Book Projects: The Ethics Reader

18 Jul

Most book projects conclude in one of two ways—either with a published book or an unhealthy amount of despair and frustration in conjunction with no book at all—but the how’s and why’s of initiating projects are almost limitless. Some books come to us as complete manuscripts. Some projects we set up on our own because we see (or think we see) some inherent commercial viability. Some authors want to make money. (Well, they all do, but for some it’s more of a priority than for others.) Some want the satisfaction of the heft of their own books in hand. Some want to formally pass on to their students the information they’ve developed for their classes.

Some authors are sick of using Xerox machines.

That impulse was the genesis of TECHNE, a first-semester college composition anthology, that I edited way back when with a couple of colleagues, Joyce Gorgan (back then Joyce Spivey) and Amy Patrick, in the TSTC Waco English department. All three of us—plus other instructors on the department—relied on our own outside materials that we fairly regularly copied to distribute to students—nothing, of course, that would violate Educational Fair Use guidelines!—as opposed to using the official textbook for the class. (For my part, I was always a big fan of Richard Ford’s “In the Face” and Bryan Woolley’s “Burgers, Beer and Patsy Cline” and Wayne C. Booth’s “Boring From Within.”) Finally, it dawned on us to put our own composition reader together that gathered all the materials faculty in the department liked to use. (At the very least, we figured it would save us the time and cost of killing endless trees to Xerox handouts.) So, in addition to the essays above, we wound up with an excerpt from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Joyce’s choice) and part of Longinus on the Sublime: The Peri Hupsous in Translations by Nicolas Boileau-Depreaux (1674 and William Smith) (by way of Amy) in and amongst roughly fifty total essays that covered all kinds of styles, addressed different kinds of audiences, and demonstrated different rhetorical modes.

It was this sort of impulse that led us to a project that, logistically, we have been working to line out for a while: an ethics reader with entries from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as selected by Troy Williamson of TSTC West Texas in Abilene. That is, Troy has used the SEP for his ethics classes for a while now but, resource-wise, the big dilemma is that every time he assigned a reading students would rush to the library or open computer lab and print out the entry. Now, don’t get me wrong . . . students shouldn’t be stuck to the nth degree with every possible cost known to mankind. On the other hand, if higher education was still totally free—as it was in California for so long—none of us at TSTC would have jobs because the school would have closed its doors long ago. So, it was after talking about this ever-present fine line—making resources available to students without soaking them for every bit of money they probably don’t even have—with Troy a while back we decided to see if a licensing agreement could be worked out with the SEP to publish a low-cost print anthology of the readings he uses.

Well, I’m happy to say that after many discussions by phone and email, the details have been worked out and The Ethics Reader: A Selection of Entries from the 2007 Edition of The Stanford Encyclopedia as selected by Troy Williamson is slated for publication in December 2007. Many thanks are due to Dr. Edward Zalta, Principal Editor of the SEP. This collaborative print project was a first for them and he deserves much kudos for working out a way to allow it to happen instead of saying no to something new (which would have been, of course, the easiest course of action). Then again, it’s pretty logical that anyone who works at a place called The Metaphysics Research Lab would be open to abstract concepts and ideas.


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