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Ethical Writings: 'Ethics' and 'Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew and a Christian'

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872203228
ISBN-10: 0872203220
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The best translation of these two treatises available in any language: accurate, lively, and readable. --Peter King, The Ohio State University



This volume is excellent. The introduction presents the readings in a clear manner, one that is direct and comprehensible. Similarly, the translation is highly readable. The notes are helpful without being intrusive. In short, this is a volume I have enjoyed using with graduate students and will certainly plan to use with undergraduates. --Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland at College Park

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (October 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872203220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872203228
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Ethical Writings: 'Ethics' and 'Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew and a Christian' by Peter Abelard, Translated by Paul Vincent Spade, Introduced by Marilyn McCord Adams.

Most major theologeans have written on ethics, but Abelard's works are more important to his corpus of work than with most others. The simple reason is that so few of his works are available to us in English, and many that are were left incomplete by Abelard. The more complex reason is that Abelard's signature doctrine of atonement, which he posed as an alternative to the equally famous doctrine by Anselm of Canterbury, is based primarily on the nature of virtue ethics. What makes it even more modern sounding is that it is based on a theory of philosophical psychology and intention which is as modern as tomoorrow.

Both works in this volume were left incomplete by Abelard, but the volume contains all we have. The heart of Abelard's theory of intention in 'Ethics' is that sin is based on intention, not on the act, or even on the dispostion to do the act. An inference he makes from this is that the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus were not acting sinfully by that act. They were acting lawfully. One wonders what Abelard would have thought of the thousands of Nazis who professed that they were 'just following orders' before WW II, in persecuting the Jews and others. But this position is a lynchpin to Abelard's doctrine of atonement, whereby one is changed by the love of God to intend to do his will.

In his 'Dialogue', the author, Abelard does not play the Philosopher. Rather, he plays the mediator in the conversation about ethics. It should be no surprise that the Christian comes out of the dialogue with the advantage.
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Abelard's ideas concerning the significance of the intention of an act rather than the consequences caused by it are brilliant. I share his vision - I always have - and am amazed to find such an early thinker with such authentic and extreme ethical ideas, which seem to be considered radical even nowadays. Also, nothing but credit for professor Spade's translation. Not being a native English speaker myself, I may have a different view on these matters, but I dare say the translation is clear, consistent and accessible. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics.
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Pierre Abelard is Christianity incarnate. Merci !
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