A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist

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Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a "Muslim fundamentalist" absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In a series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the "sassy Black feminist" reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780898707311
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Pages: 175
  • Sales rank: 330,432
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Table of Contents

Technical Note 9
Introduction 11
Interview 1 The Importance of Moral Relativism: Will It Really "Damn Our Souls and End Our Species"? 15
Interview 2 What Is Moral Relativism? 27
Interview 3 The History of Relativism 35
Interview 4 The Data 53
Interview 5 The Arguments for Relativism from Self-Esteem and from Cultural Relativity 64
Interview 6 The Arguments for Relativism from Social Conditioning, Freedom, and Tolerance 87
Interview 7 The Arguments for Relativism from Situations, Intentions, Projection, and Evolution 101
Interview 8 The Roots of Relativism: Reductionism 123
Interview 9 The Arguments for Moral Absolutism 135
Interview 12 The Philosophical Assumptions of Absolutism 150
Interview 11 The Cause and Cure of Relativism 164
Afterword 177
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An exercise in absolutist apologetics

    Peter John Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, a prolific writer and an engaging educator and public speaker. My first exposure to his writings came through his book A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, which was first systematic introduction to the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Kreeft is definitely strongly influenced by Thomistic thought, and this "Refutation" reflects some of that, as the dedication too strongly implies.

    The book is structured as a series of dialogues between Libby Rawls, a prototypical modern liberal relativist, and `Isa Ben Adam, a stand-in for a philosophically well versed moral absolutist. Both of them are figments of Kreeft's imagination, and maybe even parts of his own divided personality. The dialogues are deliberately fashioned after Socratic dialogues, and they serve as a vehicle through which Kreeft crafts his arguments in favor of moral absolutism.

    I have had a chance to listen Kreeft give a lecture on this very topic, and based on that it would make sense to write the arguments in a form of dialogues. Kreeft is a very good public speaker and great at interacting with audience and thinking on his feet about even the most arcane topic. This is clearly reflected in the book as well, as some of potential intellectual minefields are avoided with masterful grace. Furthermore, it is quite unusual nowadays to come across a book written in a form of dialogue. The academic writing tends to be very technical and impersonal, and that sometimes detracts from otherwise a very interesting topic. However, reading a page after page of interpersonal argumentation can get overbearing after a while, especially if the give-and-take can be rather confrontational on an occasion. However, this is easily compensated by lucidity of the prose and cogency of arguments. If you have ever had to argue with a moral relativist, this would be an ideal book that can be used to refute most of their arguments. It is an exercise in absolutist apologetics.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    An interesting read

    This book is a bit different from others in that it is a transcription of taped interviews between a moral absolutist ("Isa," an Arab college professor) and a relativist ("Libby," a feminist journalist). The debate/dialogue becomes heated at times, but sheds much light on both world-views. The book exposes the beliefs and assumptions underlying moral relativism and the ramifications.Admittedly, the text can become a little difficult at times due to the "jargon of philosophy," yet the book as a whole is quite readable, enjoyable, and informative.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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