The Morality of Pluralism

The Morality of Pluralism

John Kekes
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    The Morality of Pluralism
    Book Description:

    Controversies about abortion, the environment, pornography, AIDS, and similar issues naturally lead to the question of whether there are any values that can be ultimately justified, or whether values are simply conventional. John Kekes argues that the present moral and political uncertainties are due to a deep change in our society from a dogmatic to a pluralistic view of values. Dogmatism is committed to there being only one justifiable system of values. Pluralism recognizes many such systems, and yet it avoids a chaotic relativism according to which all values are in the end arbitrary. Maintaining that good lives must be reasonable, but denying that they must conform to one true pattern, Kekes develops and justifies a pluralistic account of good lives and values, and works out its political, moral, and personal implications.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2110-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Setting the Stage
    (pp. 3-16)

    The morality in question is the Western one. It is an amorphous, complex, constantly changing system of ideals, principles, customs intended to guide our conduct. It is derived from three main sources: ancient Greece and Rome; the Judeo-Christian religious tradition; and the thought and sensibility of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and secular humanism. According to a substantial body of considered contemporary opinion, our moralityisdisintegrating.¹

    It is conceded that in the normal course of events many of us, more or less conscientiously, continue to live according to morality, but its hold on us, it is supposed, gets weaker and...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Six Theses of Pluralism
    (pp. 17-37)

    The purpose of this chapter is to introduce six central theses of pluralism and some of the key terms in which the discussion about them will be conducted. The theses are interdependent, and that is why it is important to have an overview of them before we proceed to discuss questions of detail.

    Whether the world is one or many is among the oldest questions of philosophy. Is there an underlying unity behind the multiplicity of ways in which the world appears to human observers, or is the world really as varied as appearances suggest? The axiological question of whether...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Plurality and Conditionality of Values
    (pp. 38-52)

    This chapter concentrates on the first thesis of pluralism. It focuses on the distinction between primary and secondary, moral and nonmoral, and overriding and conditional values. By appealing to these distinctions, it also distinguishes among different versions of relativism and shows how one of them is untenable.

    Let us now be more precise about the nature of the values whose plurality and conditionality is one thesis of pluralism. Values in general are understood as benefits whose possession would make a life better than it would be without them and whose lack would make a life worse than it would otherwise...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Unavoidability of Conflicts
    (pp. 53-75)

    One of the aims of the previous chapter was to make more precise the first thesis of pluralism about the plurality and conditionality of values. We have seen that values may be naturally occurring and humanly caused, moral and nonmoral, primary and secondary. We have also seen that there is a context-independent reason why primary values should normally take precedence over secondary values if they come into conflict with each other. The reason is that the realization of secondary values is contingent on the realization of primary values. As a result, we could show that radical relativism was mistaken, because...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Nature of Reasonable Conflict-Resolution
    (pp. 76-98)

    If Plural and conditional values unavoidably conflict because they are incompatible and incommensurable, then pluralists must answer the question of how these conflicts can be resolved in a reasonable manner. The answer that will be developed in this chapter is that reasonable conflict-resolution is made possible by the traditions and conceptions of a good life to which people who face the conflicts adhere.

    In discussing the third version of monism, we distinguished between a strong and a weak interpretation of the idea that the reasonable resolution of conflicts among values depends on ranking them. The strong one, which is inconsistent...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Possibilities of Life
    (pp. 99-117)

    If pluralists are right, our primary moral experience is of many often-conflicting values, which appear to us as possibilities created by our tradition. As we endeavor to make reasonable commitments to some of these possibilities, so we form our individual conceptions of a good life. These conceptions will be shaped both by the possibilities we want to realize and the limits that impose constraints on our commitments. The concern of this chapter is with two notions that are essential to understanding the process whereby we encounter possibilities and commit ourselves to some of them: moral imagination and increasing our freedom....

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Need for Limits
    (pp. 118-138)

    In the previous chapter, we considered the fourth thesis of pluralism. It focused on the importance of the imaginative exploration of possibilities. We stressed that growth in the breadth and depth of our appreciation of possibilities contributes to living a good life, because the possibilities reveal ways of being and acting that may reasonably attract us. It is a widely shared assumption among pluralists that the more extensive our moral imagination is the better off we are from the moral point of view.

    The purpose of this chapter is to develop the fifth thesis of pluralism. This will lead us...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Prospects of Moral Progress
    (pp. 139-160)

    In the last two chapters we were concerned with the possibilities and limits of pluralism. The belief that there are limits beyond which conceptions of a good life cannot reasonably go distinguishes pluralism from relativism. The belief that these limits are not overriding but conditional is part of what separates pluralism from monism. Another part is that the conceptions of a good life that pluralists recognize as morally permissible are far more numerous than those that monists allow. Pluralists and monists agree that morality allows only those conceptions of a good life that conform to the minimum requirements set by...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Some Moral Implications of Pluralism: On There Being Some Limits Even to Morality
    (pp. 161-178)

    The central concern of pluralism is with the nature of good lives and with what we can do to achieve them. Pluralists are committed to the view that lives are made good by the personal satisfaction they provide and the moral merit they possess. But in good lives these two good-making components do not merely co-exist; they are intimately linked with each other. For what makes lives good is precisely that people living them take personal satisfaction in being and acting in ways that also have moral merit. Yet this coincidence cannot be complete; not all personal satisfactions can be...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Some Personal Implications of Pluralism: Innocence Lost and Regaineds
    (pp. 179-198)

    We have seen in the previous chapter that the moral and nonmoral values required by good lives may conflict with each other. It was argued there that when such conflicts occur, reason does not always require the moral value to override the nonmoral value. Reason allows that in some cases the nonmoral value should take precedence over the moral one. The question we shall consider in this chapter is the reaction that reasonable people should have to the realization that aiming at a good life may involve the subordination of moral to nonmoral values and, consequently, that there may be...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Some Political Implications of Pluralism: The Conflict with Liberalism
    (pp. 199-218)

    In this chapter, we shall consider some of the many political consequences of pluralism. Perhaps surprisingly, these consequences lead us in the direction of questioning the supposedly close connection between pluralism and liberalism. Liberals have claimed, and their critics, largely by default, have conceded, that pluralism is most at home in a liberal society. Actually, however, this claim is mistaken; there are good reasons for supposing that pluralism and liberalism are incompatible. As a first approximation of these reasons, we may note that pluralism is committed to the view that there is no particular value that, in conflicts with other...

  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 219-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-227)