Universalism vs. Relativism: Making Moral Judgments in a Changing, Pluralistic, and Threatening World

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In formulating this collection, Don Browning asked his contributors to respond to a simple question: Has moral relativism run its course? The threats of terrorism, reproductive technology, and globalization have forced us to ask anew whether there are universal moral truths upon which to base political and ethical judgments. In this timely edited collection, distinguished scholars present and test the best answers to this question. This dialogue includes contributions from widely-recognized scholars Richard Bernstein, Amitai Etzioni, Jean Bethke Elshtain, William Galston, Franklin Gamwell, Timothy Jackson, James Turner Johnson, John Kelsay, and Jean Porter. Although the conflict between universalism and relativism is a complex issue with many parts, the contributors to this volume tackle the question at hand in an engaging, thought-provoking manner. These insightful responses temper the strong antithesis between universalism and relativism and retain sensitivity to how language and history shape the context of our moral decisions. This important and relevant work of contemporary political and social thought is ideal for use in the classroom across many disciplines including political science, philosophy, ethics, theology, and law.

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Editorial Reviews

Political Studies Review
...the volume is a solid contribution....Anyone interested in moral and cultural pluralism will find this rewarding reading.
Gerald McKenny
These fine essays offer a rich and diverse set of answers to one of the most pressing questions in moral and political thought today: How can we get beyond the critiques of moral universalism of the past two or three decades without returning to the kinds of universalism against which those critiques were directed? Thanks to the high quality of the essays and the wide range of perspectives, this collection will influence discussions of universalism and relativism in moral philosophy, social and political theory, and religious studies.
Michael J. Perry
The thoughtful, accessible essays in Universalism vs. Relativism shine a clarifying light on the often murky controversy over moral relativism. Anyone who wants to understand the various dimensions of that controversy should read this collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742550896
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/19/2006
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Browning is Alexander Campbell Professor Emeritus of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Preface Chapter 2 List of Contributors Chapter 3 Introduction Part 4 Part I: Foundationalism v. Antifoundationalism Chapter 5 Can We Justify Moral Norms? Chapter 6 Self-Evident Truth (Beyond Relativism) Chapter 7 The Origin of Moral Norms Part 8 Part II: Approaches from Human Nature Chapter 9 Moral Ideals and Human Nature Chapter 10 Can We Justify Universal Moral Norms? Yes, with Qualifications Part 11 Part III: Common Ground through Historical Understanding Chapter 12 Searching for Common Ground: Ethical Tradition at the Interface with International Law Chapter 13 Christians, Muslims, and the Conduct of War Part 14 Part IV: Multidimensional Approaches Chapter 15 Universalism and Relativism: Some Lessons from Gandhi Chapter 16 Concrete Levels of Being and Their Political Implications Chapter 17 Response Chapter 18 Response

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