In Essays on the History of Ethics Michael Slote collects his essays that deal with aspects of both ancient and modern ethical thought and seek to point out conceptual/normative comparisons and contrasts among different views. Arranged in chronological order of the philosopher under discussion, the relationship between ancient ethical theory and modern moral philosophy is a major theme of several of the papers and, in particular, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and/or utilitarianism feature centrally in (most of) the discussions. One essay seeks to show that there are three main ways to conceive the relationship between human well-being and virtue: one is dualistic a la Kant (they are disparate notions); one is the sort of reductionism familiar from the history of utilitarianismm; and one, not previously named by philosophers, is implicit in the approach the Stoics, Plato, and Aristotle take (in their different ways) to the topic of virtue and well-being. Slote names this third approach "elevationism" and argue that it is more promising than either reductionism or dualism.
Two of the essays are narrowly focused on Hume's ethics, and one seeks to show that even Kant's opponents have reason to accept a number of important and original Kantian ideas. Finally, the two last essays in the volume talk about ethical thought during the last half of the twentieth century and the first few years of the twenty-first, arguing that the care ethics of Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings has a distinctive and important contribution to make to ongoing ethical theorizing-and to our understanding of the history of ethics as well.