christian experimental ethics

Google pointed me to an article written by one Robert E. Fitch back in 1940 (!) discussing the possibility of a christian experimental morality. He does not go into details about the nature or methods of such a morality, but does try to reassure traditional moralists that “old” moralities are not to be jettisoned, but rather incorporated. I quote from page 332 of The Journal of Religion, Vol. 20, No. 4.:

Furthermore, an experimental morality recognizes that many
of its presumably “new” principles are, in good part, the prod-
uct of tradition. No moral tradition-least of all the Christian
moral tradition-represents a pure flow of logically coherent
pattern; it is manifold, complex, containing plural streams of
tendency, some of which may even conflict with one another.
New” principles, then, may emerge by our recognizing and ex-
tending the operation of present tendencies, which already have
a tradition behind them but to which, heretofore, we have not
consciously directed our attention; or they may emerge by the
creative synthesis of elements from previous traditions that ap-
parently were mutually incompatible; or, more directly, they
may be simply a revival of a remote and forgotten tradition
which, in the course of time, has been superseded by a later

on the next page he goes on to explain that such an experimental morality must indeed see all moral rules as relative, but that doesn’t mean that those rules lose of their importance:

But, it will be objected, does not an experimental ethics insist
on the relativity of all principles, and does it not suggest that
any tradition-no matter how great its scope-must in time be
outgrown? Here let us answer unequivocally that, in strict the-
ory, an experimental ethics recognizes no eternal or immutable
moral law or moral tradition. But the practical bearings of this
statement are not what at first they appear to be. Naturally, if
we adopt a rationalistic philosophy of history as the unfolding
or making explicit of what is implicit at the beginning, then
later moral insight must exceed both in richness and in precision
the cruder beginnings. But if we think of history, not as a dra-
ma of mechanical recurrence and unfolding, but as a process
which has its unique and not-to-be-repeated emergents, then
the human race never outgrows any significant moral insight of
the past. In the second place, the relativity of our moral prin-
ciples is itself relative, in part, to our moral imagination;


One Comment to “christian experimental ethics”

  1. The trouble is, is that Christianity and Western “culture” is founded upon the Taboo Against The Superior Man. We are “educated” to be fundamentally incapable or True responsibility for any and everyone.


    Plus there are no real demands put on anyone by the “church” to become a member of the “church”.


    Plus the idea of “original sin” also reinforces this cultural crippling. As does the idea of the mommy-daddy “creator” god idea–the Parental Deity who is in “charge”, thus releiving us of the demand to be truly responsible for our presence and actions in the world.


    Altogether we collectively create an unspeakably dreadful fear saturated “culture” in our own collective image.


Say something interesting

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: