Simply read the reading and answer the questions
500 word essay on the following:
Robert Kane (make sure you cite the text when answering the following questions):
1 What does Kane describe as the two “consequences” of the Tower of Babel regarding conflicting views on morality? What two concepts does Kane describe as the underlying problems associated with the consequences? Can you relate to these ideas in your own life? How?
2 How does Kane use the story of C.S. Lewis’ “Perelandra” to depict the dilemma of “Loss of Moral Innocence?” Have you ever experienced this problem/dilemma in your own life? Can you give some examples?
3 What does Kane propose, in the end, as a way forward through the “moral maze” of our modern context? Explain his concept of “openness.”
4 Give an example from our contemporary context where this paradigm might apply; and explain why you think Kane’s views would be helpful. Be sure to cite the source of the news story.
Through the Moral Maze
ROBERT KANE teaches philosophy at the University of Texas and has written books on ethics and free will. His
primary focus is on questions of the ethical pluralism and tolerance, and he summarizes those concerns here.
A TOWER OF BABEL
The ancient image of the Tower of Babel has been used by more than a few modern
writers to describe the current state of discourse about ethics and values. There is no one
“spirit of the times,” but many-too many in fact-too many competing voices,
philosophies, and religions, too many points of view on moral issues, too many
interpretations of even our most sacred documents, our Bibles and Constitutions. Only the
most unthinking persons can fail to be affected by this pluralism of points of view and not
wonder, as a consequence, about the truth of their own beliefs…
Among the consequences of the modern Tower of Babel is a pervasive temptation to
embrace relativism, the view that there are no objective or “absolute” values that hold for
all persons and all times. Judgments about the good and the right, it is said, can only be
correct for some persons or societies or times, but not for all persons, societies, or times. In
support of such a View, there are widespread doubts about the very possibility of making
absolute or universal judgments that transcend our always limited points of view. New
trends in the social sciences and humanities, some of them with popular names like
“postmodernism” or “post-structuralism,” make much of the fact that all our views about
the world are historically and culturally conditioned. We always see things from a
particular point of view (a “conceptual framework,” or “language game,” or “cultural
tradition”). How can we therefore show that our point of view, or any other, is the right one
and competing views wrong, when we must assume the basic presuppositions of some
particular point of view to support our claims? How can we climb out of our historically
and culturally limited perspectives to find an Archimedean point, an absolute standpoint
above the particular and competing points of view?
This problem haunts the modern intellectual landscape. One sees variations of it
everywhere in different fields of study, and everywhere it produces doubts among reflective
persons about the possibility of justifying belief in objective intellectual, cultural, and
moral standards. Many modern thinkers, to be sure, deplore the resulting drift toward
relativism or skepticism, arguing that we need to restore belief in objective truth and value.
But it is one thing to say this and another to show how it can be done. For the problem of
finding an Archimedean point above the pluralism of competing points of view is a
complex one, which thinkers have been wrestling with for centuries.
I no longer believe the older ways of solving this problem will work as they did for past
generations… If we are not to drift into relativism, therefore, some new ways of thinking
about the problem of value are needed. Alasdair MacIntyre is right, I think, to say that the
current state of moral discourse is one of grave disrepair, but I am not entirely satisfied
with his or any other contemporary suggestion for repair. Some fundamental possibilities,
it seems to me have been overlooked in all traditional and modern searches for absolute
The root of present problems about values, is the existence of a pluralism of points of
views about the right way to live, with no evident ways of settling disagreements between
them. The ancient Tower of Babel is a fitting image for this modern condition…
Mircea Eliade, the distinguished historian of religions, has said that what religions
provided for their believers through the ages was a spiritual centering. Primitive peoples
often identified a sacred mountain or some other place near their home as the center of the
universe. The axis of the world went through that point and reached directly to the
heavens. It was the spiritual center of their world and the place through which people
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