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Moral Horror and the Sacred

Robert Merrihew Adams
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall, 1995), pp. 201-224
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40017849
Page Count: 24
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Moral Horror and the Sacred
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Abstract

The sense of moral horror at certain deeds and the related idea of the sacred have not been given as central a place in ethical theory, theological or secular, as they have in our moral consciousness. I place them in a broader theological metaethics, in a way that I hope avoids mere taboo and provides for a rational critique of our responses. Moral horror is understood here in terms of violation of the sacred, and the sacred is understood in terms of images of God. The focus on images of God is defended against a less ontological approach suggested by Ronald Dworkin's recent discussion of the sacred, and the choice of violation rather than defilement as a central concept is defended in dialogue with Jeffrey Stout's discussion of abominations.

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