The Problem of Universals in Late Modern Legal Theory: Paradoxes of State Power
Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law
September 15, 2008
Indian Journal of Human Rights & Law, Vol. 6, pp. 423-450, 2009
Antiquity identified moral values, but selected the wrong values. Modernity rejected the idea of moral values arguing instead for a subjective relativization of value choices. This paper argues that moral values are cognizable in materialist terms and defines morality as that which tends to encourage survival of the human species. The paper traces out the battle over the cognizability of truth and morality by examining the quarrel of universals among the scholastics and concludes that quarrel was the result of an erroneous binary epistemology that was incapable of coping with uncertainty. The erroneous epistemology of antiquity is explained by consideration of insights from contemporary logic. The breakdown of classical moral values during early modernity was inevitably possible due to the scholasticists wrong belief that all values must either be true or false. It merely required historical circumstances in the form of two global wars and global communication to be actuated. Yet, the late modern subjectivist relativist view is also wrong. Understanding how we know what morals are allows us to better see that we can infer from normative statements by recasting them as conditionals. To date, relativism has won the quarrel of universals but as an alternative materialist cognitivist epistemology emerges I predict that situation will change.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: universals, scholasticism, scholastics, axiology, ontology, epistemology
JEL Classification: K10, K30Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: September 19, 2008 ; Last revised: March 29, 2010
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