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James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky tackle the cultural trend (if not more) of thinking we can resolve our moral debates by greater science. Their book is called Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality.
Important to their discussion is tracing the history of how morality moved away from tradition and revelation toward what could be established apart from God, apart from revelation, apart from tradition — that is, toward a “scientific” basis for morality.
Something - Issues - Today - Church - Decisions
Let me pause to say something here: one of the biggest issues today in the church is making moral decisions. How such decisions are made is rarely perceived for its importance by many, and increasingly we see moral decisions based on experiential preference or on sociological reasoning, which was all anticipated in the history Hunter and Nedelisky trace. I’m finding this book far more “relevant” than I expected.
Ideas don’t appear out of thin air. They neither surface in discourse nor fade from collective memory of their own accord, but arise, take shape, and find expression under specific social and historical conditions. Ideas are always situated in society and history in ways that make them more or less plausible, more or less persuasive. This is clearly the case for the idea that science could be a foundation for morality.
Enlightenment - Approach - Morality - Themes - History
The Enlightenment’s approach to morality was provoked by the following three themes in history:
These challenges included: (1) the liability of old ways of knowing—philosophy, religious authority—to resolve exploding moral and political conflict; (2) a need for a convincing basis for shared international trade laws as global commerce swelled and broadened; (3) a sense that the world was bi er and more complex—in terms of natural, cultural, and moral phenomena—than older medieval conceptions could account for.
To many, situated as they were at the height of the...
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