Good & Evil, Right & Wrong
John Kells Ingram (Adamant Media Corporation: September 2000), 163 pages.
The Secular Web is currently hosting the Carrier-Roth Debate in which Jennifer Roth argues that an ethical case can be made against abortion without reference to God or any other supernatural entity. It is telling that neither disputant attempts to justify the intrinsic worth they assume for human persons. If each party just grants that humans are inherently more valuable than rocks and trees, the crucial issue has been missed: the question of what it is that makes anything valuable. William Lane Craig presses this very issue in a new article in Paper Trails, "The Indispensability of Theological Meta-ethical Foundations for Morality." There is also philosophical confusion in the debate about what constitutes personal identity and other problems, but there are also many highlights in this exchange. Whether or not Roth is successful, it is refreshing to hear concerns about abortion outside of the religious community. Apart from condemnations of clinic violence, ethical considerations are conspicuously absent from virtually every pro-choice website, from Planned Parenthood to Protect Choice. Teenwire is about as close as you get with its swift dismissal: "Abortion is a touchy subject with a lot of people. Remember that this is your body and your decision... You have a right to end an unwanted pregnancy if you feel that it is the wisest decision for you." Considering this, The Secular Web's substantive discussion is especially commendable.
Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press: October 1, 1999)
The only boring aspect of this book is its title, which doesn't do justice to apologist Kreeft's intelligent, engaging dialogue between two fictional friends during a week of relaxation at Martha's Vineyard. Kreeft, philosophy professor at Boston College and author of more than 25 books, describes the absolutist character 'Isa as a Muslim fundamentalist from Palestine who teaches philosophy at the American University in Beirut. His interviewer and sparring partner is Libby Rawls, an African-American, liberal feminist journalist. Using a classic debate format, with impressive fairness to the opposite side, Kreeft defines relativism and its importance. Tracing relativism's evolution and history in Western philosophy, Kreeft notes that relativism is a fairly modern perspective, originating within the last few hundred years. He outlines the philosophical distinctions between it and absolutism with clarity and an integrity that will delight both the layperson and the professional philosopher. For Kreeft, relativism has eroded a collective and individual sense of accountability and contributed to social decay, yet he can see the other side, especially with regard to cross-cultural differences. Although the purpose of the book is to uphold absolutism, Kreeft outlines the relativist perspective in an approachable, respectful manner. By giving counterarguments a fighting chance, this becomes a book that may actually persuade people, not just preach to the absolutist choir. ~ Publishers Weekly
Craig A. Boyd (Brazos Press: November 2007), 272 pages.
Boyd presents an insightful account of natural law ethics, the view that ethical principles derive from the requirements of human nature. A prime obstacle to the acceptance of this type of ethics is that it transgresses the fact-value dichotomy. Boyd responds in detail to this objection, as well as to G.E. Moore's criticism of ethical naturalism. Although he defends natural law, Boyd holds that the classical version of that view as advanced by Thomas Aquinas cannot be accepted. It is based, he writes, on outdated biology, and attention to modern evolutionary theory results in a natural law position less universalistic in its claims than the classical doctrine. Boyd further criticizes other attempts to use evolutionary biology in ethics, as expressed in Larry Arnhart's Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature and the writings of E.O. Wilson. Natural law, Boyd argues, needs to be supplemented with virtue ethics. He also compares natural law to divine command ethics and addresses postmodernist and relativist criticisms. Boyd discusses an unusually wide range of material, and his challenging book is recommended for philosophy collections. ~ Product Description
Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford University Press: Jan 15, 2009), 264 pages.
The distinguished philosopher Robert M. Adams presents a major work on virtue, which is once again a central topic in ethical thought. A Theory of Virtue is a systematic, comprehensive framework for thinking about the moral evaluation of character. Many recent attempts to stake out a place in moral philosophy for this concern define virtue in terms of its benefits for the virtuous person or for human society more generally. In Part One Adams presents and defends a conception of virtue as intrinsic excellence of character, worth prizing for its own sake and not only for its benefits. In the other two parts he addresses two challenges to the ancient idea of excellence of character. One challenge arises from the importance of altruism in modern ethical thought, and the question of what altruism has to do with intrinsic excellence. Part Two argues that altruistic benevolence does indeed have a crucial place in excellence of character, but that moral virtue should also be expected to involve excellence in being for other goods besides the well-being (and the rights) of other persons. It explores relations among cultural goods, personal relationships, one's own good, and the good of others, as objects of excellent motives. The other challenge, the subject of Part Three of the book, is typified by doubts about the reality of moral virtue, arising from experiments and conclusions in social psychology. Adams explores in detail the prospects for an empirically realistic conception of excellence of character as an object of moral aspiration, endeavor, and education. He argues that such a conception will involve renunciation of the ancient thesis of the unity or mutual implication of all virtues, and acknowledgment of sufficient 'moral luck' in the development of any individual's character to make virtue very largely a gift, rather than an individual achievement, though nonetheless excellent and admirable for that. ~ Product Description
Alisdair MacIntyre, 2nd ed. (University of Notre Dame Press: May 1997), 312 pages.
When "After Virtue" first appeared in 1981, it was recognized as a significant and potentially controversial critique of contemporary moral philosophy. Newsweek called it "a stunning new study of ethics by one of the foremost moral philosophers in the English-speaking world." Since that time, the book has been translated into more than fifteen foreign languages and has sold over one hundred thousand copies. Now, twenty-five years later, the University of Notre Dame Press is pleased to release the third edition of "After Virtue", which includes a new prologue "After Virtue after a Quarter of a Century." In this classic work, Alasdair MacIntyre examines the historical and conceptual roots of the idea of virtue, diagnoses the reasons for its absence in personal and public life, and offers a tentative proposal for its recovery. While the individual chapters are wide-ranging, once pieced together they comprise a penetrating and focused argument about the price of modernity. In the Third Edition prologue, MacIntyre revisits the central theses of the book and concludes that although he has learned a great deal and has supplemented and refined his theses and arguments in other works, he has "as yet found no reason for abandoning the major contentions" of this book. While he recognizes that his conception of human beings as virtuous or vicious needed not only a metaphysical but also a biological grounding, ultimately he remains "committed to the thesis that it is only from the standpoint of a very different tradition, one whose beliefs and presuppositions were articulated in their classical form by Aristotle, that we can understand both the genesis and the predicament of moral modernity." ~ Product Description
N.T. Wright (HarperCollins Publishers: March 2010), 307 pages.
How do you develop a character suited for God’s Kingdom? Practice, practice, practice. That, in a nutshell, is the message of this volume on building Christian character by Wright, a prodigiously prolific Bible scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. In arguing for “this new vision of virtue, which is a vision of Jesus Christ himself,” Wright carefully explores such classical exponents of character as Aristotle. He also acknowledges the existence of other notions of encouraging behavior-based rules, duty, or being “true to oneself.” Drawing on scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, Wright asserts that true transformation comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and through worship, mission, and “following Jesus.” As the habits of virtue grow, the church community will become the royal priesthood it is meant to be, anticipating (one of the author’s favorite words) God’s coming new world. A follow-up to Wright’s Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue. ~ Publishers Weekly
The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 25-26
There is only one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the student's reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2+2=4. These are things you don't think about... That it is a moral issue for students is revealed by the character of their response when challenged — a combination of disbelief and indignation: "Are you an absolutist?," the only alternative they know, uttered in the same tone as... "Do you really believe in witches?" This latter leads into the indignation, for someone who believes in witches might well be a witch-hunter or a Salem judge. The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness — and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings — is the great insight of our times... The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.
After Virtue (University of Notre Dame Press: 1984), p. 23.
A moral philosophy ... characteristically presupposes a sociology. For every moral philosophy offers explicitly or implicitly at least a partial conceptual analysis of the relationship of an agent to his or her reasons, motives, intentions and actions, and in so doing generally presupposes some claim that these concepts are embodied or at least can be in the real social world. Even Kant, who sometimes seems to restrict moral agency to the inner realm of the noumenal, implies otherwise in his writings on law, history and politics. Thus it would generally be a decisive refutation of a moral philosophy to show that moral agency on its own account of the matter could never be socially embodied; and it also follows that we have not yet fully understood the claims of any moral philosophy until we have spelled out what its social embodiment would be.
Mark C. Murphy (Cornell University Press: August 2002), 224 pages.
In the first book wholly concerned with divine authority, Mark C. Murphy explores the extent of God's rule over created rational beings. The author challenges the view-widely supported by theists and nontheists alike-that if God exists, then humans must be bound by an obligation of obedience to this being. He demonstrates that this view, the "authority thesis," cannot be sustained by any of the arguments routinely advanced on its behalf, including those drawn from perfect being theology, metaethical theory, normative principles, and even Scripture and tradition. After exposing the inadequacies of the various arguments for the authority thesis, he develops his own solution to the problem of whether, and to what extent, God is authoritative. For Murphy, divine authority is a contingent matter: while created rational beings have decisive reason to subject themselves to the divine rule, they are under divine authority only insofar as they have chosen to allow God's decisions to take the place of their own in their practical reasoning. The author formulates and defends his arguments for this view, and notes its implications for understanding the distinctiveness of Christian ethics. ~ Product Description
Donald W. Shriver Jr. (Oxford University Press: Jan 15, 1998), 304 pages.
The author, president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, has produced a work that deserves close scrutiny. The casual reader is likely to conclude that Shriver is addressing, in some flight of fancy, the oxymoronic. After all, political forgiveness seems patently absurd, especially given the history of the 20th century-not to mention our contemporary culture of violence. However, while recognizing that forgiveness is a morally complex concept, Shriver argues that it reaches beyond the realm of the personal to the arena of political ethics. He contends that forgiveness is (or at least should be seen as) an indispensable element in politics and that it is an essential ingredient in our attempt to construct a proper political ethics. Not everyone will be persuaded by Shriver's attempt to make forgiveness the cornerstone of a political ethic; nonetheless, his argument should not be ignored. ~ Library Journal
Alexander Miller (Wiley, John & Sons: June 2003), 328 pages.
An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics provides a highly readable critical overview of the main arguments and themes in twentieth-century and contemporary metaethics. It traces the development of contemporary debates in metaethics from their beginnings in the work of G. E. Moore up to the most recent arguments between naturalism and non-naturalism, cognitivism and non-cognitivism. • A highly readable critical overview of the main arguments and themes in twentieth century and contemporary metaethics. • Asks: Are there moral facts? Is there such a thing as moral truth? Is moral knowledge possible? • Traces the development of contemporary debates in metaethics from their beginnings in the work of G. E. Moore up to the most recent debates between naturalism and non-naturalism, cognitivism and noncognitivism. • Provides for the first time a critical survey of famous figures in twentieth century metaethics such as Moore, Ayer and Mackie together with in-depth discussions of contemporary philosophers such as Blackburn, Gibbard, Wright, Harman, Railton, Sturgeon, McDowell and Wiggins. ~ Product Description
Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man") (1033-1109).
Of forgiveness, indeed, I speak briefly, for, as we said above, vengeance in no sense belongs to you, since you are not your own, nor is he who injures you yours or his, but you are both the servants of one Lord, made by him out of nothing. And if you avenge yourself upon your fellow servant, you proudly assume judgment over him when it is the peculiar right of God, the judge of all. But what do you give to God by your obedience, which is not owed him already, since he demands from you all that you are and have and can become?
Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man") (1033-1109).
When it is said that what God wishes is just, and that what He does not wish is unjust, we must not understand that if God wished anything improper it would be just, simply because he wished it. For if God wishes to lie, we must not conclude that it is right to lie, but rather that he is not God. For no will can ever wish to lie, unless truth in it is impaired, nay, unless the will itself be impaired by forsaking truth. When, then, it is said: "If God wishes to lie," the meaning is simply this: "If the nature of God is such as that he wishes to lie;" and, therefore, it does not follow that falsehood is right, except it be understood in the same manner as when we speak of two impossible things: "If this be true, then that follows; because neither this nor that is true;" as if a man should say: "Supposing water to be dry, and fire to be moist;" for neither is the case. Therefore, with regard to these things, to speak the whole truth: If God desires a thing, it is right that he should desire that which involves no unfitness. For if God chooses that it should rain, it is right that it should rain; and if he desires that any man should die, then is it right that he should die. Wherefore, if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has
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.
Andrew Fisher and Simon Kirchin, eds. (Routledge: July 2006), 621 pages.
Arguing about Metaethics collects together some of the most exciting contemporary work in metaethics in one handy volume. In it, many of the most influential philosophers in the field discuss key questions in metaethics: Do moral properties exist? If they do, how do they fit into the world as science conceives it? If they don’t exist, then how should we understand moral thought and language? What is the relation between moral judgement and motivation? As well as these questions, this volume discusses a wide range of issues including moral objectivity, truth and moral judgements, moral psychology, thick evaluative concepts and moral relativism. The editors provide lucid introductions to each of the eleven themed sections in which they show how the debate lies and outline the arguments of the papers. Arguing about Metaethics is an ideal resource text for students at upper undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Aristotle on Love said...
The pleasure of the eye is the beginning of love. For no one loves if he has not first been delighted by the form of the beloved; but he who delights in the form of another does not, for all that, love her, but only does do when he also longs for her when absent and craves for her presence.
Arthur Koestler on War said...
Even a cursory glance at history should convince one that individual crimes committed for selfish motives play a quite insignificant part in the human tragedy, compared to the numbers massacred in unselfish loyalty to one's tribe, nation, dynasty, church, or political ideology, ad majorem gloriam dei. The emphasis is on unselfish. Excepting a small minority of mercenary or sadistic disposition, wars are not fought for personal gain, but out of loyalty and devotion to king, country or cause. Homicide committed for personal reasons is a statistical rarity in all cultures, including our own. Homicide for unselfish reasons, at the risk of one's own life, is the dominant phenomenon of history.
Michael Martin (Prometheus: Oct, 2002), 330 pages.
Despite the pluralism of contemporary American culture, the Judaeo-Christian legacy still has a great deal of influence on the popular imagination. Thus it is not surprising that in this context atheism has a slightly scandalous ring, and unbelief is often associated with the lack of morality and a meaningless existence. Distinguished philosopher and committed atheist Michael Martin sets out to refute such notions in this thorough defense of atheism as both a moral and a meaningful philosophy of life. Martin shows not only that objective morality and a purposeful life are possible without belief in God but also that the predominantly Christian worldview of American society is seriously flawed as the basis of morality and meaning. ~ Product Description