Relationship Morality

Relationship Morality

Relationship Morality

Relationship Morality


This book is an inquiry into the extent to which human relationships are foundational in morality. J. Kellenberger seeks to discover, first, how relationships between persons, and ultimately the relationship that each person has to each person by virtue of being a person, underlie the various traditional components of morality&- obligation, virtue, justice, rights, and moral goods&- and, second, how relationship morality is more fully consonant with our moral experience than other forms of human morality.

Kellenberger traces the implications of relationship morality for an understanding of religious duty to God and for the status of our obligations to animals. He also examines issues relating to a feminist "ethics of caring." While this book is a work in ethics, its approach is not limited to an examination of theories of obligation, such as utilitarianism, nor is it limited to the traditional areas covered by wider philosophical treatments of ethics. It embraces these but examines such moral categories as love, respect for persons, shame, and their place in morality.


"Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." After Hemingway these words are recognized by many. They are from John Donne's Devotion XVII, where we find Donne reflecting: "No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manner of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde." While Donne's reflections, even in this devotion, embrace more than the sentiment of these lines, these lines provide a poetical expression of the heart of what I am going to call "relationship morality."

"No man is an Island," says Donne. Each person is "involved in Mankinde." Each is related to each. This moral insight, echoed in religious sensibility and given in individual moral experience, embraces the foundation of all morality; that is a main thesis to be developed in the pages of this book. Morality is a complex whole that ramifies into obligation, justice, virtue, rights, and goods. It is not merely obligation or a matter of determining what is right, as many might come to think, studying philosophical theories of obligation. Yet, this first thesis asserts, the entirety of this complex of morality rests upon the relationship of each to each, discoverable by each in individual moral experience.

In another way, though, "morality" is not one entity, simple or complex, but a series of different morality forms, not all of which give a place to obligation or virtue or rights. Here is a way of thinking about morality that is not that common in philosophical reflection, but essential to consider. Relationship morality, under this aspect of reflection, becomes but one . . .

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