1. Pluralism and Uncertainty: The “Modern Fall”

 1. Pluralism and the Global Village

There is consi­de­rable doubt and confusion in the modern world about the existence of objec­tive values and ethi­cal standards and about how we can find them if they do exist. And many people point to these doubts and confusions about values as the source of misun­der­standing and strife in the “clash of civilizations” seen throughout the world today, often erupting into violence and terrorism, as well as in the polarization of our politics within and between na­tions.

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2: The Moral Sphere and the Search for Wisdom

1. Openness and the Search for Wisdom

One natural reaction to the challenge of pluralism and uncertainty of Part I that is com­mon in modern democratic and pluralist societies is the following. People may think to themselves that since it seems impossible to demonstrate that their view is right from their point of view (be­cause of the circularity problem mentioned) and since everyone else is in the same condi­tion, the only proper stance to take in the presence of pluralism and uncertainty is an attitude of “openness” or tole­rance toward other points of view.

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3: The Retreat

1. Another Look

The argument of the previous part can be further developed by considering an interesting thought experi­ment that throws additional light on its meaning. Suppose we’ve organized a retreat at some remote site—say a monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas—inviting people from all over the world representing different cultures, reli­gions, ideologies, and points of view about values and ways of life. Those attending are given the collective task of coming to some kind of understanding before the retreat is over about which point of view or way of life is the right one—or which are the right ones, should there be more than one.

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4: Moral-sphere Breaking and The Ends Principle

1. Intentions, Purposes and Plans of Action

Is it always clear when, or whether, the moral sphere has broken down and who is the guilty party when it does? These questions were not fully addressed in parts 2 and 3, where the exam­ples of moral sphere breakdown were simple ones in which the guilty parties were easily iden­tified (assailants, pirates, persecuting neighbors). Starting with simple cases before moving on to more complex ones is a common practice in ethical discussion.

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5: Levels of the Moral Sphere

1. Non-ideal Theory With and Without Guilty Parties

Non-ideal theory concerns how we should proceed when the moral sphere breaks down. Its gene­ral goals are to maintain the moral sphere to the degree possible, restoring it when it has bro­ken down and preserving it to the degree possible from future breakdown. What specific rules or principles would these general goals imply?

One such prin­ci­ple has already emerged in the argu­ments thus far. When the moral sphere breaks down, one should “res­­train or stop the guilty par­­­ties (those whose plans of action are moral sphere-brea­king), not the innocent”—where “res­­training or stop­ping the guilty” would mean interfering with or thwarting to the degree that one reasonably can those who would break the moral sphere in the pursuit of their plans of action and ways of life.

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