Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 73(3) August 2023

Book Review

The Worth of Persons
The Foundation of Ethics

by James Franklin
Encounter Books (25 Oct. 2022)

Reviewed Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Book CoverThe author is an honorary professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He gives good reasons to show that a sound ethics has to be based on the principle that human beings are radically different from anything else in the world.

When we encounter barbaric acts leading to the intentional killing of innocent human beings, we know that "gross violations of the right to life" have been perpetrated. We have an awareness that good and evil matter in an absolute sense. Few people would say that the Nazi holocaust was bad in my view but may not be in your view.

Human beings have intrinsic worth. We can talk about consequences and rights, but these things are not foundational. Indeed everything stems from the inherent worth of human life: the ethics of care, respect for autonomy, and the right to liberty.

We can arrive at a false understanding of the human person by means of faulty ethical systems including evolutionary ethics, divine command ethics, and even some of the principles proposed by Socrates and Aristotle.

Ethics is not mainly about what people do. They are about what people are. And, contrary to some aspects of traditional ethics, the author argues that there are no such things as strictly morally indifferent acts. They are either good or bad.

In actual fact, this book is largely an excellent defence of traditional moral principles.