In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy - eBook
In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy - eBook  -     By: R. Scott Smith
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In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy - eBook

IVP Academic / 2014 / ePub

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For most of the church's history, people have seen Christian ethics as normative and universally applicable. Recently, however, this view has been lost, thanks to naturalism and relativism. R. Scott Smith argues that Christians need to overcome Kant's fact-value dichotomy and recover the possibility of genuine moral and theological knowledge.

Product Information

Format: DRM Free ePub
Vendor: IVP Academic
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN-13: 9780830880218

Publisher's Description

For most of the church's history, people have seen Christian ethics as normative and universally applicable. Recently, however, this view has been lost, thanks to naturalism and relativism. R. Scott Smith argues that Christians need to overcome Kant's fact-value dichotomy and recover the possibility of genuine moral and theological knowledge.

Author Bio

R. Scott Smith (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is associate professor of ethics and Christian apologetics at Biola University. He is the author of (Ashgate, 2003), (Crossway, 2005) and (Ashgate, 2012).

Endorsements

Scott Smith has produced a powerful new tool for Christian moral apologetics. He clarifies the veracity and strength of received moral wisdom both Christian and classical. He exposes the self-defeating vacuous nature of contemporary moral illusions. And he defends the objective reality of known moral truth grounded in the one true God and accessible to all bearing the imago Dei regardless of culture, feeling or locality. I will use this book with my students and urge others do the same.
-Daniel Heimbach,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Over the years, Scott Smith has, time and time again, demonstrated deep insight into the underlying causes of our contemporary cultural chaos. In In Search of Moral Knowledge, he has, once again, put his finger on the pulse of the fount of society's moral ills. Smith rightly points out that moral knowledge, and not merely moral belief, is what is needed to live a proper life and form a virtuous society. And he locates the denial of moral knowledge in the views of reality promoted by various extant lines of thought. This is no mere ethics text, examining moral issue after moral issue. This is one of the few books by an evangelical that lays bare the underlying metaphysics and epistemology that generate the various streams of moral thinking today. This should be a text in any ethics class, and I wish for it a wide distribution.
-J. P. Moreland,
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

R. Scott Smith's In Search of Moral Knowledge brilliantly argues that objective moral knowledge is possible and that this kind of knowledge is grounded in the character of the Christian God. This bold assertion runs counter to much of what is widely accepted in contemporary ethical scholarship. But Smith is undaunted. He meticulously explores origins of contemporary relativistic ethical theories (in which the so-called 'fact-value split' is fundamental), and he claims that these theories simply cannot stand up to close philosophical scrutiny. In Search of Moral Knowledge will be used by ethical theorists and students for a long time. Smith builds on a deep knowledge of the history of ethical thought. But his straightforward writing style assures that his arguments will be accessible to people who are just beginning to reflect seriously on their own moral experience.
-John Orr,
University of Southern California

Scott Smith has done an admirable job of surveying the ethical landscape both past and present. And he both challenges various forms of relativism and naturalism that are so corrosive to moral knowledge and quite effectively dismantles the commonly assumed arguments for the fact-value split. Also, he carefully constructs a case for the foundations of moral knowledge. In doing so, he offers much-needed wise guidance in an era that increasingly calls such knowledge into question.
-Paul Copan,
Palm Beach Atlantic University

Building on arguments advanced in his two earlier books, R. Scott Smith makes a powerful, carefully reasoned case for real knowledge of the world, moral values and principles. Along the way he presents an insightful history of Western ethics designed to show the many ways in which ethics has gone wrong, especially in separating itself from factual moral knowledge, resulting in today's relativistic approach to knowledge in general and to moral knowledge in particular. Arguing further that moral knowledge cannot be grounded in any form of naturalistic metaphysics, Smith contends that objective moral values (virtues) and principles (duties) must be transcendentally grounded in the character of God, specifically the God of biblical revelation, finally the God of Christianity. Smith writes precisely and persuasively but not dogmatically, and clearly invites and often articulates counterarguments at every turn. The book sets the standard for anyone who is drawn to affirm a universal ethic grounded in the character of God.
-John P. Crossley, Jr.,
University of Southern California

While ancient and medieval philosophy agrees with Scripture that moral knowledge is possible, the fallout of both modernism and postmodernism is a debilitating moral skepticism. Against this, Smith shows these worldviews to be self-defeating, and defends an ontology of embodied souls and moral essences grounded in God, which rehabilitates the idea of moral knowledge. Anyone dismayed by our culture's creeping nihilism will be encouraged by this important, insightful and timely study.
-Angus Menuge,
president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

Scott Smith, carefully and consciously, with philosophical rigor and clarity of word, offers a defense of moral knowledge that is tightly tethered to more ancient, and Christian, understandings of the good, the true and the beautiful. The result is a compelling case for why philosophical naturalism, including its cousin, nominalism, must be rejected by anyone who sincerely seeks after moral knowledge. Smith's greatest accomplishment in this book, however, is the way in which he interacts, at a high level, with contemporary philosophical schools of thought and ancient traditions in a way fully accessible to the educated layman and college student.
-Francis J. Beckwith,
Baylor University

Editorial Reviews

"Smith definitely contributes to the discussion of the merits of realism (that is, the legitimacy of exploring dualism), of overcoming the fact-value divide (that is, ethics is grounded in reality), and of critiquing the unwarranted dominance of naturalism (that is, it cannot fully account for knowledge). For these reasons, Smith's book should be read."
"Scott Smith, carefully and consciously, with philosophical rigor and clarity of word, offers a defense of moral knowledge that is tightly tethered to more ancient, and Christian, understandings of the good, the true and the beautiful. The result is a compelling case for why philosophical naturalism, including its cousin, nominalism, must be rejected by anyone who sincerely seeks after moral knowledge. Smith's greatest accomplishment in this book, however, is the way in which he interacts, at a high level, with contemporary philosophical schools of thought and ancient traditions in a way fully accessible to the educated layman and college student."
"While ancient and medieval philosophy agrees with Scripture that moral knowledge is possible, the fallout of both modernism and postmodernism is a debilitating moral skepticism. Against this, Smith shows these worldviews to be self-defeating, and defends an ontology of embodied souls and moral essences grounded in God, which rehabilitates the idea of moral knowledge. Anyone dismayed by our culture's creeping nihilism will be encouraged by this important, insightful and timely study."
"Building on arguments advanced in his two earlier books, R. Scott Smith makes a powerful, carefully reasoned case for real knowledge of the world, moral values and principles. Along the way he presents an insightful history of Western ethics designed to show the many ways in which ethics has gone wrong, especially in separating itself from factual moral knowledge, resulting in today's relativistic approach to knowledge in general and to moral knowledge in particular. Arguing further that moral knowledge cannot be grounded in any form of naturalistic metaphysics, Smith contends that objective moral values (virtues) and principles (duties) must be transcendentally grounded in the character of God, specifically the God of biblical revelation, finally the God of Christianity. Smith writes precisely and persuasively but not dogmatically, and clearly invites and often articulates counterarguments at every turn. The book sets the standard for anyone who is drawn to affirm a universal ethic grounded in the character of God."
"Scott Smith has done an admirable job of surveying the ethical landscape both past and present. And he both challenges various forms of relativism and naturalism that are so corrosive to moral knowledge and quite effectively dismantles the commonly assumed arguments for the fact-value split. Also, he carefully constructs a case for the foundations of moral knowledge. In doing so, he offers much-needed wise guidance in an era that increasingly calls such knowledge into question."
"R. Scott Smith's In Search of Moral Knowledge brilliantly argues that objective moral knowledge is possible and that this kind of knowledge is grounded in the character of the Christian God. This bold assertion runs counter to much of what is widely accepted in contemporary ethical scholarship. But Smith is undaunted. He meticulously explores origins of contemporary relativistic ethical theories (in which the so-called 'fact-value split' is fundamental), and he claims that these theories simply cannot stand up to close philosophical scrutiny. In Search of Moral Knowledge will be used by ethical theorists and students for a long time. Smith builds on a deep knowledge of the history of ethical thought. But his straightforward writing style assures that his arguments will be accessible to people who are just beginning to reflect seriously on their own moral experience."
"Over the years, Scott Smith has, time and time again, demonstrated deep insight into the underlying causes of our contemporary cultural chaos. In In Search of Moral Knowledge, he has, once again, put his finger on the pulse of the fount of society's moral ills. Smith rightly points out that moral knowledge, and not merely moral belief, is what is needed to live a proper life and form a virtuous society. And he locates the denial of moral knowledge in the views of reality promoted by various extant lines of thought. This is no mere ethics text, examining moral issue after moral issue. This is one of the few books by an evangelical that lays bare the underlying metaphysics and epistemology that generate the various streams of moral thinking today. This should be a text in any ethics class, and I wish for it a wide distribution."
"Scott Smith has produced a powerful new tool for Christian moral apologetics. He clarifies the veracity and strength of received moral wisdom both Christian and classical. He exposes the self-defeating vacuous nature of contemporary moral illusions. And he defends the objective reality of known moral truth grounded in the one true God and accessible to all bearing the imago Dei regardless of culture, feeling or locality. I will use this book with my students and urge others do the same."

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  1. David
    Becancour, QC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    IN SEARCH OF MORAL KNOWLEDGE: A BOOK REVIEW
    February 4, 2015
    David
    Becancour, QC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy. By R. Scott Smith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 361 pp. $28.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-4038-0.

    The question of how we know what is the right thing to do is one of the most important questions that humanity has perpetually asked, from the very beginning of its existence as a species to the present day. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that there are about as many theories of morality as there are philosophers and theologians who have set out to answer this moral question. In this review we will explain the primary purpose and argument of R. Scott Smith, and how he sets out his argument, followed by a short analysis of the relative success of Smiths argument, and the worth of this book.

    The overall purpose of this book, as Smith notes in the Introduction, is to show that, contrary to our received wisdom, morals are best explained as being (a) metaphysically objective and universal, (b) something that we can know as such and (c) grounded in the Christian God. We can have moral knowledge, and we need to reject the many false views that have led us to conceive of morality as merely a human construct. (p. 19) In order to accomplish this overall purpose Smith divides his book into three parts. In part 1 he considers various moral theories from ancient greek philosophy up to the Reformed views of Luther and Calvin. In part 2 he turns to Modern and Contemporary moral theories. In part 3 he develops his own theory.

    It is always interesting to know the general views of an author before one reads their book. It is to be noted that the author argues for a form of ontological, epistemological, and moral realism (p. 18). He argues that morals find their foundation ultimately in Gods nature (p. 18, 176, 317, 319-322, 327). Though Smith maintains that New Testament ethics are deontological (p. 27-31, 321), he also sees room for some form of Natural Law Ethics (p. 36-39). Concerning human nature Smith appears to be a form of substance dualist (p. 39fn28). He does not, however, endorse Cartesian substance dualism (p. 311), but, rather, seems to think that thomistic-aristotelian dualism (Typically referred to as hylemorphism, in the relevant literature, in order to distinguish it from other forms of dualism. Smith classes Aristotles theory as a substance dualism p. 48.) is the proper understanding of human nature (p. 48, 334-335). In epistemology, Smith rejects representationalism (p. 300), and holds to a form of modest foundationalism (p. 301).

    In this book the author seeks to propose his own onto-epistemological theory for morality. In order to present such an argument the author must begin by showing where the other popular views fail. His argument, therefore, takes the form of a logical dilemma (with multiple terms each term being a different moral theory). The logical dilemma could be taken to be something as follows: Platonic theory (ch.2), or Aristotelian theory (ch.2), or Augustinian theory (ch. 3), or Thomistic theory (ch. 3), or the Reformational theories of Luther and Calvin (ch. 4), or Hobbess theory (ch. 4), or Kants theory (ch. 4), or Utilitarianism (ch. 4) or Naturalistic theory (chs. 5-6), or Ethical relativism (ch. 7), or Rawlian theory (ch. 7), or Korsgaards Constructivism theory (ch. 7), or Feminist Moral theory (ch. 8), or the Liberation theory of Gustavo Gutirrez (ch. 8), or Jurgen Habermass theory (ch. 8), or pragmatic theory (ch. 8), or MacIntyres theory (ch. 9), or Hauerwass theory (ch. 10), or Smiths theory (part 3). Smith attempts to show that there are problems in every single theory other than his own, which thus allows him to conclude, using an argument based on a logical dilemma, that his theory is true. He is not, however, so arrogant as to think that there is nothing of value in these other theories. He points out what is good, but he is not so nave as to think that any one of these theories is perfect, and, so, he also points out difficulties in each of the theories. The first two parts of this book, therefore, read something like a survey of the history of moral theory (beginning with a chapter on Biblical ethics ch. 1).

    The author argues for a form of platonic ontology, Aristotelian anthropology/psychology, and a moral theory that includes both Natural law and Deontology; where human morality finds its foundations and source in Gods nature. The argument that is presented, in this book, by Smith, is excellent. However, the success of an argument based upon a dilemma depends upon proving that all the disjuncts but one are false (or have difficulties). Unfortunately for Smiths argument, the author does not successfully demonstrate the problems with the Ancient theories, and overlooks the conceptual equipment provided for him by Thomistic Morality (which could provide him with what he seems to want from platonic ontology as well as the other elements of his theory). The major problem with this book is that, and this is probably due to the amazing number of theories that it covers, some of Smiths critiques of the different views are unfortunately shallow, or do not take important elements of these theories into consideration. This does not, however, take away from the value of this book for anybody who is interested in moral theory. Smiths position is, in itself, quite interesting. I would highly recommend this book as textbook for a course on moral philosophy at any level of university studies. The nature of this book makes it such that it would be useful for a beginner in moral philosophy, and should not be ignored by experts in this domain.
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