Naturalism, Formalism, and Supernaturalism: Moral Epistemology and Comparative Ethics
Version of Record online: 17 DEC 2002
1999 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.
Journal of Religious Ethics
Volume 27, Issue 3, pages 477–506, Fall 1999
How to Cite
Jackson, T. P. (1999), Naturalism, Formalism, and Supernaturalism: Moral Epistemology and Comparative Ethics. Journal of Religious Ethics, 27: 477–506. doi: 10.1111/0384-9694.00029
- Issue online: 17 DEC 2002
- Version of Record online: 17 DEC 2002
- comparative ethics;
- naturalistic fallacy;
If the much discussed fragmentation of the West meansthat we can seldom hold constructive moral conversations with our near neighbors, why imagine that comparative ethics is feasible as a critical enterprise with a coherent method? How, more specifically, do we understand the relative merits of naturalism, formalism, and supernaturalism as ethical orientations? The author addresses these questions first by examining the meaning of the quoted terms, then by criticizing the inordinate optimism of most naturalisms and formalisms. The article ends by briefly elaborating and defending a supernaturalist conception of Christian love. As a fruit of the Spirit, agape leaves one neither heteronomous nor autonomous, but holy. Such holiness can move one to appreciate, judiciously, cultures different from one's own.