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A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist [Paperback]

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Pages   177
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.66"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 1999
Publisher   Ignatius Press
ISBN  0898707315  
EAN  9780898707311  
UPC  008987073154  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
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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More About Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft Peter J. Kreeft (Ph.D., Fordham University) was born in 1937 and is professor of philosophy at Boston College where he has taught since 1965. A popular lecturer, he has also taught at many other colleges, seminaries and educational institutions in the eastern United States. Kreeft has written more than fifty books, including The Best Things in Life, The Journey, How to Win the Culture War and, with Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Humorous, Intelligent and Fascinating   Mar 5, 2007

Kreeft, an academic with a reputation for orthodoxy and narrow Catholic conservatism, does a wonderful job in presenting a topic of great timely interest in a relatively (no pun intended) light-hearted way. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed by this work and would recommend it to anyone who finds his or herself on either side of the figurative fence created by today's culture and it's precarious - and sometimes adversarial - engagement of religious absolutism.

Religious absolutism has gained, as Kreeft notes through the `interviews,' a rather polemical stigma in recent history. Closely tied to fundamental trends in the minds of many, absolutism is neither fundamental (in a pejorative sense) nor simplistic (in the idiotic sense). Kreeft does a fine job articulating that and helps to bring a refulgent tone to a formidable position.

A page-turning synopsis of a timely philosophical topic.
Interviews with an intellectual bully  Feb 15, 2007
As a book in philosophy, this work fails. Kreeft presents unoriginal arguments in a largely incoherent fashion and consistently refuses to examine their flaws. To compound these errors, he relies heavily on equivocation, straw men, and guilt by association, among other fallacies. In fact, he doesn't even make the trivial effort it would require to ensure a fair representation of his opponent's view: the voice of relativism is, from the start, the villain of the book. Relativists (and philosophers in general who have respect for their craft) should be offended by this book's philosophical content.

However, relativists should also be worried. While this book utterly fails as a philosophical treatise, it succeeds admirably as propaganda. Untrained readers will surely accept his constant claims that the "debates" represent unbiased philosophy. From there, they'll readily accept that relativism will be the downfall of mankind. If anybody doubts its effectiveness, simply read through the other reviews. For this reason, I encourage relativists to take this book seriously and review its arguments online, for free (and with considerably less irritating one-sided banter) at [...]

To be sure, if you're interested in this debate, you'll hear these arguments again and again. In that way alone does Kreeft perform a public service by printing this drivel: there is no better way for a budding relativist to develop a strong foundation for his belief than to read these arguments and tear them apart.
A series of enlightening interviews  Dec 2, 2006
Kreeft structures his book around a series of interviews with a black moral relativist and activist, Libby, and a Muslim absolutionist and professor, 'Isa. The logic is solid and the interviews are entertaining. A must-read for anyone with philosophical or religious interests.
Mission(ary) Not Accomplished  Aug 27, 2005
What Kreeft puts in the mouth of his opponent as "proofs" of the truth of relativism are so weak and at times sophomoric that Kreeft's supposed refutation of them is irrelevant to the core of the relativist challenge, which is that no one can provide objective support for a claim to have an absolute foundation for moral values. Kreeft doesn't even acknowledge this central issue.

Here's an example of how Kreeft, who claims his book offers "respectable logical arguments" from a "clear and very intelligent" viewpoint, in fact abuses language and logic. To defend the idea that changing situations "change how you should apply the rules, but they don't change the rules" he gives the example of lying to a Nazi searching for hidden Jews: "The Nazis had no right to know that truth" so it wasn't wrong to "deceive" them. "Lying is always wrong, and that wasn't wrong, so that wasn't a lie." To safeguard the absoluteness of the rule that says "Lying is always wrong," Kreeft redefines "lying" from "the speaking of a falsehood" to "the speaking of a falsehood when it's not permissible to do so," and so the rule becomes "The speaking of a falsehood when it is not permissible to do so is wrong." Besides the irony in a professed absolutist ignoring the common meaning of a word to suit his purpose-and in particular redefining "lie" in defense of a belief in absolute truth-this raises the problem of how we're to know, by objective standards, when "speaking a falsehood" is permissible and therefore not lying, otherwise this rule is wholly vacuous. If his semantic juggling is to be of any use, Kreeft needs to prove his claim to have such standards, a claim implicit throughout the book, and he fails to.

Kreeft's argument in favor of absolutism rests primarily on what he calls the data of moral experience, which comes down to the claim that "Conscience immediately detects real right and wrong, just as your senses immediately detect real colors and shapes ... [This] shows that absolutism is scientific." Actually, what this shows is that Kreeft believes his conscience is absolutely infallible because he believes God made it so, and although he doesn't tell us how he knows this is true, presumably he believes it is because the tradition he believes in told him it is, and he believes that tradition is true because his infallible conscience tells him so. And round and round, with nothing on which to rest this self-reinforcing circle of certainty. A fuller discussion can be found elsewhere (

Kreeft also throws in quite a bit of invective against people and principles he disagrees with, but he never addresses the following question: What are your objective, universal, and timeless reasons for claiming that your foundation for absolute values is true? The assertion that God came down to Abraham with the "real religion" (with the implication that Kreeft and his fellow Catholics have an absolute understanding of exactly what moral rules follow from this) isn't good enough, and in fact, taken in conjunction with the rest of Kreeft's performance, raises the question of just what qualifications are required to teach philosophy at Boston College.
More Interviews and Socratic-Style Dialogue  Aug 3, 2005
The basic premise of the book is straightforward. Two people are talking about the ideas of moral relativism and moral absolutism. The "Isa" character is a Muslim who believes that there are moral absolutes. The "Libby" character is a feminist who believes there are not moral absolutes.

Moral absolutism is a position in which it is believed that the whole of humanity is obligated to act in certain ways. Moral relativism is the position in which there are no moral universals, or principles that compel all people.

Some of the philosophical concepts that are of interest in this book include: 1) There is a definite connection between epistemology and ethics. If we cannot know moral truths, we should not be expected to live by them. 2) Are the differences in cultures around the world a proof of moral relativism? 3) Which one is more oppressive politically and socially when it becomes the majority paradigm: relativism or absolutism? 4) Can a relativist "preach" about, or attempt to spread, the idea of moral relativism without compromising their ideals?

I couldn't put the book down once I had started it. It is a great review of the "Great Conversation." Like any Kreeft book, you will read about concepts explored in all the big philosophical names: Aristotle, Kieerkegard, etc. I also think he puts forth a convincing argument as to why moral absolutism is true.

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