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Review: The Invention of Modern Moral Philosophy: A Review of "The Invention of Autonomy" by J. B. Schneewind

Reviewed Work: The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy by J. B. Schneewind
Review by: Jennifer A. Herdt , G. Scott Davis
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 145-173
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40017882
Page Count: 28
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The Invention of Modern Moral Philosophy: A Review of "The Invention of Autonomy" by J. B. Schneewind
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Abstract

This review essay assesses the significance of J. B. Schneewind's "The Invention of Autonomy" for the history of moral thought in general and for religious ethics in particular. The essay offers an overview of Schneewind's complex argument before critically discussing his four central themes: the primacy of Immanuel Kant, the fundamentality of conflict, the insufficiency of virtue, and community with God. Whereas Schneewind argues that an impasse between modern natural law and perfectionist ethics revealed irresolvable tensions within Christian ethics and thus encouraged the emergence of secular moral thought, this author suggests that these tensions were specific to a voluntarist strand of Christian moral thought from which even antivoluntarists of the modern period were unable to break free.

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