Perhaps difficult to read, but do enjoy the cover!

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 16, 2014

Once, several years ago, I asked Henry or Kieran how many readers this blog has (I wanted to use this information to please some academic bean counters), and the number I got was about 8,000 unique readers a day. I referred to this figure yesterday in a FB-discussion, and Chris told me that currently CT has about 12,000 daily viewers. Hi, all of you! Now, how many of you read Dutch? Perhaps 250? How many of those are interested in an introduction to Ethics book? Three? (the other Dutch philosophers reading this already had their ethics undergrad training, I am sure). So I have no illusions that many of our readers will be interested in the book that I coedited and that just got published, and which features 21 chapters providing a comprehensive intro to ethics, written by 21 philosophers based in the Netherlands. But, as some of you know (Harry in particular), I care a lot, perhaps excessively much so, about the aesthetics of book covers. And I can say I am quite pleased with this one. So perhaps this book is of no interest to 11,997 of you, but I hope you will enjoy the cover.

basisboek_ethiekI promise my next post will be about a really interesting book that all 12,000 of you can read, but with a very different kind of cover… Animal rights activists may take offense of that cover, but there’s luckily no relation with its content. Stay tuned.



Phil 09.16.14 at 7:52 am

Not being able to read Dutch does bug me. I’m planning to revive my school-level German some time, by slogging through something I really want to read with a dictionary at my side (this is how I learned Italian, so I know it can be done); if that goes well I hope to move on to Dutch. The text of choice will probably be something (pre-)Situationist, though.


Matt 09.16.14 at 11:18 am

It is a very handsome cover, and I understand caring about such things.


Charlie 09.16.14 at 1:36 pm

Boom. That’s beautiful.


Bloix 09.16.14 at 1:39 pm

Congratulations on its publication. Let’s hope this becomes the standard text for Dutch undergrads.


Eszter 09.16.14 at 2:11 pm

Congrats, Ingrid! And very nice cover, indeed.


harry b 09.16.14 at 2:23 pm

Ingrid refers to my book which is an intro to contemporary theories of justice as ‘your flower book’, which is a reference to the cover. I like your cover much more, Ingrid. Congratulations! I’m sure I can find a Dutch reader to point to it.


Ingrid Robeyns 09.16.14 at 2:41 pm

Charlie, funny – I had not paused to think what “Boom” would mean for an English audience. In case you don’t know, it’s the Dutch word for “tree”.

Bloix: thanks – yes, we hope so too. So far we’ve been using a variety of books in English, but I think it’s better for first year students to be able to read in their native language – the content is already hard enough for them. But as authors we did face a few challenges with translations (some of us hardly ever write in Dutch, since most of our academic publications are in English and our piece for newspapers or pieces for broader audiences do not need to make reference to, say, the desire-fulfilment theory of wellbeing.


Matt 09.16.14 at 2:42 pm

I’d meant to also say that, I’m sorry I can’t read it or understand it. I think it would be very interesting to see how a group of philosophers from the Netherlands made such a text, and how it differed from similar standard texts made in the US, if at all.


Ingrid Robeyns 09.16.14 at 2:45 pm

Matt: that’s a good question. Since the book is systematic rather than historical, and is “analytical” qua orientation, the vast majority of the literature we used (except for Kant) is English. So I don’t think it would differ much from the widely used English/American textbooks.


MPAVictoria 09.16.14 at 2:45 pm

Congrats on the book!


Chris Grant 09.16.14 at 2:46 pm

There’s a bigger view available at:

Speaking of things that people care excessively about, does the book have a sewn binding?


Ingrid Robeyns 09.16.14 at 2:51 pm

Chris Grant: the answer is no, and I think the reason is to keep the prize down. (the book is 376 pages, two colors inside, but frankly it never occurred to me to ask about sewn binding. Interesting to see that we care about different details!

We did send back two earlier cover designs, though, the first of which can still be found at amazon:


Bloix 09.16.14 at 3:04 pm

An apple!??!!! What were they thinking, Eve and the serpent in the Garden?

The paint pots are good. They communicate a sense of choices without censure. Not to mention that they are aesthetically pleasing (if we may use that word to describe a book about ethics).


Gav 09.16.14 at 3:24 pm

My grandfather would say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and then go on to explain to anyone still listening that the phrase doesn’t actually mean that. He’d probably have agreed that it is pretty.


js. 09.17.14 at 2:09 am

Speaking of random things one cares about, I think the font is excellent—exactly the kind I would want on the cover of a big bound textbook. (Or even a not very big one.)


Watson Ladd 09.17.14 at 2:10 am

Maybe it’s just Chicago, but I would rather read Aristotle than someone else talking about Aristotle. In particular it seems hard to assign a paper that forces the student to engage closely with an argument already paraphrased, and possibly with misreadings intact. Furthermore it removes a lot of the literary merit of philosophy: it matters that the Tractus Logico-Philosophicus is formatted the way it is, in a way that a summary cannot convey.


LFC 09.17.14 at 4:12 am

@W Ladd
Maybe it’s just Chicago, but I would rather read Aristotle than someone else talking about Aristotle.

Well, one can do both, and since the organization of the book is, according to Ingrid, systematic not historical, it’s probably not arranged around particular philosophers but particular issues.

(As for Chicago, I know you were referring to the curriculum, but there is Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy (Univ. of Chicago Press), which is exactly “someone else talking about Aristotle,” and Hume, and Kant, and etc.).


Ingrid Robeyns 09.17.14 at 6:05 am

exactly what LFC says. And of course all philosophy students get the original classical readings too — excerpts in the Ethics courses, closer reading and deeper analysis in the history courses.


Ingrid Robeyns 09.17.14 at 6:30 am

As for the book review of the book-with-the-animal-on-the-cover, one of its authors is traveling (and presumably offline) so I’ll have to postpone that book review with a week.


M.D. 09.20.14 at 5:52 pm

We use this one as an introduction to ethics (also in Dutch, also Boom): I like your cover better though. I think I’ll do the introduction twice.


Ingrid Robeyns 09.20.14 at 7:52 pm

M.D.: Who is the “we” in your comment? With one or two exceptions, all first year ethics courses in philosophy departments at Dutch universities used English-language books, and our book tries to provide a Dutch-language alternative to those mainstream English books. I know the one you refer to but it’s quite different.


M.D. 09.20.14 at 11:45 pm

Hello Ingrid, I’m studying the Humanities at the Dutch Open University and Philosophy is one of the disciplines that constitute our curriculum. The book I referred to is our introduction to Ethics. I’m very curious in which way this book is different.


Ingrid Robeyns 09.22.14 at 7:54 am

M.D., – thanks, that explains — the book you referred to has, if I remember correctly, been put together as a book for the OU – in fact, it’s been co-published by Boom and the OU Netherlands, according to the cover.

As for how they differ: just put the tables of contents next to each other and it’s immediately obvious. The OU book covers more terrain, and includes a lot of applied ethics (about half of the book). Our book has *only* ethical theory, but has it thorough and we also include meta-ethics and moral psychology, which are completely missing from the OU book. I think for a humanities studies degree the OU may be perfectly fine, but for a first years course that marks the beginning for a Philosophy study (hence more ethics courses to follow), the book we put together provides a much firmer foundation. But given that it has much more theory and a lot of meta-theory, it is likely going to be much harder to digest than the OU book.

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