Morality & Situation Ethics
Is morality relative? Does it depend on one’s perspective or on external circumstances? It has become popular, even commonplace, to assert that what is moral is dependent on one’s situation. Dietrich von Hildebrand saw this trend coming, and at the earliest outset he authored this book as a refutation of “situation ethics” and an affirmation of the unchanging and universal call of true morality. The book takes up the central challenge of situation ethics to argue, definitively, that some actions are always and in every situation wrong. But Hildebrand is sensitive to the special circumstances of individual people’s lives, and he does far more than simply offer judgment. He leads us first to understand the allure of “self-righteousness,” of “the tragic sinner,” and of “sin mysticism,” and how these can obscure true morality.
Through the wealth and carefulness of his analysis, along with the skill with which he discovers the kernels of truth and beauty wherever they are to be found, von Hildebrand uncovers the errors of false situation ethics. But at the same time, he finds fault also with the self-righteous, complacent mediocrity, and juridical moralism that is false and lifeless. Thus he clearly sets forth the uniqueness of Christian morality.Bernard Häring | From the Preface to the Second Edition (1966)
Reviews & Commentary
From scholars, students, and readers
The Hildebrand Project’s decision to republish the present book…enables new readers to appreciate its alive and wholesome witness to the shape of a truly good conscience and sound moral formation.
John FinnisForeword to the new edition.
It is worth owning, not just for Hildebrand’s classic argumentation, but also for the new introduction added to it by Finnis.
C.S. Morrisseyin B.C. Catholic
It is a particularly timely book today for those concerned about maintaining countercultural absolute prohibitions without falling into Pharisaicalism, for this book threads precisely that needle.
Francis Feingoldin The Review of Metaphysics
Hildebrand is the kind of thinker we need for today: metaphysically and ethically realist, while thinking through things in a deeply sophisticated way.
Dan ShefflerAmazon Review
Morality and Situation Ethics is a clear, coherent, and persuasive book; it accomplishes the rare feat of challenging both the reader’s abstract moral theories and his day-to-day habits.
Catherine Nolanin Faith and Philosophy
It’s a clear and insightful book, and remarkably applicable to problems today in moral thinking in the Catholic Church and secular society, decades after it was written.
Mark K. SpencerAmazon Review
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