Moralism is a vice masquerading as a virtue, according to a new book by Flinders philosopher Dr Craig Taylor; his colleague Dr Andrew Gleeson asserts that both atheists and fundamentalists base their opposing views on a misconceived idea of religion.
It made for a lively book launch today, Friday, February 24, when no less than four staff members from the Philosophy Discipline at Flinders aired new publications.
Dr Taylor’s book Moralism: A Study of a Vice, grew out of the public controversy around the exhibition by photographer Bill Henson in 2010 and the “moral panic” that surrounded it.
Dr Taylor said that the holier-than-thou attitudes of moralism colour public debate, and affect both the media and politicians.
In a chapter on elected officials, Dr Taylor points out that national leaders frequently act in ways that are morally problematic, but are required to do so by virtue of their role.
“The question to ask is, if you are going to morally criticise an elected official, surely you have to suggest what they should have done instead. That is something the media conspicuously fail to do.”
Dr Gleeson’s book A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil criticises the approach of philosophers in attempting to resolve the conflict between the idea of an omnipotent benign deity and the existence of suffering and evil.
He says that philosophical debate is too often framed in terms that have got too far away from the realities of life.
At the same time, he believes that religion should be viewed as having its own distinctive kind of reality.
“It seems to me that modern civilisation has got itself into a mess over religion because we’ve mixed it up with science and ordinary notions of fact which we take to be the paradigm when we speak of something as being true or real,” Dr Gleeson said.
“The problem of evil does not necessarily deal a death blow to religion; I take up the position that God is to be understood as love itself, not as a human-like agent performing loving actions.”
Also launched was Rational Choice Theory: Potential and Limits by Dr Lina Eriksson. The book examines the philosophical development of and the critical issues surrounding rational choice theory, one of the most influential methods of explaining political phenomena.
And if any further talking point was needed, visiting scholar Peter Woolcock’s book Western Values versus the Gospels argues that the meaning given by Jesus in the Gospels to values such as mercy, forgiveness, freedom and peace bears little relation to their current meaning in the West.
(Pictured from left are Dr Gleeson, Dr Taylor, Mr Woolcock and Dr Eriksson.)