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

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898707315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707311
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers' arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly.In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a "Muslim fundamentalist" absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the "sassy Black feminist" reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
"A Refutation of Moral Relativism" is a rather rare thing in modern philosophical works, with the author's ideas expressed in the form of a Socratic dialogue between two characters entirely of his imagination. However, I do not think it fair to say that it "worked" in the sense that it produced a truly great philosophical debate. There are other reasons for this, such as the blandness of the characters and the corny jokes, but I think it was mainly that, in format, the deck was stacked from the start. If a gambler were able to choose all the physical and strategic attributes of the gladiator on whom he had placed his bet, as well as of the opposing fighter, then it would probably not be a fair fight. Similarly, when Kreeft can make his own side as formidable (and the opposing side as feeble) as he wishes, it is hard not to assume that each time a debate is won by the absolutist, it is only because the author armed him with the better lines.
But through logic and the honest intent of producing a true refutation of relativism, Kreeft does almost surpass this problem of format. It is not through sloppiness of argument that his relativist loses, but through the superior logic of her opponent. Yet I found the relativist unconvincing in a number of ways. As someone who broadly shares the author's views, I have debated numerous moral relativists in the past, and none of them argued the way she did. She seemed too responsive to reason for someone who denies rationality in morality. She was also too submissive and respectful to what the absolutist said, especially considering none of his arguments actually seemed to change her view. So many times, she almost accepted he was right, but didn't act on it and change her mind.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 April 2011
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 41 reviews
59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
You'll love 'Isa and Libby. Their arguments are spot-on. 3 Dec. 1999
By A. Williamson - Published on Amazon.com
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.
58 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Good, wise-cracking, philosophical entertainment 3 May 2000
By The Sanity Inspector - Published on Amazon.com
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! :)
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
A Brilliant Book! 8 Nov. 2003
By just bein' Frank - Published on Amazon.com
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. As his subtitle indicates, the book is in the form of several interviews, or debates, between a moral absolutist, 'Isa, and a moral relativist, Libby.
"A Refutation of Moral Relativism" should be required reading in all philosophy courses dealing with morality. It is perhaps one of the most underappreciated books ever published. Professor Kreeft's message is so profoundly deep and meaningful that it can change the course of Western culture. Don't go another day without reading this book!
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Fun out-loud reading for the philosophical 6 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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*
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Lots of meat on the bones 21 Jan. 2004
By Ryan McNabb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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