Power, class, and the new campus religion

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Milton Yinger (1963) suggests that these quasi religions are formed to compensate for traditional churches’ inability to achieve unity among groups with different values.

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I felt that both these movies did a good job of showing the less glamorous side of sport and also focused on the importance of sport to the athletes who played.

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Mention should be made of some movements that are not philosophical ina professional sense, but are important in understanding the relationbetween morality and religion. Liberation theology, of which a leadingspokesman from Latin America is Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928-), hasattempted to reconcile the Christian gospel with a commitment(influenced by Marxist categories) to revolution to relieve thecondition of the oppressed. The civil rights movement (drawing heavilyon Exodus), feminist ethics, animal liberation, environmentalethics, and the gay rights and children's rights movements have shownspecial sensitivity to the moral status of some particular oppressedclass. The leadership of some of these movements has been religiouslycommitted, while the leadership of others has not. At the same time,the notion of human rights, or justified claims by everyhuman being, has grown in global reach, partly through the variousinstrumentalities of the United Nations. There has, however, been lessconsensus on the question of how to justify humanrights. There are theological justifications, deriving from the imageof God in every human being, or the command to love the neighbor, orthe covenant between God and humanity (see Wolterstorff,Justice: Rights and Wrongs, chapter 16). Whetherthere is a non-theological justification is not yet clear. Finally,there has also been a burst of activity in professional ethics, suchas medical ethics, engineering ethics, and business ethics. This hasnot been associated with any one school of philosophy rather thananother. The connection of religion with these developments has beenvariable. In some cases (e.g., medical ethics) the initial impetus forthe new sub-discipline was strongly influenced by theology, and inother cases not.

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The most important opponent of utilitarianism in the twentieth centurywas John Rawls (1921–2005). In his Theory of Justice(1971) he gave, like Hare, an account of ethics heavily indebted toKant. But he insisted that utilitarianism does not capture the Kantianinsight that each person is an end in himself or herself, because it‘does not take seriously the distinction between persons’(Theory of Justice, 22). He constructed the thoughtexperiment of the ‘Original Position’ in which individualsimagine themselves not knowing what role in society they are going toplay or what endowments of talent or material wealth they possess, andagree together on what principles of justice they will accept. Rawlsthought it important that substantive conceptions of the good lifewere left behind in moving to the Original Position, because he wasattempting to provide an account of justice that people with competingvisions of the good could agree to in a pluralist society. Like earlyHabermas he included religions under thisprohibition. In Political Liberalism (1993) he conceded thatthe procedure of the Original Position is itself ideologicallyconstrained, and he moved to the idea of an overlapping consensus:Kantians can accept the idea of justice as fairness (which theprocedure describes) because it realizes autonomy, utilitariansbecause it promotes overall utility, Christians because it is part ofdivine law, etc. But even here Rawls wanted to insist that adherentsof the competing visions of the good leave their particularconceptions behind in public discourse and justify thepolicies they endorse on grounds that are publicly accessible. Hedescribed this as the citizen's duty of civility (PoliticalLiberalism, iv).

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The emotivist theory of ethics had its most articulate treatment inEthics and Language by Charles Stevenson (1908–79). Stevensonwas a positivist, but also the heir of John Dewey (1859–1952) and theAmerican pragmatist tradition. Dewey had rejected the idea of fixedends for human beings, and stressed that moral deliberation occurs inthe context of competition within a person between different ends,none of which can be assumed permanent. He criticized theories thattried to derive moral principles from self-certifying reason, orintuition, or cosmic forms, or divine commands, both because hethought there are no self-certifying faculties or self-evident norms,and because the alleged derivation disguises the actual function ofthe principles as devices for social action. Stevenson applied thisemphasis to the competition between people with differentends, and stressed the role of moral language as a social instrumentfor persuasion (Ethics and Language, Ch. 5). On his account,normative judgments express attitudes and invite others to share theseattitudes, but they are not strictly speaking true or false.