The Essential Paul Ramsey

The Essential Paul Ramsey: A Collection

Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 298
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  • Book Info
    The Essential Paul Ramsey
    Book Description:

    Paul Ramsey was one of this century's most important ethicists. From the publication of his classicBasic Christian Ethicsin 1950 until his death in 1988, his writings decisively shaped moral discourse and reflection in the areas of theology, law, politics, and medicine.This collection of Ramsey's most important essays on Christian, political, and medical ethics displays the scope and depth of his vision, highlighting both the character of his theological commitments and the continuing significance of his work for the pressing moral problems of our day. Selections deal with such issues as race relations, sexuality and marriage, war, the meaning of Christian love, abortion, and medical care for the sick and dying. A general introduction by William Werpehowski and Stephen Crocco evaluates Ramsey's career and accomplishments and reviews contemporary criticism of his output and legacy. Shorter introductions to each selection point out crucial themes and lines of development in Ramsey's thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15936-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxvi)
    William Werpehowski and Stephen D. Crocco

    In his remarks at a memorial service for Paul Ramsey held at Princeton University in April 1988, the philosopher and bioethicist Leon Kass concluded: “I continue to learn from Paul, and I can still hear him laugh.” For those in attendance, the words delivered comfort and insight. Ramsey’s death earlier that year left colleagues and students in Christian ethics without that intellectually demanding, sometimes exasperating but nonethelessamusedpersonal presence who contributed so much to common explorations. Even beyond the power of his writings there was, in Gilbert Meilaender’s recollection, “theviva voce—the man, who was well nigh omnipresent...

  4. 1 What the Christian Does Without a Code
    (pp. 1-14)

    Concerning Jesus’ teaching on the inwardness of real purity or defilement, the gospel of Mark makes editorial comment, “Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19). Jesus, however, on that occasion was dealing only with the questions of ritual handwashing; he himself never abrogated the food laws of the Jews. This was the work of St. Paul, who extended the principles manifested by Jesus mainly in connection with sabbath observance and ceremonial cleanliness to cover also the law of clean and unclean meats and the rite of circumcision.

    If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe,...

  5. 2 The Biblical Norm of Righteousness
    (pp. 15-24)

    We must first understand the most essential thing our Christian faith has to say about morality and about the decisions we make. If anyone wanted to form his conscience and shape his life in accord with biblical ethics, what would this mean for the way he goes about making an ethical decision? The message of both the Old and the New Testament is that God means to mold human life into the action of God; human righteousness into God’s righteousness; man’s frequent faithlessness, or maybe his fragile faithfulness, into the faithfulness of God Himself. If this is the destiny toward...

  6. 3 Self-Love, Love of Happiness, Love to God and to Neighbor
    (pp. 25-40)

    In one of the “Miscellanies” Edwards asks the question whether each and every one of the desires of human hearts has become exorbitant as a consequence of the Fall. He answers no—because love of happiness (which necessarily means love of one’s own happiness) cannot be too much. A cynic always wins the debate over whether all people are selfish by failing to distinguish between a blameworthy selfishness and the general human endowment to love happiness. Yet a love of happiness is evidently different from always finding that happiness in a narrow, confined love of self as if the self...

  7. 4 Christian Vocation and Resistance
    (pp. 41-59)

    The Protestant Reformation abolished the medieval Catholic distinction between special religious merit and dignity attached to the role of the clergy and the inferior, though altogether necessary, function of ordinary lay Christians in the world. All vocations, said the Reformers, rank the same with God, none more sacred, none more secular than others, no matter how they are ranked by men. Of course, some callings are socially more pivotal than others, in that the vocations of many other individuals are subsumed under them; but the difference between monk or magistrate and gardener or garbage collector is an “official” distinction only,...

  8. 5 Justice in War
    (pp. 60-67)

    Question: How do porcupines make love?

    Answer: Carefully!

    This is a parable of the nations in a multinational world. They can’t get along with and they can’t get along without one another. They make love and reach settlements, or they make war when they cannot reach or postpone settlements—all, carefully!

    There is nothing more like a pacifist than a believer in massive deterrence:boththink it possible to banish the use of force from human history before banishing the porcupine nation-states from off this planet. To them may be added what Walter Lippman called the “warwhoop” party in...

  9. 6 The Case for Making “Just War” Possible
    (pp. 68-83)

    A recent editorial inworldview¹ expresses evident dissatisfaction with political “realism” and “prudential” ethics as by no means an adequate contribution of religious ethics to politics in our times. It continues by noting that the nature of modern weapons has given religious pacifists powerful new arguments that have not been adequately answered. It is symptomatic of the ills of religious ethics today, and of political and military doctrine, that the editorial writer gets from the limit he places on “realism” and “prudential” politics to the need for reopening a discussion of pacifism by a quite uncritical rejection of the only...

  10. 7 The Uses of Power
    (pp. 84-95)

    During the 1964 contest for the Presidency between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater, we did not have any good national debate about United States foreign and military policy. The apparent reason for this is that attention was narrowly focused upon particular issues believed to be clear enough. The basic factor, however, preventing profound debate over how we as a people are to discharge our political responsibilities in the present age is the hardened polarization of “liberal” and “conservative” opinion in this country—endemic indeed to the modern mind. This in turn only shows that we lack an understanding of...

  11. 8 The Limits of Nuclear War
    (pp. 96-105)

    In approaching the moral issues involved in appearing to be willing to do something that is wrong, I shall make use of a volume of essays by British Roman Catholics¹ who follow the anatomy of the just war doctrine to a conclusion altogether different from mine, namely, nuclear pacifism.

    It is never right to do wrong that good may come of it. Nuclear weapons have only added to this perennial truth the footnote: it can never doany goodto do wrong that good may come of it. Neither is it right tointendto do wrong that good may...

  12. 9 The Created Destination of Property Right
    (pp. 106-120)

    The sit-ins have raised basic questions concerning law and concerning civil rights. In common justice, the right of property in our law either is or should be the “innkeeper’s law” in the tradition of the Anglo-Saxon common law. Whether thisisour law of quasipublic property is, as we shall see, a question secondary in importance only to the question what the lawShouldbe if it is just. But first, why should the law governing property rights express the “innkeeper’s law”?

    This rule stated that whoever opened an inn or tavern serving travelers with bed and food should not...

  13. 10 The Christian Use of Economic Pressure to Transform Race Relations
    (pp. 121-136)

    So far the meaning of justice and of human rights has been viewed as resting upon the foundation of the created order. This has been explained to mean the duality of one man directly with and for another man. This is the most basic form of man’s fellow humanity and it fixes covenant-existence as the destiny of human life. It is now necessary, upon the basis of this primary duality of man’s relation with his single neighbor, to take into account the fact that in actuality a man always stands together with many others in various groups organized for a...

  14. 11 The Covenant of Marriage and Right Means
    (pp. 137-150)

    In relation to genetic proposals, the most important element of Christian morality—and the most important ingredient that the Christian acknowledges to be deserving of respect in the nature of man—which needs to be brought into view is the teaching concerningthe union betweenthe two goods of human sexuality.

    An act of sexual intercourse is at the same time an act of love and a procreative act. This does not mean that sexual intercourse always in fact nourishes love between the parties or always engenders a child. It simply means that ittends,of its own nature, toward...

  15. 12 Reference Points in Deciding about Abortion
    (pp. 151-167)

    My first point is a plea for greater sanity in the debate over abortion laws—a plea directed against the credence currently given the contention that anyone who opposes any of the proposed legal reforms must illicitly be seeking to impose his religious opinions on the rest of us. Although persons who hold religious opinions are regarded as free to subscribe to them, it is alleged that in the matter of legislation every identifiably religious belief should be excluded from any bearing at all upon public policy.

    One way to overcome any such narrow-mindedness concerning the terms of reference that...

  16. 13 Preface to The Patient as Person
    (pp. 168-175)

    This volume undertakes to examine some of the problems of medical ethics that are especially urgent in the present day. These are by no means technical problems on which only the expert (in this case, the physician) can have an opinion. They are rather the problems of human beings in situations in which medical care is needed. Birth and death, illness and injury are not simply events the doctor attends. They are moments in every human life. The doctor makes decisions as an expert but also as a man among men; and his patient is a human being coming to...

  17. 14 Consent as a Canon of Loyalty, with Special Reference to Children in Medical Investigations
    (pp. 176-194)

    When first I had the temerity to undertake some study of ethical issues in medical practice, my resolve was to venture no comment at all—relevant or irrelevant—upon these matters until I informed myself concerning how physicians and medical investigators themselves discuss and analyze the decisions they face. One then finds himself in the midst of a remarkable professional ethics. Actual performance, of course, may often be quite different from the principles endorsed by the profession. However, whether performance falls below the stated principles cannot itself be measured except in terms of these same principles of medical ethics stated...

  18. 15 On (Only) Caring for the Dying
    (pp. 195-222)

    In any proper discussion of the physician’s duty to heal and to save life, there are three interrelated distinctions that must be taken into account. These are the distinctions (1) between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” means of saving life; (2) between saving life by prolonging the living of it and only prolonging a patient’s dying; and (3) between the direct killing under certain conditions of specifiable sorts of “hopeless cases” (called euthanasia) and merely allowing a patient to die by stopping or not starting life-sustaining procedures deemed not morally mandatory. By making use of all these concepts, the medical ethics developed...

  19. 16 The Indignity of “Death with Dignity”
    (pp. 223-246)

    Never one am I to use an ordinary title when an extraordinary one will do as well! Besides, I mean to suggest that there is an additional insult besides death itself heaped upon the dying by our ordinary talk about “death with dignity.” Sometimes that is said even to be a human “right”; and what should a decent citizen do but insist on enjoying his rights? That might be his duty (if there is any such right), to the commonwealth, to the human race or some other collective entity; or at least, embracing that “right” and dying rationally would exhibit...

  20. 17 Justice and Equal Treatment
    (pp. 247-254)

    There is still another moral aspect of the practice of neglect: this is a question of justice. Some physicians who have reported that they let some babies die (perhaps hasten their dying) also report that they make such life-or-death decisions not only on the basis of the newborn’s medical condition and prognosis, but on the basis of familial, social, and economic factors as well. If the marriage seems to be a strong one, an infant impaired to x degree may be treated, while an infant with the same impairment may not be treated if the marriage seems about to fall...

  21. A Paul Ramsey Bibliography
    (pp. 255-268)
  22. Index
    (pp. 269-272)