The Many and the One

The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World

Richard Madsen
Tracy B. Strong
Copyright Date: 2003
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  • Book Info
    The Many and the One
    Book Description:

    The war on terrorism, say America's leaders, is a war of Good versus Evil. But in the minds of the perpetrators, the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington were presumably justified as ethically good acts against American evil. Is such polarization leading to a violent "clash of civilizations" or can differences between ethical systems be reconciled through rational dialogue? This book provides an extraordinary resource for thinking clearly about the diverse ways in which humans see good and evil. In nine essays and responses, leading thinkers ask how ethical pluralism can be understood by classical liberalism, liberal-egalitarianism, critical theory, feminism, natural law, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

    Each essay addresses five questions: Is the ideal society ethically uniform or diverse? Should the state protect, ban, or otherwise intervene in ethically based differences? How should disagreements on the rights and duties of citizens be dealt with? Should the state regulate life-and-death decisions such as euthanasia? To what extent should conflicting views on sexual relationships be accommodated? This book shows that contentious questions can be discussed with both incisiveness and civility. The editors provide the introduction and Donald Moon, the conclusion. The contributors are Brian Barry, Joseph Boyle, Simone Chambers, Joseph Chan, Christine Di Stefano, Dale F. Eickelman, Menachem Fisch, William Galston, John Haldane, Chandran Kukathas, David Little, Muhammad Khalid Masud, Carole Pateman, William F. Scheuerman, Adam B. Seligman, James W. Skillen, James Tully, and Lee H. Yearley.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2559-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Introduction: Three Forms of Ethical Pluralism
    (pp. 1-22)
    Richard Madsen and Tracy B. Strong

    The war on terrorism, say America’s leaders, is a war of good versus evil. But in the minds of the perpetrators, the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon appear to have been justified as ethically good acts required by Islam against American evil. How can different ethical systems become so polarized that, to paraphrase the great German sociologist Max Weber, one person’s God is another person’s devil? In the world today, is such polarization leading inevitably to a violent “clash of civilizations”? Or can differences between ethical systems be reconciled through rational dialogue rather than...

  5. Part I

    • Liberal Egalitarian Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 25-41)
      William A. Galston

      “Liberal egalitarianism” names a family of views rather than a single canonical standpoint. This immediately suggests the question of what one must believe to be a member in good standing of the family. From a Wittgensteinian perspective of course, that question would evoke the response, “Nothing, if you mean a characteristic such that not possessing it strictly entails nonmembership.” This perspective makes a certain amount of sense for political theory, a discipline in which traditions tend to be defined in the manner of chain letters rather than in reference to defined sets of formal bright-line characteristics. Still, the effort to...

    • Liberal Egalitarian Platitudes?
      (pp. 42-52)
      Brian Barry

      Anyone who is asked to give a liberal egalitarian account of an issue is faced by the problem that, within the Ethikon framework, liberalism comes in only two flavors: classical and egalitarian. Moreover, “classical liberalism” turns out in practice not to be as catholic as it sounds. It would exclude a presumptively classical liberal such as John Stuart Mill on account of (among other things) his support for the redistribution of market-derived incomes. What goes under the name of classical liberalism is in fact libertarianism, a doctrine with almost no resonance outside the United States—where it may even make...

  6. Part II

    • Ethical Pluralism from a Classical Liberal Perspective
      (pp. 55-77)
      Chandran Kukathas

      Is the ideal society one that embodies or aims for ethical uniformity, or one that emphasizes instead the accommodation of ethical pluralism? From a classical liberal perspective the answer can only be that ethical pluralism should be accommodated.

      But here some caveats are in order. First, such a society would be “ideal” only in a limited sense: in the sense that it is the best kind of society to try to sustain given ethical disagreement—even though it would be a better society if it were governed by the right ethical values. The classical liberal perspective assumes that a society...

    • Ethical Pluralism and Classical Liberalism
      (pp. 78-86)
      James Tully

      In “Ethical Pluralism from a Classical Liberal Perspective,” Chandran Kukathas presents a clear and compelling analysis of how one school of classical liberalism copes with ethical pluralism. He points out that classical liberalism is a diverse, contested, and evolving tradition of political theory. He does not attempt to present a survey of the entire tradition but to concentrate exclusively on one school or “view of what classical liberalism amounts to” within the tradition. The strand of classical liberalism he explicates with great skill, “negative” or “minimal” liberalism, tolerates ethical pluralism, if it happens to exist, and sees a consequential good...

  7. Part III

    • Natural Law and Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 89-114)
      John H. Haldane

      Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers in the ancient world were much concerned with the general metaphysical problem of the “one and the many”—that is to say, the question of the relationship between a universal or common nature, such as horseness or triangularity, and its many instances, the multitude of horses or triangles. They would ask, for example, whether each particular horse possessed a part or the whole of horseness or horse nature, and if triangularity was itself a triangle. Such abstruse questions are very much the stuff of philosophers’ philosophy, and they continue to occupy metaphysicians today.

      Equally ancient,...

    • Natural Law Reflections on the Social Management of Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 115-126)
      Joseph Boyle

      John Haldane has provided a wide-ranging and insightful essay on natural law and ethical pluralism. His essay usefully details the manifold relationships between natural law and ethical pluralism and hints at many of the deep and interesting theoretical and practical issues these relationships generate. Although I disagree with Haldane about some details of natural law analysis and have a somewhat different conception of how best to formulate what is fundamental in natural law, these disagreements and differences are not likely to be of wide interest outside the debates of natural law thinkers, and do not affect the subject of this...

  8. Part IV

    • Confucian Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 129-153)
      Joseph Chan

      As a tradition of thought, Confucianism began life in China more than 2,500 years ago. Although its core ideas can be traced back to the teachings of Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.), this tradition was never thought to be wholly created by Confucius himself. In fact, the original Chinese term of Confucianism, ru-jia, makes no reference at all to Confucius. It rather refers to a school of ru, “a type of man who is cultural, moral, and responsible for religious rites, and hence religious.”¹ Confucius himself stressed that he was not an inventor of any radically new vision of ethics or...

    • Two Strands of Confucianism
      (pp. 154-158)
      Lee H. Yearley

      Professor Chan’s essay is rich, clear, appropriately critical, and (when warranted) appropriately appreciative. I aim in what follows only to sketch out a few separable but related comments that may aid our understanding of his essay and the important issues he treats. My comments are made, then, in what I take to be the spirit of a comment from The Analects of Confucius on the subject of who can be taught: “If I give out one corner and they don’t come back with the other three corners, then I don’t go on.”

      Let me begin with a methodological point—or,...

  9. Part V

    • Islam and Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 161-179)
      Dale F. Eickelman

      The Qur’an offers a distinctly modern perspective on the role of Islam as a force for tolerance and mutual recognition in a multiethnic, multicommunity world: “To each among you, We have ordained a law and assigned a path. Had God pleased, he could have made you one nation, but His will is to test you by what He has given you; so compete in goodness” (5:48).¹ Other verses reinforce the concepts and practices of tolerating religious difference: “Had your Lord willed, He would have made mankind one nation: but they will not cease differing” (11:118). Another reads: “O mankind! We...

    • The Scope of Pluralism in Islamic Moral Traditions
      (pp. 180-192)
      Muhammad Khalid Masud

      Dale Eickelman argues in the preceding essay that the Qur’an offers a modern perspective of a multiethnic and multicommunity world. Despite the fact that over time localisms have resisted the full realization of this Qur’anic perspective, Muslim societies have nevertheless continuously demonstrated their belief in this principle, as illustrated by the thought of the jurist Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi in fourteenth-century Spain, the Mughal ruler Akbar in sixteenth-century India, and the Nurculuk movement in twentieth-century Turkey. Eickelman has very significantly noted that on various Islamic issues, the point of departure in contemporary debates is the Qur’an itself, not the interpretations of...

  10. Part VI

    • Ethical Diversity, Tolerance, and the Problem of Sovereignty: A Jewish Perspective
      (pp. 195-218)
      Menachem Fisch

      Like all religions of long standing, Judaism does not speak in one voice, and perhaps never did—certainly not on the issues under consideration.

      It is customary to distinguish three major streams or movements within contemporary Judaism in the West—Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform—each standing for a cascade of further divisions. The three movements differ primarily in their attitude to halakha, the code of Jewish Law. Whereas Orthodox Jews accept halakha as the first place of reference and sole arbiter of authority, Conservative Judaism sees halakha as a crucial source of value holding “a vote, but not a veto”...

    • Jewish Responses to Modernity
      (pp. 219-225)
      Adam B. Seligman

      As Menachem Fisch notes at the outset, Judaism does not speak with one voice. Indeed, it never has. In fact, as much as anyone, Menachem’s own work has shown how a polyphony of voices constitutes the core moment of the Jewish legal tradition. Furthermore, and in terms of our interest here, it is well to remember that Jewish Orthodoxy, which Menachem has decided to take up in his essay, emerged in the nineteenth century as a reaction to modernizing and pluralistic tendencies within Judaism. With the spread of emancipation and its deepening within society, Jews began to accommodate themselves to...

  11. Part VII

    • Conscientious Individualism: A Christian Perspective on Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 229-256)
      David Little

      There are several conceptual ambiguities about the term “pluralism” that need to be clarified. According to the dictionary, it is both a descriptive term, “the quality or state of being plural,” and a theoretical or normative term, “the doctrine that there are more than one or two kinds of being or independent centers of causation”; “opposed to monism or dualism.”¹ Accordingly, the phrase “ethical pluralism” might designate the simple existence of a diversity or plurality of ethical positions, or it might refer to a doctrine holding that ethics, as the systematic evaluation of human action, is in its nature incapable...

    • Pluralism as a Matter of Principle
      (pp. 257-268)
      James W. Skillen

      David Little builds his case for a “weak theory” of ethical pluralism largely on the basis of what he calls “conscientious individualism.” In response, I would like to argue that something broader and deeper than conscientious individualism is needed to account for both the diversity of ethical responsibilities that humans bear and the diverse, often incompatible ways they exercise those responsibilities. By enlarging and strengthening the normative basis, I believe it is possible to develop a strong, principled argument for pluralism, which is not the same as a defense of ethical relativism.

      By a weak theory of ethical pluralism Little...

  12. Part VIII

    • Feminist Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 271-300)
      Christine Di Stefano

      Feminism is best approached as a political, rather than ethical, designation. Furthermore, feminism does not lend itself to description and assessment as a single and unitary tradition. References to feminisms in the contemporary literature underscore this point. Marxist feminism, liberal feminism, libertarian feminism, socialist feminism, social feminism, standpoint feminism, lesbian feminism, radical feminism, anarchist feminism, queer feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, black feminism, poststructuralist feminism, ecofeminism, ThirdWorld feminism, “third wave” feminism, postcolonial feminism, and global feminism are all shorthand (and, in the end, imperfect) labels for some of the varieties of feminism in our midst.¹ Feminism today is a plural and contested...

    • Feminism and the Varieties of Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 301-308)
      Carole Pateman

      Feminism, as Christine Di Stefano demonstrates, stands in a complex relationship to ethical pluralism. To complicate matters further, feminism also has its own conflicts, which include questions about ethical pluralism, with the other traditions represented here. But how should feminism be characterized? Di Stefano begins with this question and offers a “minimalist” definition in terms of “a basic commitment to the empowerment of women.”

      Empowerment is certainly a feminist goal, a necessary part of a feminist agenda, but it is not obvious that it is sufficient to establish what is distinctive about feminism as a tradition of political and ethical...

  13. Part IX

    • Critical Theory and the Challenge of Ethical Pluralism
      (pp. 311-335)
      William E. Scheuerman

      It would be a mistake to claim that early critical theory was insensitive to the significance of ethical pluralism for human freedom. Originally conceived during the darkest days of a Europe haunted by the specter of National Socialism, the Frankfurt School’s eclectic brand of Hegelian-Marxism powerfully described the many ways in which contemporary social and economic forms delimit the possibilities for authentic ethical and moral choices in contemporary society. From the perspective of the emigré left-wing intellectuals who made up the core of the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Otto Kirchheimer, Leo Loewenthal,...

    • Substantive and Procedural Dimensions of Critical Theory
      (pp. 336-340)
      Simone Chambers

      Much of contemporary critical theory has been influenced by Jürgen Habermas, especially Habermas’s theory of discursive ethics. Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato, the two theorists Bill Scheuerman discusses, are no exception. While going significantly beyond Habermas in their theory of civil society, they nevertheless understand the democratization of civil society (the normative goal within their theory) in essentially Habermasian or discursive terms. Now one of the early criticisms of Habermas was that discourse ethics—and the political philosophy to emerge from that theory—was antithetical to pluralism.¹ The crude version of this accusation went something like this: because discourse ethics...

  14. Part X

    • Pluralisms Compared
      (pp. 343-360)
      J. Donald Moon

      The writers of the main essays collected in this volume were asked to respond to five broad questions within the framework of a particular tradition or perspective. The purpose of this chapter is to identify some of the broad similarities and differences among the ethical perspectives, as described in this collection, and to identify the possibilities for dialogue across these lines of difference. The first question is the most general—whether the perspective in question aims at ethical uniformity or accommodating ethical pluralism. One difficulty in comparing responses to this question is rooted in the different ways in which the...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 361-364)
  16. Index
    (pp. 365-372)