When Limitless Relativism Meets Limitless Moralism

When Limitless Relativism Meets Limitless Moralism
AP Photo/Holly Ramer

James F. Pontuso's wonderfully clear, accessible, and provocative book challenges one of the orthodoxies of our time. It has become conventional wisdom that virtue—the fundamental distinction between right and wrong, good and evil—has no support in human nature or in the order of things.

In Nature's Virtue, the Charles Patterson Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at Hampden-Sydney College (a friend and a longtime intellectual sparring partner) argues that virtue has largely lost its luster. The Left identifies it with dogmatism and unjustified privilege; libertarians too often confuse it with an assault on individual freedom; postmodernists ridicule it for its "binary distinctions" and allegedly heavy-handed moral appeals; and deconstructionists see it as no more than "linguistic and social constructions" that justify the oppression of the weak by the strong. Feminists predictably identify virtue with male domination and the omnipresent threat of patriarchy.

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