanding Moral Philosophy, Dickenson Publishing (Encino, CA), 1976.

(Editor) The Elements of Moral Philosophy (textbook), Random House (New York, NY), 1986, 5th edition, also edited by son, Stuart Rachels, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 2007.

The End of Life: Euthanasia and Morality, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

The Legacy of Socrates (textbook), University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL), 1993.

Can Ethics Provide Answers? And Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1997.

(Advisory editor, with Robert L. Arrington) Ethics: The Classic Readings, Blackwell Publishers (Malden, MA), 1998.

(Editor) Ethical Theory, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor) The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy, 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 1999, 4th updated edition, also edited by Stuart Rachels, 2007.

(Editor) The Truth about the World: Basic Readings in Philosophy, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 2005.

Problems from Philosophy, McGraw-Hill (Boston, MA), 2005.

The Legacy of Socrates: Essays in Moral Philosophy, edited by Stuart Rachels, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to numerous books, including Twentieth Century Ethical Theory, edited by Stephen M. Cahn and Joram G. Haber, Prentice Hall, 1995; Philosophy Then and Now, edited by N. Scott Arnold, Theodore M. Benditt, and George Graham, Blackwell, 1998; Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, edited by Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum, Oxford University Press, 2004; and Food for Thought: The Debate over Eating Meat, edited by Steve F. Sapontzis, Prometheus Books, 2004. Contributor to professional journals, including Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Think, Philosophical Inquiry, and the Journal of Ethics. Works have been translated into Dutch, Korean, Norwegian, Italian, Japanese, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Serbo-Croatian.


James Rachels was a philosopher and educator who wrote and edited books and essays on philosophy. Many of his books focus on his primary interests of using reason to solve difficult moral issues, vegetarianism and animal rights, affirmative action, and the humanitarian use of euthanasia. For example, in Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Rachels presents a series of essays addressing the issue of Darwin's theory of evolution and suggests that humans have yet to overcome the implications of evolutionary theory, especially its ethical implications concerning humans' treatment of animals and the idea that humans are somehow special. "Rachels has given us an important book that provides a new perspective on what we are doing in moral philosophy," wrote Dale Jamieson in the Hastings Center Report. "It is well written, well argued, and well-researched." Noah Hannibal wrote in Traffic: "Overall, Created from Animals is an engaging account of Darwin's thought and its moral implications." Rachels presents previously published essays on animal rights, human suffering, and bioethics in The Legacy of Socrates: Essays in Moral Philosophy, which was edited by the author's son Stuart Rachels. Scott Duimstra, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "uses clear and concise writing to explain his ethical theory."



Hastings Center Report, March-April, 1991, Dale Jamieson, review of Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, p. 47.

Library Journal, November 15, 2006, Scott Duimstra, review of The Legacy of Socrates: Essays in Moral Philosophy, p. 74.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of The Elements of Moral Philosophy (5th edition); August, 2006, review of The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy (4th edition).

Traffic, January, 2002, Noah Hannibal, "Uniquely Human?," p. 197.


Animal Rights Library,http://www.animal-rights-library.com/ (August 27, 2007), biographical information on author.

Bradford Priddy Web site,http://www.bradpriddy.com (August 27, 2007), biographical information on author.

University of Alabama Birmingham, Department of Philosophy Web site,http://www.uab.edu/philosophy/ (August 27, 2007), biographical information on author.



New York Times, September 9, 2003, Anahad O'Connor, "James Rachels, Ethicist, 62; Ignited Euthanasia Debate."