Good & Evil, Right & Wrong or Ethical Systems
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 529.
One of the first things I ever said to you was that I'm old-fashioned where romance is concerned. "A dinosaur I think I called myself. Being a dinosaur, I made a huge exception to my own laws of survival when I started living with you. But I didn't start living with you because I'd changed. I did it because I couldn't help it. There's a big difference. I never really thought we were living "in sin'' (I'm not that Paleolithic.) But we were living with dangerously little definition by my standards, which standards are based, by the way, on my belief that romance isn't just romance, that it naturally leads to love-making, which naturally leads to babies, who are naturally helpless creatures in a naturally beautiful but lethal world, so they naturally need as many pieces of the ancient Father-Mother-Shaman-Tribe-Home-hearth Paradigm as we are able to gracefully give them.
Robin Le Poidevin on Ethics said...
Arguing for Atheism, (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 85.
If God is the basis of moral values, then such values must be objective, and we are, therefore, faced with the following questions: (1) How do we come to be aware of these moral values, if they exist entirely independently of us? (2) Why do moral facts supervene on natural facts? (3) How can the existence of objective moral values be reconciled with the existence of different conceptions of what is right. These difficulties are not faced by the atheist.
Aristotle (Univ California Press: May 1996)
Francis J. Beckwith (Wadsworth Publishing Company: June, 1996)
Offering an outstanding balance of rigor and accessibility, Do The Right Thing, 2nd Edition provides accessible, impartial introductions to an excellent collection of readings in contemporary social issues. Provocative study questions urge readers to get to the heart of the debates. Newly designed for this edition, Do The Right Thing is organized into three sections. Part 1 introduces the reader to the leading ethical theories, while Parts 2 and 3 present the current issues including landmark court cases as well as differing viewpoints by not only leading philosophers, but also economists, legal scholars, and scientists. Centering on contemporary moral debates, this collection features the work of philosophers, legal scholars, political scientists, doctors, and judges. It first outlines major moral theories, then presents conflicting perspectives on current controversies and landmark court cases. Among the controversies discussed are abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, affirmative action, censorship, and homosexuality. Religious and legal perspectives are foregrounded.
J.P. Moreland and Stan Wallace, International Philosophical Quarterly (Vol. XXXV, No. 3 Issue No. 139 Sep. 1995).
During the last decade or so, there has been a growing body of literature about various topics in end-of-life ethics. And while there is no clear agreement about a number of issues in this literature, nevertheless, there is something of a consensus that has emerged, perhaps unconsciously and implicitly at times, regarding how to view a cluster of crucial metaphysical themes relevant to the ethical issues just mentioned — the nature of personhood, humanness, and personal identity. In our view, this consensus approach to these three themes is Cartesian and Lockean in spirit. Often conspicuous by its absence, especially outside Catholic circles, is any discussion of Thomistic insights into these metaphysical desiderata, much less an acceptance of them. This tendency is egregious and contributes to a way of framing certain ethical issues that determines their resolution from the beginning.
First Knight, Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton, writers (Columbia Pictures: 1995) 00:56:26 mark.
You know the law we live by. And where is it written beyond Camelot live lesser people, people too weak to protect themselves, let them die? Malagant: Other people live by other laws, Arthur. Or is the law of Camelot to rule the entire world. King Arthur: There are laws that enslave men, and laws that set them free. Either what we hold to be right and good and true is right and good and true for all mankind, under God, or we're just another robber tribe. Malagant: Your words are talking you out of peace and into war. King Arthur: There's a peace you only find after war. If that battle must come. I will fight it!
Robert P. George, ed. (Oxford University Press: December 1994), 371 pages.
Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies. This volume presents twelve original essays by leading natural law theorists and their critics. The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law. Readers get a clear sense of the wide diversity of viewpoints represented among contemporary theorists, and an opportunity to evaluate the arguments and counterarguments exchanged in the current debates between natural law theorists and their critics. Contributors include Hadley Arkes, Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., John Finnis, Robert P. George, Russell Hittinger, Neil MacCormick, Michael Moore, Jeffrey Stout, Joseph Raz, Jeremy Waldron, Lloyd Weinreb, and Ernest Weinrib. ~ Product Description
J.P. Moreland, "Utilitarianism and the Moral Life" in Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries : April 1993), 7-9.
The Goal Of Normative ethics is to develop a comprehensive, coherent system of morality that answers difficult questions. For advocates of biblical Christianity, whatever system we embrace should square with our considered, commonsense moral intuitions derived from natural law, and it should he consistent with, shed light upon, and help extend the morality contained in Scripture. Currently, there are three competing normative systems. Virtue ethics does not focus primarily on moral rules (e.g., "don't steal") or moral actions but on describing the good person or community and the features present in a virtuous character. Deontological ethics (from deon meaning binding duty") focuses on moral rules and actions and emphasizes duty done for duty's sake. Certain moral rules are intrinsically correct and should be followed simply because they are right. Virtue and deontological ethics are easily harmonized. But that is not the case with a third normative theory: utilitarianism.
J.P. Moreland in The Christian Research Journal (Spring 1993). Also see, "Understanding the Issues".
In Part One of this series I examined two central aspects of the euthanasia debate. First, several important background concepts in ethical theory were explained. Second, the main features of the libertarian and traditional views of euthanasia were set forth. The libertarian view, advocated by philosopher James Rachels, states that there is no morally relevant difference between active and passive euthanasia. Moreover, Rachels says, it is biographical life (which includes a person's aspirations, human relationships, and interests), not biological life (being a human being), that is important from a moral point of view (see Part One, p. 13). And if passive euthanasia is morally justifiable in a given case, then so is active euthanasia, since there is no relevant distinction between them.
J.P. Moreland, The Christian Research Journal (Winter 1992). Also see, "Assessing the Options".
In June of 1990, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a 63-year-old retired pathologist, was charged with first-degree murder after he helped an Oregon woman with Alzheimer's disease commit suicide in June 1990. The charge was dismissed in December 1990. (Michigan has no law against suicide.) In October of 1991, Marjorie Wantz used a suicide machine devised by Kevorkian to take her own life. Kevorkian also assisted Sherry Miller in an act of suicide by pulling a mask over her face so she would inhale carbon monoxide from a tank. Miller's veins were too delicate for a needle involved in Kevorkian's suicide machine. The police found both bodies in a cabin 40 miles north of Detroit. Miller was incapacitated by multiple sclerosis and Wantz suffered from a painful pelvic condition. Neither condition was life threatening.
Francis Snare (Routledge: May, 1992), 196 pages.
Most recent texts in moral philosophy have either concentrated on practical moral issues or else, if theoretical, have tended toward one-sided presentations of recent, fashionable views. Discussions of applied ethics cannot go very far without revealing underlying philosophical assumptions about how deeper, more general issues are treated. Similarly, recent approaches to ethics are difficult to understand without a knowledge of the context of the historical views against which these approaches are reacting. The Nature of Moral Thinking will satisfy the intellectually curious student, providing a solid and fair discussion of the classical philosophical questions about our moral thinking, surveying the main types of meta-ethical and normative ethical theories, while not excluding the more recent discussions of moral realism, of anti-realism, and of virtue morality. Francis Snare demonstrates that glib intellectualistic thinking about morality, especially in regard to relativism andsubjectivism, is seriously flawed. He also focuses attention on the question of whether particular theories of the origins of morality (for example, those of Nietzsche and Marx) undermine morality. All students and teachers of ethics and philosophy will find this book one of the most complete and detailed introductory-level surveys of the foundations of ethics with emphasis on the problems of the subjectivity, the relativity, and the origins of morality. ~ Product Description
Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press: March 1992), 624 pages.
The sources to which Taylor refers are the moral ideals, ideas, and understandings that have dominated in various historical eras. Taylor's basic premise is rather simple, "we are only our selves insofar as we move in a certain space of questions, as we seek and find an orientation to the good (p. 34)." His purpose is not to specify the good, that is, he does not seek to set normative definitions or qualifications. His purpose is to show that self-definition requires a framework in which to be understood. The historical course of his narrative begins with the classical perspective. In this view, self was dependent on a vision of the True or the Ideal. The hierarchical nature of reality presupposed in classical thought meant that self-definition was subservient to the whole. Traditional Christian thought embraced the classical perspective and the preference for self-definition by externals. Obviously, this short sketch of classical thought seems to be absurdly irrelevant in our contemporary world. Self is definitely not defined in relation to externals, but by an extreme interiority, complete rejection of hierarchical schemes, and the assumption that reality is defined empirically rather than conceptually. This book traces the transformation of the classical perspective through history in each of these areas: the movement toward inwardness, the affirmation of ordinary life, and the voice of nature. ~ Peter A. Kindle at Amazon.com
James Rachels (Oxford University Press: Aug 1, 1990), 256 pages.
A remarkably clear, straightforward, and brief (211-page) discussion, from a Univ. of Alabama philosophy professor, of the implications of Darwinism for animal rights. Most of Rachels' book is a review of Darwin's work and of the responses and relevant ideas of biologists, philosophers, and others - both Darwin's contemporaries who rejected his theories for their assault on religion and human dignity, and other thinkers who have argued that humanity's creation in the image of God or, later, human speech, intellect, and/or moral sense make human specialness compatible with evolution. Rachels then puts forth his own argument for "moral individualism," based on his belief that evolution precludes the concept of human specialness and forces a reconsideration of our treatment of animals. In the end, he restores a sort of relativist respect for human claims in his distinction between "biological" and "biographical" life, but this same distinction supports his assertion that a rhesus monkey might have a higher claim to consideration than a severely brain-damaged human. But such a summary ignores the specific topics of debate, as well as the arguments of philosophers from Kant to sociobiologists and animal-rights advocates, that Rachels characterizes so neatly and accessibly - and that, along with his own provocative argument, should earn the book serious attention. ~ Kirkus Reviews
Kai Nielsen on Ethical Certainty said...
Ethics without God, rev. ed. (Prometheus Books: 1990), 10-11.
It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [as wife-beating and child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil... I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.
Homosexuality and the Natural Law (Claremont, CA: The Claremont Institute of the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, 1990), 3-4.
Then I learned that all moral judgments are "value judgments," that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either "right" or "wrong." I even read somewhere that the Chief justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself what apparently the Chief Justice couldn't figure out for himself: that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any "reason" to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring — the strength of character — to throw off its shackles. I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable "value judgment" that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these "others"? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog's life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as "moral" or "good" and others a "immoral" or "bad"? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.
Normative Ethics (Westview Press: 1998), p. 9.
Of course, the study of the moral beliefs of different cultures can be helpful in a number of ways. It can open our eyes to the fact that different groups have disagreed about moral questions — even on some of the matters that seem most self-evident to us. If nothing else, this may deepen our desire to discover to what extent our own moral views can be defended. And it may leave us more open to the possibility of deciding that it is actually some of our own moral views that are mistaken and in need of revision. Furthermore, the study of the moral beliefs of other groups can help us discover arguments for or against some position — arguments that we might otherwise have overlooked but that are worthy of careful consideration. And, of course, the study of the moral beliefs of other groups can be interesting in its own right.
J.P. Moreland, The Simon Greenleaf Law Review 8 (1989), pp. 25-55.
But apart from a pure interest in scholarship, why should Evangelicals care whether or not Rawls was Kantian? In recent years, there has been tremendous growth in the number of Bioethics Committees in acute and long term health care facilities. Since these committees are interdisciplinary, their membership is open to lawyers, nurses, social workers, doctors, clergy, and laymen, and others who are not trained in moral philosophy. There is a danger in this. Some of the literature on bioethics which is used to train people to serve on Bioethics Committees blurs or minimizes the distinction between deontological and utilitarian normative theories because both theories (especially the rule varieties of each) often imply the same moral decision. One example of this minimization of the distinction between deontological and utilitarian theories is Rawls. He is often listed as an example of a deontological theory, but I hope to show that he is closer to utilitarianism. ~ An Excerpt
Kai Nielsen (Prometheus: Jul 1, 1989), 300 pages.
Noted philosopher Kai Nielsen offers an answer to this fundamental question - a question that reaches in to grasp at the very heart of ethics itself. Essentially, this innocent inquiry masks a confusion that so many of us get caught in as we think about moral issues. We fail to realise that there is a difference between judging human behaviour within an ethical context, or set of moral principles, and justifying the principles themselves. According to Nielsen, it is precisely this basic muddle that has spawned all sorts of challenges to morality, from relativism and institutionism to egoism and scepticism.Nielsen first argues the case for these challenges in the strongest possible terms; then he shows that their failure to establish themselves demonstrates a fundamental flaw - an inability to understand what it means to have good reasons for the moral claims we make. In his search for "good reasons" Nielsen must face the innocent question "Why be moral?" He tries to show us that skirmishes among supporters of specific moral principles require a different sort of resolution than those that occur between groups of ethical principles. Justifying an action within a moral point of view is quite different from making the case for having a moral point of view in the first place. ~ Product Description
David Owen Brink, ed. (Cambridge University Press: Feb 24, 1989), 356 pages.
This is an important book in contemporary meta-ethics since it is the first and only book-length treatise on so-called "Cornell Realism." What is perhaps most distinctive of the Cornell Realists is that they draw on work in recent philosophy of science to argue that we have good reason to believe that moral inquiry is objective in much the same way that scientific inquiry is objective. They also adhere to a battery of views on specific meta-ethical issues, and this helps to distinguish them from other thinkers. At the center of their metaphysics of morality is the view that moral facts and properties are natural, though they cannot be reduced to the properties of physics, biology, chemistry, or any other discipline in the natural sciences. "David Brink's book is the best development, synthesis, and defense now available of a naturalistic moral realism." ~ Ethics
Norman L. Geisler (Baker Academic: Sep 1, 1989), 336 pages.
An introductory presentation of Christian ethics, where the Bible is taken as the authoritative text for discussing issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. "This book is the most current of Geisler's books on ethics and incorporates many of the points of previous works such as Ethics: Alternatives & Issues, Options in Contemporary Christian Ethics, and The Christian Ethic of Love. The book is, as the title suggests, a presentation of Christian ethics, so the Bible is taken as the standard text for discussing certain issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. But scientific and rational arguments are also used in addition to Biblical exposition to reach conclusions." ~ Cameron B. Clark @ Amazon.com