Philosophical Investigations

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Volume 35 Issue 2 (April 2012), Pages 101-183

The Autonomy of Morality from Religion. The End of Religion and of Relativism. Howard Mounce on Peter Winch (pages 154-166)


My aim is to defend Winch's view that morality must be autonomous from religion. I defend him from Mounce's criticism, who claims that unless morality is supported by divine law, moral relativism cannot be avoided. Winch considers the Samaritan's behaviour and says (i) that the background of divine law is irrelevant to the parable; (ii) that we do not need divine law to understand the Samaritan's impossibility to ignore the victim; (iii) and that the absolute moral ought requires no external support provided by religion. Winch adds that God cannot make any moral demand on humans, and thus He cannot reward them with salvation or punish them, without turning Himself into a means of moral corruption. All this spells the end of religion at least as far as the relation between God and man's moral and spiritual life is concerned; while relativism is shown to be morally corrupt and internally inconsistent.

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