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A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist Paperback – Oct 1 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Pr (Oct. 1 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898707315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707311
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.7 x 23 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #257,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers 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 peopleAnot just preach to the absolutist choir. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Philosophy professor Kreeft's conceit is that he recently invited two former students (both fictional) to discuss moral philosophy and that this is the record of their conversations. One of the two, a black feminist journalist and moral relativist, interviewed the other, a Palestinian Arab professor and moral absolutist. The sparks start flying in the first session, when the professor characterizes Auschwitz as "the fruit of moral relativism" and quotes Mussolini's explanation of fascism as quintessentially relativistic. The succeeding discussion treats the definition and the history of moral relativism (it began with the serpent's temptation of Eve, it seems), whether data support relativism or absolutism, the arguments for relativism, the roots of relativism in reductionism, arguments for moral absolutism, absolutism's philosophical assumptions (e.g., that truth can be known), and, finally, "The Cause and Cure of Relativism" (sexual mores are key to both). As the title suggests, relativism doesn't stand a chance here. Boredom is a goner, too, as, employing the oldest literary method of enlivening philosophy--casting it, ... ala Plato, as a dialogue, a bare-bones play--Kreeft deftly creates recognizable characters as he advances a debate as important to the future of religion as to that of society. Ray Olson

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This little book, the plot and premise of which you can read elsewhere, is a terrific introduction to the concept of moral relativism versus absolutism for anyone who wondered if you could be a firm believer in right and wrong, good and evil, and still be a nice person. (Answer: you really can't do it any other way.) But what's more, it is a great intro for a young person to the joys and stimulations of the greatest game there is in the world, the fierce but loving logical argument among friends. "Why do you believe that to be true?" is something many young people never ask their friends these days, and deep thinking and friendly argument supporting or attacking various positions has been supplanted with more popular entertainments. But if you know a young person, or an old one, who needs a good lesson in how to argue and debate, how to open their mind up and wrap it around a subject and take it apart and put it back together again, I can't think of a better intro off hand. Bravo, Dr. Kreeft.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
Wow. I just finished reading Peter Kreeft's "A Refutation of Moral Relativism." I couldn't imagine a more thought-provoking, eye-opening, and genuinely meaningful book.
Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, examines the definition, history, and importance of moral relativism. He makes an impeccable case that the current controversy over the nature of morality -- that is, whether it be relative or absolute -- is THE most crucial debate of our time.
The book opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about Western culture. We are so conditioned to believe that morality is relative that such conditioning affects our thinking, our language and diction, our schooling, our media, and (obviously) our morality -- our very way of life (and thus, maybe, our afterlife?). Kreeft makes the case that, with so much at stake, we cannot afford to be wrong.
A master logician and philosopher, Kreeft takes on the arguments for moral relativism one by one. His refutation is devastating; he demonstrates that most arguments for relativism are logically self-contradictory and, indeed, that morality cannot be anything other than absolute either in theory or in practice. (He even shows that tolerance--often an explicit reason for belief in relativism--is a virtue only achieved through moral absolutism.)
Afterwards, Kreeft turns his exacting lens on absolutism, its assumptions and its role in reality. He is, if nothing else, supremely objective and fair-minded.
But don't let the thought of reading about logic and philosophy turn you off! Professor Kreeft as much for the average reader as he does for anyone else. His writing is accesible, reasonable (in the most literal sense of that word), and, above all, ENJOYABLE.
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Format: Paperback
Fantastic book, a tough read for those unwilling to give truth a chance; like a good philosopher, Dr. Kreeft makes you think. This book will challenge your relativism and help you see that absolutes are not a thing of the past! Great read if your willing to take an honest look at your moral disposition. Perhaps it will change you, perhaps it will not. Reward yourself, approach this book with an open mind. Don't pay attention to the critic who wrote the review: "One-sided and poorly written". Read the book and decide for yourself. This person reminds me of Plato's cave- once confronted by light all he can do is recoil from it. Don't simply claim that the book is one-sided and poorly written, prove it, refute the ideas in the work. It is very easy to dismiss, but not so to refute! If your looking for an author that will challenge you with ideas in a clear, brilliant, and easy to read style, Dr. Kreeft is for you. His style embodies the phrase: "If you can't say it simply, then you don't know it"- Dr. Kreeft knows his stuff! He introduces very complex ideas in simple terms- how many philosophers do you know who do that!
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