Thursday, February 9, 2012

The crisis of ethics in modernism

Stanley Hauerwas has a fascinating article  How "Christian Ethics" Came to Be. 
It argues that prior to the Enlightenment Christians did not separate theology, ethics, and personal discipleship. They were all just part of living the Christian life. However, the Enlightenment ripped away the notion that the Bible and the Church provided a foundation or basis for deciding what was moral. What would the foundation be then?
The birth of modernity is coincident with the beginnings of ethics understood as a distinguishable sphere or realm of human life. Faced with the knowledge of the diversity of moral convictions, modern people think of themselves as haunted by the problem of relativism. If our "ethics" are relative to time and place, what if anything prevents our moral opinions form being "conventional"? And if they are conventional, some assume they must also be "arbitrary". But if your morality is conventional, how can we ever expect to secure agreements between people who disagree? Is it out fate to be perpetually at war with one another? "Ethics" becomes that quest to secure a rational basis for morality so we can be confident that our moral convictions are not arbitrary?
Stanley Hauerwas, How "Christian Ethics" Came to Be (1997)
Reprinted in the Hauerwas Reader, p.43-44.

No comments:

Post a Comment