JIS XIX 2007
Interdisciplinary Perspectives

JIS XIX 2007: 1-18


Oskar Gruenwald
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

This essay proposes that the human quest for meaning, self-realization, and self-transcendence via the moral “ought” as the proper end, purpose, or goal for man constitutes the teleological imperative. This pan-human quest for universal touchstones for values and truths should thus be the focus of both moral education and cultural renewal. Central to this quest is a re-conceptualization of virtue ethics as radically transcending the social construction of reality. Virtue may be fully understood only within the larger parameters of natural right or natural law, which posit an underlying moral order in Creation, independently of, and preceding, human perception and cognition. The right ordering of the human soul or self reflects the larger cosmological order of the universe, and its fulfillment in the Golden Rule or the Tao, the Judeo-Christian traditions expressed in the Decalogue, and the New Testament’s call for charity.

JIS XIX 2007: 19-39


Raymond L. Dennehy
University of San Francisco

This essay proposes that liberal democracy cannot survive unless a monistic virtue ethics permeates its culture. A monistic philosophical conception of virtue ethics has its roots in natural law theory and, for that reason, offers a rationally defensible basis for a unified moral vision in a pluralistic society. Such a monistic virtue ethics–insofar as it is a virtue ethics–forms individual character so that a person not only knows how to act, but desires to act that way and, moreover, possesses the integration of character to be able to act that way. This is a crucial consideration, for immoral choices create a bad character that inclines the individual to increasingly worse choices. A nation whose members lack moral virtue cannot sustain its commitment to freedom and equality for all.
Oleg Zinam Award for Best Essay in JIS, 2007.

JIS XIX 2007: 40-60


James S. Gow
University of King’s College, Canada
Kathleen M. Gow
University of Toronto, Canada

To fully engage virtue ethics, this essay examines movements in moral education which have led North America’s youth simultaneously to the edge of illiteracy of mind and spirit. The self-esteem movement encompasses values clarification, political correctness, and New Age aspects. A mathematical analogy provides a reference point for the necessity of moving from emphasis on theorem-like ideals toward incorporating a sense of moral and spiritual vision. Both cognitively and affectively, this is based in lived relational experience. The inherent opportunities of mystery and choice are key properties in addressing self-centeredness as distinguished from moral and spiritual vision. Humanists and religious believers differ in their recognition of a transcendent God. The essay concludes that to self-select one’s own criteria for self-giving may, ironically, render the authentic practice of virtue ethics categorically impossible.

JIS XIX 2007: 61-80


Jeffry C. Davis
Wheaton College

Despite a decline of liberal arts values and institutions of higher education, the demand for a liberal arts approach to study remains strong at many church-related colleges and universities that affirm a Biblical worldview and strive to promote interdisciplinary integration. This essay proposes that Christian schools with a liberal arts heritage need to reaffirm liberal arts values and pedagogy. Prompted by perennial questions of the human condition–“Who am I?” and “How should I live?”–students should be challenged to form responses consistent with ethical inquiry. Christian liberal arts teachers need an informed historical understanding of the “liberal arts.” The cultivation of virtue is a core component of the classical artes liberales ideal, which entails shaping persons into moral citizens able to contribute to the common good. Quintilian, the first publicly paid teacher in Western civilization, promoted virtue through curricular aims and methods, and the early Church adapted them for catechization. Proponents of Christian higher education may thus draw on Quintilian’s educational ideas to inspire teaching that truly builds character and civic responsibility, consistent with the liberal arts ideal.

JIS XIX 2007: 81-100


Tim Dare
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Atticus Finch, the lawyer-hero of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, played by Gregory Peck in the classic 1962 film version, has been adopted as an exemplar by advocates of a virtue ethics approach to legal ethics. When Atticus condones a departure from the rules of law in order to spare Boo Radley a trial, these theorists argue, he displays practical wisdom, or phronesis, and shows that the good lawyer gives priority to judgement and character over rules and principles. Yet Atticus can be understood in a quite different way as a tragic figure who, when faced with the possibility of a tragedy in Boo’s case, abandons the commitment to law which earlier was a central part of his character. From this perspective, Atticus’ lesson for legal ethics is not about the priority of judgement and character, but instead about the value of the rules and principles he abandons.

JIS XIX 2007: 101-118


Stan van Hooft
Deakin University, Australia

In a recent study, Damian Cox, Marguerite La Caze and Michael P. Levine argue for a complex conception of integrity. But they leave two questions unanswered. The first is whether integrity is of greater importance to the agent’s own sense of themselves or whether it is a virtue that is of social significance. The bulk of the literature on this virtue stresses its existential import. However, considerable weight should be given to its social significance. It should be linked to the essentially social reaction of shame, as opposed to the existential and personal reaction of guilt. The second question is whether the virtue of integrity has been analysed in such general terms that no specific meaning can be given to the virtue. Being a person of integrity might just collapse into being a virtuous person. This essay offers a distinctive account of integrity by asking what it is to act from the virtue in particular contexts that require public trust.

JIS XIX 2007: 119-138


Kenneth A. McElhanon
Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics

In America’s pluralistic society, the judiciary allows the legal defense tactic known as the cultural defense, by which aliens invoke the laws of their homeland to reduce a sentence or obtain a plea bargain. This tactic rests on public acceptance of several related relativisms–linguistic, conceptual, moral, and ethical. This essay claims that top-down approaches, whether in philosophical natural law or theological axioms, are inadequate to counter relativism. In addressing relativism and truth, the Biblical notion of knowing Christ and the Father is shown to be grounded in knowledge as experience. Biblical truth is shown to be lived experientially, and expressed metaphorically in Greek, as how Christians walk on the journey of faith. English translations, however, substitute English metaphors that express truth as a manipulated object. Experiential truth serves as a unitary principle that accounts for conduct in recognized Biblical case studies of ethical dilemmas, and obviates ad hoc solutions.

JIS XIX 2007: 139-158


Gilbert R. Prost
Summer Institute of Linguistics

This essay explores the conceptual and linguistic roots of a universal, objective, culture-free standard for judging human behavior. Without such a conceptual framework meaningful self-criticism as well as cross-cultural evaluation of the beliefs and behaviors of people is impossible. Unlike McElhanon, SIL’s co-founder Kenneth Pike held that social scientists need an “outsider’s” viewpoint akin to the phonetic-phonemic model employed by linguists to analyze the sound system of a native language. Just as each phonemic system of language is constructed from a total range of sounds, it seems reasonable to conclude that every emic socio-cultural operating system known to man, of necessity, must be constructed out of a complete range of culture-free etic standards, concepts, ideals, and values. This essay demonstrates how an outsider may discover via emic analysis universal culture-free etic mental rules described in the Bible as “laws written on the heart.”

JIS XIX 2007: 159-179


William R. Clough
Argosy University-Sarasota

“Virtue” can be difficult to define usefully. It can be described in ideal terms, like love or justice; principles like doing no harm; or specific acts, such as telling the truth. However, ideals and principles require definition in practice, in specific terms like “tell the truth,” while specific rules need refinement and exceptions to be fully moral. Getting from the ideal to the real involves forming mental and social rules or heuristics. While much has been written about virtue as ideal principles, societal rules, or specific actions, the heuristic process by which virtues are operationalized, the real and the ideal harmonized, has been relatively neglected. This essay examines four influential secular hermeneutics, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, along with two religious ethical traditions, Islam and Christianity. It concludes that a healthy operationalization of virtue requires harmonizing acts with standards and balance in practice.