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This is an excellent introduction to moral philosophy, and will sharpen the thinking of general readers interested in working out a more systematic philosophy. Scientific and Medical Network. Brief but good summaries of common misconceptions, criteria, the religious legacy, ethical diversity in religion, their interpreters and syncretic religions are followed by equally admirable discussions of Kant, Hume, Utilitarianism, negative utilitarianism and the psychological evidence, attitudes to other species, relativism, virtue ethics with a revisit to Aristotle , the gender issue and the ethical stew, and key essentials, ending with a concise chronology of major ethical perspectives and a very useful glossary The fissiparousness of religions is well brought out.

One striking sentence deserving quotation is: To someone of my age 63 , who has seen apparently enormous changes in attitudes to sex roles, the chapter on gender is particularly interesting - if only to show that things are different elsewhere: The index could be better - despite the attention paid to the subject, there is no entry under Gender, or under Women, Men, Girls or Boys.

Who Holds the Moral High Ground?

This book is nowhere near the final word on the subject, nor do the authors claim so, but it is a most interesting and articulate concise discussion which can be recommended. Ray Ward, Skeptical Adversaria. By putting forward this pertinent question, Colin Beckley and Elspeth Waters express what occupies many a mind in this age of moral pluralism. Confronted with our daily need to make moral judgments, the challenge to arrive at the right ones is hard to meet indeed.

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With so many clashing moral view-points, traditions, and theories, the right answer to the above question seems close to unattainable. Yet, in this book, the authors bravely take on the challenge, resulting in a brief but interesting read, accessible to a broad audience. Reviewing the history of moral thought from the major religious traditions, through the emergence of secular morality, to recent moral theories, the authors come to the conclusion that no single doctrine or theory is without profound difficulties and therefore susceptible to substantial criticism.


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However, almost every one of them holds some important positive principles or ideas that link up with widely shared moral experience and rational insight. The problem is that most often these principles and ideas seem to be conflicting with one another.

‘A politician doesn’t always have to hold the moral high ground’ - Leiden University

How then should these principles and ideas be weighed off against each other? Which 'mysterious criteria' should be used to arrive at a balanced or wise moral judgment?


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  • Throughout the book, Beckley and Waters, maintain a critical stance towards tradition, pointing to the dangers of what they call 'obedience ethics', often supported by nationalist and religious leaders and their followers. In this respect, special attention is paid to the role of gender issues in today's society. It seems that in the meantime our attitude has become much more hard-line. But surely the conduct of politicians, public servants and administrators must be beyond reproach?

    Moral high ground

    For example, the prime minister Mark Rutte VVD no longer claims for any expenses at all, to avoid any fuss about them. For instance, suppose a big company in your region invites you to a tennis tournament. What do you do in a case like that?

    Robert Thurman: "It's the moral high ground which is our only hope."

    As a result, many people in public service will end up in the grey twilight zone of integrity. This website uses cookies. Private is becoming public Kerkhoff has come to this conclusion after writing a book, together with his colleague Patrick Overeem VU Amsterdam , about numerous integrity issues that have arisen in the Netherlands since