Relativism and Religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes

Hardcover | November 10, 2015

byCarlo Invernizzi Accetti

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Moral relativism is deeply troubling for those who believe that, without a set of moral absolutes, democratic societies will devolve into tyranny or totalitarianism. Engaging directly with this claim, Carlo Invernizzi Accetti traces the roots of contemporary anti-relativist fears to the antimodern rhetoric of the Catholic Church and then rescues a form of philosophical relativism for modern, pluralist societies, arguing that this viewpoint provides the firmest foundation for an allegiance to democracy.

In his analyses of the relationship between religious arguments and political authority and the implications of philosophical relativism for democratic theory, Accetti makes a far-ranging contribution to contemporary debates over the revival of religion in politics and the conceptual grounds for a commitment to democracy. He presents the first comprehensive genealogy of anti-relativist discourse and reclaims for English-speaking readers the overlooked work of Hans Kelsen on the connection between relativism and democracy. By engaging with contemporary attempts to replace the religious foundation of democratic values with a neo-Kantian conception of reason, Accetti also makes a powerful case for relativism as the best basis for a civic ethos that integrates different perspectives into democratic politics.

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Moral relativism is deeply troubling for those who believe that, without a set of moral absolutes, democratic societies will devolve into tyranny or totalitarianism. Engaging directly with this claim, Carlo Invernizzi Accetti traces the roots of contemporary anti-relativist fears to the antimodern rhetoric of the Catholic Church and t...

Carlo Invernizzi Accetti is an assistant professor of political theory at City College, City University of New York, and an associate researcher at the Center for European Studies of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po).

other books by Carlo Invernizzi Accetti

The Essence and Value of Democracy
The Essence and Value of Democracy

Kobo ebook|Aug 22 2013

$84.69 online$109.99list price(save 23%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:November 10, 2015Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231170785

ISBN - 13:9780231170789

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Discourse of Anti-Relativism in the Political Thought of the Catholic Church2. Elements for a Public Critique of the Catholic Discourse of Anti-Relativism3. Rationalism: Between Relativism and Religion4. Defense of a Relativist Conception of DemocracyConclusionNotesBibliographyIndex

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A courageous and truly original contribution to the study of democracy as a society that is structurally based on opinions that citizens form in their free and open exchange of their political and moral judgments and decisions. This makes democracy not easily welcomed by supporters of absolute visions of truth, religious or otherwise. Accetti shows very convincingly how the call for the reassertion of a reference to a notion of absolute truth in contemporary politics constitutes one of the most resilient expressions of the resistance against the democratic principle of self-government from within democratic societies.