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

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; First edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898707315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707311
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

--------- AUDIO TALKS --------- $1 each (MP3)
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---"Beauty" -- The branch of philosophy dealing with aesthetics.
---"C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity" -- C.S. Lewis' masterpiece
--- Charisms: Visions, Tongues, Healing, etc. (feat. Dave Nevins)
---"Christianity in Lord of the Rings" -- The cleverly disguised role of God
---"Culture War" -- A call to arms, mapping key enemies and battlefields
---"Existence of God" -- A magnificent overview of the arguments
---"Good, True, Beautiful" -- C.S. Lewis on three great transcendentals
---"Happiness" -- How do you get it? Christ's version vs. the world's
---"Heaven" -- The heart's deepest longing
---"Hollywood Screenwriting" -- Encouragement to film's creative storytellers
---"If Einstein Had Been a Surfer" -- Rediscovering intuitive thinking
---"Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" -- The famous argument for Christ's identity
---"Problem of Pain" -- C.S. Lewis's brilliant exposition on suffering and evil
---"Sex in Heaven" -- Imaging the fire of God's love
---"Sexual Reconnection" -- Healing the link between sex & love
---"Shocking Beauty" -- The live character of Christ

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 72 people found the following review helpful By A. Williamson on December 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Professor `Isa Ben Adam (nice name in translation), a Palestinian Arab scholar and Absolutist, is interviewed (and debated) by Moral Relativist Libby Rawls, a black journalist and former wife, psychological social worker, surfing instructor, actress, alcoholic, and PI. What a marvellous debate ensues as Libby throws every relativist argument at the learned prof, only to have them roundly and soundly demolished! This easy non-academic read is a useful guide for those engaged in dinner-table debates on this most crucial of issues. Obviously born from years of experience as an embattled Absolutist in American adademia, this Kreeft work is a delight to read as it sets out the arguments for and agin. As everyone who's ever debated this subject knows, it's very hard to avoid ad hominems and other flesh-cutting retreats from reason, and they're here just as in real life. Another step towards the Restoration of Metaphysics. This is the book you'll want your Relativist friends to read (but which they'll probably ignore because refutation has too many implications for their personal lives). Get it.
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60 of 73 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Peter Kreeft is a quite enthusiastic Catholic apologist. This book is an imaginary dialogue, in which the existence of moral absolutes is emphatically affirmed, and relativism and relativists are cast into outer darkness. Kreeft does not have the epigrammatic gift like his great predecessor G. K. Chesterton did. In fact, GKC summed up much of this book's argument in a single quip: "One can no more have a private religion than one can have a private sun or a private moon." But Kreeft accurately spots and calls to account much lazy thinking that's out there. For instance, if all values are "culturally determined", what are we to make of people whose values impel them to resist and denounce their own culture? Plus, he is quite funny in places, and sympathetic readers will enjoy the protagonist's zest in making his arguments. Throughout, Kreeft--through the fictional mouth of 'Isa the absolutist--insists on the primacy of people's experiences and reactions over any philosophical system, and of the pre-existence of a discoverable Truth. This book settles nothing, as such things can never be settled. But it _is_ a big morale booster to Christians who may be becoming fatigued under the amoral onslaught of our culture nowadays. It is a puff of a refreshing breeze, heartening us to say "Here I stand, I can do no other." Even if you are Catholic! :)
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful By just bein' Frank on November 7, 2003
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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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Back in December of 1999, I ended up in the E.R. with some weird infection on my face. While waiting to be seen, I read almost the entirety of this book OUT LOUD to my husband (first in the waiting salon, then while lying inside the examinaiton room). We got some odd looks, but it's a great way to pass an unpleasant time. There's humor, there's anger, there's exasperation, there's head-butting, and there are some good points made. Kreeft merely moderates. If you want to enjoy the marvelous intelligence of Mr. Kreeft, see his other philosophical selections. I have almost all his books, and he's delightful. He makes philosophy and biblical doctrine highly accessbible. *Mir*
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. F Foster on March 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
For me, this book is very tough to review. It's approach is unique, and this tends to impact how the subject matter is addressed. I think the uniqueness of its approach had great potential, but ultimately, I found that it was this unique approach that kept the book from getting over the hump.
The book represents a fictional dialogue between a moral absolutist and a moral relativist. The book contains a series of fictional interviews where each side presents their own case, while attempting to refute the other's case. If done right, this is a very vibrant and intriguing approach to dealing with a highly charged subject. But in order to do this right, one must adequately and fairly represent the views of each side, in order to avoid strawmen and incompleteness. And it is here where I thought the book did not totally succeed.
There are a few sections of the book that are super. I felt that the best chapters, by far, were the ones where the fictional relativist makes her case for relativism, and then watching the fictional absolutist dismantle each positive assertion for relativism. I felt that this section was very fair to the relativist view, and that the positive assertions offered for relativism are indeed commonplace assertions that accurately reflect the thinking of many relativists. As indicated previously, the integrity of the book rests almost entirely on presenting an accurate and adequate picture of each side of the debate. In this particular section, Kreeft succeeds and I felt that this section alone makes the book good enough to read.
However, I personally found much of the remaining material to be both mediocre, distracted, and confused, thus the 3 star rating I've given the book.
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