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The Dignity of Difference: Exorcizing Plato’s Ghost

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Chapter Summary

Plato's assertion of the universality of truth is valid when applied to science and the description of what is. It is invalid when applied to ethics, spirituality and our sense of what ought to be. This gives biblical ethics a different character from philosophical ethics. Philosophical ethics, true to its Platonic origins, focuses on what we have in common: rationality, emotion, or our desire for pleasure and aversion to pain. Biblical morality, by contrast, is far more complex. It emphasizes the dual nature of our moral situation. The faith of Israel declares the oneness of God and the plurality of man. It moves beyond both tribalism and its antithesis, universalism. Tribalism turns the concept of a chosen people into that of a master-race. Universalism turns the truth of a single culture into the measure of humanity. The results are often tragic and always an affront to human dignity.

Keywords: dignity; philosophical ethics; Plato's ghost; tribalism; universalism



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