- Hardcover: 206 pages
- Publisher: Lexington Books (June 10, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0739100521
- ISBN-13: 978-0739100523
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,318,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Revoking the Moral Order
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Peterson escorts us on a fascinating exploration of the relevant philosophical, social, and economic contributions to the contemporary moral problems of Western Society made by Hume, Comte, Spencer, Russell, von Hayek, Popper, and others. (New Oxford Review)
About the Author
David J. Peterson is a freelance writer and high school instructor in the Chicago area. He has contributed articles to various publications, including the National Catholic Register, Fidelity, and Social Justice Review. Since 1995 he has been a regular features writer for Fidelity/Culture Wars.
Top customer reviews
A brief preface followed by eight short chapters (the first acts as an introduction, the last as a conclusion), a bibliography, and an index. The thesis of his work is simple. Peterson perceives a crisis in the west and this crisis is due to the fact that "society is increasingly polarized over the question over the question of the fundamental nature of man and the role of the moral order. One popular current asserts that each person is a free agent who has the liverty to pursue anything and everything he or she desires. Another group upholds the traditional view that humanity was created for a purpose. They believe each man must obey certain higher laws dictated by the God of Creation or we will face chaos and destruction" (ix).
Peterson then follows the origins of the modern current of relativism by beginning with the different conceptions of liberalism and how its meaning changed from an openness to consider different viewpoints to an "anything goes" attitude of universal permissiveness. He sees David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and J.S. Mill as key instruments in initiating this change through their "utilitarian" philosophies and continues on from there (7-10). Essentially Peterson sees these philosophies as ultimately rooted in privleging the passions over the intellect. Metaphysics (in the classical sense of the word as a philosophy of being) were dispensed with and only the measurable were allowed to remain.
In the wake of these philosophers and their popularization, he traces the currents of this movement through the works of Auguste Comte (and his censorship of science), Durkheim, and Herbert Spencer (social Darwinism and Eugenics movements).
Petersen then moves on to Vienna and contrasts the Old and New Vienna Circles. A brief discussion of radical empiricism is untaken and the various thinkers of the period are covered, including Ernst Mach (the formal founder of positivism) and compares his attitude to Max Planck's. He then traces the Positivist school's passing into the hands of a new generation, including Bohr, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Schlick, and Bertrand Russell [interestingly enough, he brings up Godel's theorem in reference to Russell's constructions]. All during this treatment, he looks at these thinkers and their conflict with moral order. Russell is given as a proponent of a sterile culture of death. Friedrich von Hayek and his economics are covered, but unfortunately not compared with Keynes' system or any other. Nevertheless, the conclusions he brings up in Hayek's own writings are interesting to say the least. Karl Popper, his social and moral philosophies, and his ideas about faith and reason are considered and Popper's odd idea of Plato as an archetype of evil thinking is gone over in an entertaining fashion. The overarching theses of Popper are then shown to be equivalent with those of Hume.
Peterson concludes his work by discussing the damage done by claiming that faith and science are utterly incompatible and sees a detente of sorts between the two as a solution for many of the world's ills. I found this section to be the weakest, simply because of its vagueness.
In summary, Peterson argues that the denial of the qualitative in favor of the quantitative fits us with blinders that distort reality, result in relativism, and lead to mad social policies when this point of view becomes the norm.
My only real complaint is a lack of a forceful conclusion and the cost of the work, which is concomittant with its publication by an academic press.