Has moral relativism run its course? The threat of 9/11, terrorism, reproductive technology, and globalization has forced us to ask anew whether there are universal moral truths upon which to base ethical and political judgments. In this timely edited collection, distinguished scholars present and test the best answers to this question. 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, law, and theology. (shrink)
Abstract. A possible consequence of the dialogue between science and religion is a revived religious humanism—a firmer grasp of the historical and phenomenological meanings of the great world religions correlated with the more accurate explanations of the rhythms of nature that natural science can provide. The first great expressions of religious humanism in the West emerged when Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scholars sat in the same libraries in Spain and Sicily, studying and translating the lost manuscripts of Aristotle in the (...) ninth and tenth centuries to understand his ethics, epistemology, and psychobiology. In our day, the science-religion dialogue—exemplified by interaction among psychology, spirituality, and psychotherapy—will best support such a revival if guided by the philosophical resources of critical hermeneutics (sometimes called hermeneutical realism) supplemented by William James's brand of phenomenology and pragmatism. Here, I develop primarily the contributions of Paul Ricoeur to hermeneutic realism and his unique ability to find a place for the natural sciences within hermeneutic phenomenology in his formula of understanding-explanation-understanding. (shrink)
Abstract. For the past two decades, I have been developing an integrative Christian marriage theory, based in part on a grounding concept of natural law and an overarching theory of covenant. The natural law part of this theory starts with an account of the natural facts, conditions, interests, needs, and qualities of human life, interaction, and generation—what I call the “premoral” goods or realities of life. It then identifies the natural inclinations of humans to form enduring and exclusive monogamous marriages (...) and to preserve these units as the central site for intimacy, procreation, and nurture of children. In this paper, I first summarize this natural law theory of marriage and then compare it to the formulations of other modern Christian thinkers. I also defend this theory against various modern critics of natural law—in part by reinterpreting some traditional natural law teachings that in my view have been misunderstood, in part by looking at the interesting convergences between the insights into sex, marriage, and family life offered by contemporary Christian theological ethicists and by evolutionary biologists and biological anthropologists. (shrink)
Although psychiatry is interested in what both body and mind contribute to behavior, it sometimes emphasizes one more than the other. Since the early 1980s, American psychiatry has shifted its interest from mind and psyche to body and brain. Neuroscience and psychopharmacology are increasingly at the core of psychiatry. Some experts claim that psychiatry is no longer interested in problems in living and positive goals such as mental health, happiness, and morality but rather has narrowed its focus to mental disorders (...) addressed with psychotropic drugs. In view of this trend, psychiatry needs to confront two questions in social philosophy. If it is no longer directly concerned with health and happiness, how does it relate to these positive goals? And how does it relate as a medical institution to religious institutions, schools, and other organizations that directly promote health, happiness, morality, and the purposes of life? It is not enough for psychiatry to renounce its moral role; its practices still shape cultural values. Psychiatry should take more responsibility for developing a public philosophy that addresses these issues. (shrink)
Jeffrey Tillman is perceptive in noticing that certain Protestant theologians have used evolutionary theory to become more sympathetic to Roman Catholic views of Christian love. But he is incorrect in saying that these formulations deemphasize a place for self-sacrifice in Christian love. Christian love defined as a strenuous equal-regard for both other and self also requires sacrificial efforts to restore love as equal-regard when finitude and sin undermine genuine mutuality and community.
In this article I apply the insights of hermeneutic realism to a practical-theological ethics that addresses the international crisis of families and women’s rights. Hermeneutic realism affirms the hermeneutic philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer but enriches it with the dialectic of participation and distanciation developed by Paul Ricoeur. This approach finds a place for sciences such as evolutionary psychology within a hermeneutically informed ethic. It also points to a multidimensional model of practical reason that views it as implicitly or explicitly involving (...) five levels---background metaphysical visions, some principle of obligation, assumptions about pervasive human tendencies and needs, assumptions about constraining social and natural environments, and assumed acceptable rules of conduct. The fruitfulness of this multidimensional view of practical reason is then demonstrated by applying it to practical-theological ethics and the analysis of four theorists of women’s rights---Martha Nussbaum, Susan Moller Okin, Lisa Cahill, and Mary Ann Glendon. Finally, I illustrate the importance and limits of the visional dimension of practical reason by discussing the concept of “Africanity‘ in relation to the family and AIDS crisis of Eastern Africa. (shrink)
Abstract. In this paper, which was among Don Browning's last writings before he died, we review and evaluate the main arguments against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the “CRC”) that conservative American Christians in particular have opposed. While we take their objections seriously, we think that, on balance, the CRC is worthy of ratification, especially if it is read in light of the profamily ethic that informs the CRC and many earlier human rights instruments. More (...) fundamentally, we think that the CRC captures some of the very best traditional Western legal and theological teachings on marriage, family, and children, which we retrieve and reconstruct for our day. (shrink)