Two Views of Virtue: Absolute Relativism and Relative Absolutism

Two Views of Virtue: Absolute Relativism and Relative Absolutism

Two Views of Virtue: Absolute Relativism and Relative Absolutism

Two Views of Virtue: Absolute Relativism and Relative Absolutism

Synopsis

Centore's work is an inquiry into the weaknesses and strengths of the two basic positions in ethics: the man-centered model and the God-centered model for deciding between right and wrong behavior. The philosophical paradigm for the man-centered approach is absolute relativism, while the paradigm for the God-centered approach is relative absolutism. Centore argues that the man-centered model in actual practice proves not to be realistic as an ethical guide, while the God-centered model, if properly understood, is the most useful approach. This work penetrates difficult ethical issues by examining human experience and reasoning in conjunction with actual choices of action. Although the God-centered approach is shown to be the most practical, Centore argues for a natural moral law that avoids any specific theology.

Excerpt

Many things are not what they appear to be at first glance. We know that there is no lead in lead pencils, that abbreviation is a long word while long is a short word, that motion pictures do not move, that the people of the frozen north invented sunglasses while those of the sunny south did not, and that heavy cream weighs less than light cream. Now we will see that, of the four theories of ethics under discussion, all claiming to be humanistic and two claiming to be more moderate than the first and fourth theories, only one out of the four really is both humanistic and moderate.

Another way of discussing this topic is to cast it in the language of human virtue. Questions about virtue fall within the area of ethics or practical knowledge, that is, knowledge aimed at action and doing. Consequently, this study is about being practical, not in the sense of building a better mousetrap or a taller building, but in the really fundamental sense of leading a good life in a good society. In philosophy, making good decisions is called being prudent, and what constitutes prudence depends upon your model of morality.

In this book I am concerned with morals rather than manners. I am not concerned with matters of etiquette and protocol that lie between what is morally right and morally wrong, such as tactlessly wearing an old T-shirt to a performance at the Royal Opera House in London, or with acts that are normally morally neutral, such as buttering your bread on one side rather than on the other. Moreover, my emphasis is on the central idea of each of the different positions and not on the minute variations and disagreements that are sure to occur within each paradigm.

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