Religious Ethics, History, and the Rise of Modern Moral Philosophy: Focus Introduction



In this introduction to a cluster of three articles on eighteenth-century ethics written by Mark Larrimore, John Bowlin, and Mark Cladis, the author maintains that although the broad narrative tracing the emergence of a religiously neutral or naturalistic moral language in the eighteenth century is a familiar one, many central questions concerning this development remain unanswered and require further historical study. Against those who contend that historical study is antecedent to, but not part of, the proper substance of religious ethics, the author argues that historical and normative studies are interdependent, each helping to define the questions central to the other. The introduction concludes with an overview of the three articles and suggests ways in which religious ethicists can, in the future, make a distinctive contribution to the history of ethics.