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Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air Paperback – October 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books; 9.1.1998 edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801058066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801058066
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Francis J. Beckwith is associate director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church State Studies, and associate professor of Church State Studies, Baylor University, where he is also associate editor of the Journal of Church & State. He currently serves as a member of Princeton's James Madison Program Council on Moral and Political Thought. He has written several books including the award winning Politically Correct Death. His articles have been published in numerous journals across a diversity of disciplines. Find out more at francisbeckwith.com

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Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this book, especially for high school and college/University students.
Bruce H
While a book on this topic could easily become deeply philosophical and difficult to understand, Beckwith and Koukl do a good job of making it accessible.
Tim Challies
The part of the book that was the biggest help to me was Greg Koukl's seven fatal flaws of relativism.
Andrew Camp (camp_family@hotmail.com)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A. Williamson on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
When you keep in mind the purpose of this book -- a practical guide to arm Moral Objectivists against three types of Moral Relativism (cultural/descriptive, socially prescriptive, and individual/ethical relativism) -- it does a pretty good job. Not everyone does Philosophy, yet who doesn't encounter relativist arguments in almost every facet of life. Dealing mainly with Moral Relativism (only touching on Epistemological and Ontological Relativism), Beckwith and Koukl's book helps to make sense of what's really at issue, using concrete examples and crisp refutations. Many readers will find utility in Chapter 7, "Relativism's Seven Fatal Flaws" (a covenantal coincidence in the sevens?) and Chapter 14, "Tactics to Refute Relativism". Some of their arguments could have been fleshed out a little more. Also, a chapter on the Rise of Relativism outlining the influence of key figures past and present would have been useful to many. All in all, an easy-to-read and satisfying work that many non-relativists will find very useful in upper high school and junior college, as well as at dinner table debates. Of course, convinced relativists won't read this book, but it will help to clarify things for those who haven't thought much about these things. Another boost for those out to Save Civilsation.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
So often in the past I have found myself powerless to communicate why another person's assertions made little or no sense -- sometimes I couldn't even put my finger on why their statements were wrong -- but this book has shown me how to spot the numerous errors inherent in moral relativism and contend for truth, or at least, get the other person thinking about his or her beliefs. A 'must read' for every thinking person. I can't wait to see what Mr. Beckwith and Mr. Koukl will teach us next!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Bruce H on July 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book impressed me. Some of the other reviews give the impression that the book is very shallow or is not substantive. I disagree. The book accomplishes its task admirably. The authors seek to show that moral relativism is false, the consequences of moral relativism and that moral objectivism is true. I note that the author is indebted to the book Principia Ethica by G.E. Moore for some of his ideas.
Definitions:
moral relativism: "The view that when it comes to moral issues there are no universal objective right or wrong answers, no inappropriate or appropriate judgments, and no reasonable or rational ways by which to make distinctions that apply in every time, in every place and to every person." (page 12-13)
moral objectivism: The view that when it comes to moral issues, there ARE universal right or wrong answers, inappropriate or appropriate judgments, and reasonable or rational ways by which to make distinctions that apply in every time, in every place and to every person (this is a composite of the view point the author's offer and defend)
The authors argue that people know that there are morally objective rules by intuition. This may be misunderstood to be a whim or emotion. The author's give an example of another thing that is known by intuition: "My hand is injured," I say "How do you know it's injured?" you ask. "Because it hurts." "How do you know it hurts?" "Because I feel it." "But how do you know you feel it." "I just know..." (pages 57-58; please note the last line is a summary of the author's further explanation)
I think the author's provided a devastating critique of various different forms of relativism. The different forms they attacked were: Society Does Relativism (i.e.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "christianskeptic" on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
The authors have done a great job in exposing the inconsistent nature of relativistic thinking. They point out that relativism has taken hold in a society (ours) that is unable to critically examine itself, and where self-interest and pleasure shape ethical decisions. Many relativists like to pass themselves off as tolerant and neutral folk (tolerant of everyone except those who hold an absolutist viewpoint, that is), but as Beckwith and Koukl point out, "the only place of true neutrality is silence". Throughout the book they explain the self-refuting nature of relativism; that is, it's merely absolutism in sheep's clothing. This book will be valuable for anyone looking to stand against the flood of subjectivism that currently rules the societal roost (mixed metaphors notwithstanding).
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
It was the late, great Francis Shaeffer who spoke of a group of people "who have both feet firmly planted in mid-air." This phrase brilliantly describes people in our society who adhere, as much as anyone can adhere to such a system, to moral relativism. For one can only be planted so firmly on a system that has no foundation. Relativism, written by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith, critiques moral relativism and explores the myriad inconsistencies inherent in this position.

The authors launch a five-pronged attack on relativism. In the first part they help the reader understand relativism and see the three different types: "society says," "society does" and "I say" relativism. In the second part they critique relativism, exposing seven of its most fatal flaws before turning in the third part to an exposure of the impact of relativism on education. In the fourth part they examine relativism in public policy, and specifically its application to homosexual marriage, abortion and euthenasia - three of the pressing issues of our time. The final part provides some tools to refute relativism.

The final part was the one I found most helpful. Having explained the background and dangers of relativism, the authors suggest some tactics that are helpful in arguing against relativism. First, they suggest showing the contradictions inherent in relativism, for in practice, this position is self-refuting. One effective tactic, then, is to show people that many of their positions depend on some type of absolute stance. They suggest the best way of dealing with the charge of "don't force your morality on me," is to simply ask "why not?" What gives him the right to impose his morality on you when you are not able to do the same to him? Second, they suggest pressing the person's hot button.
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