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Reply: Ethical Universality and Ethical Relativism

  • Joseph Runzo
Part of the Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (CSPR)

Abstract

In the epilogue of Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov has a dream of a terrible new plague which affects the mind and will:

Each thought that he alone had the truth … They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify … They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other … The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other … All men and all things were involved in destruction.1

Civilised society deconstructs when it loses a perceived universality in values, especially ethical values. For civilisation depends on a vision both of the common good and of the good in common. Yet as the nineteenth century began to evince, and the twentieth century has come to embody, the civilising cohesiveness of a perceived ethical universality is increasingly subject to the stress of relativism.

Keywords

Child Abuse Ethical Relativism Basic Belief Common Morality Moral Relativism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment(New York: Bantam, 1982), p. 469.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    David Little, ‘The Nature and Basis of Human Rights’, in Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr (eds), Prospects for a Common Morality ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993 ), p. 83.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson ( New York: Harper & Row, 1960 ), pp. 142–3.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Joseph Runzo, ‘Kant on Reason and Justified Belief in God’, in World Views and Perceiving God (London: Macmillan; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1993), pp. 97–114, reprinted fromGoogle Scholar
  5. Philip J. Rossi and Michael Wreen (eds), Kant’s Philosophy of Religion Reconsidered ( Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991 ), pp. 22–39.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition ( New York: New American Library, 1965 ), pp. 177–8.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    For a sophisticated and subtle formulation of the Divine Command Theory, see Robert M. Adams’s presentation of a ‘modified divine command theory’ in The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), chs 7 andGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    William K. Frankena, ‘Is Morality Logically Dependent on Religion?’, in Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr (eds) Religion and Morality ( Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973 ), pp. 303–4.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    See John Langan, ‘Personal Responsibility and the Common Good in John Paul II’, in Joseph Runzo (ed.), Ethics, Religion, and the Good Society: New Directions in a Pluralistic World ( Louisville, Ky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992 ), pp. 132–47.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Don Cupitt, The New Christian Ethics (London: SCM Press, 1988), pp. 3–4 and 126.Google Scholar
  11. 21.
    Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Scribner’s, 1970 ), p. 59.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    By intuition I mean what G. E. Moore meant in Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), p. x.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Claremont Graduate School 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Runzo

There are no affiliations available

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