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BOOK REVIEWS The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning. By ALBERT R. JoNSEN & STEPHEN TOULMIN. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Pp. ix +420. This volume results from the collaborative efforts of a social philosopher and an ethician. The two authors undertook the book's composition while taking part in the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Set up by the United States Congress in 1974, this federal commission worked for some three years. Thus, it was in the course of political discussions , which concerned governmental control of scientific experimentation involving human persons, that the authors generated new perspectives on and, to be sure, a new definition of casuistry. Furthermore, in Abuse of Casuistry, Albert R. Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin purport to establish an historical perspective for concerns which figure prominently in the cacophony of contemporary moral discourse. Towards this end, they set forth an innovative interpretation of the history of moral reasoning. Regretfully, this task constrains them. Throughout the book, the authors deal selectively with any data which do not conform to their fundamental intuition concerning the ultimate particularity of moral decisions. In short, the authors advance the argument that " casuistry " (as they understand and define it) provides a basic paradigm for all practical moral decisions, so that the validity of moral " rules " meets with a priori suspicion. Undoubtedly the problem-solving situation which gave rise to the collaborative research abets such a point de depart. We are not surprised, then, to discover a sub-heading like "the tyranny of principles " (p. 5) early along in the book's prologue. The authors explain their focus: "[I]t is just those situations that are not covered by appeal to any single simple rule that begin to be problematic; and in just those cases our concern to act rightly gives rise to genuinely moral "questions" and "issues" (p. 7). Furthermore, they insist: " Even a simple rule may leave us in genuine doubt in situations to which it applies only marginally or ambiguously." This exclusive emphasis on what moralists once called the " situation " launches an ambitious project to re-capitulate the history of moral reasoning from perspectives broadly characteristic of casuistry. The basic plan of the book incorporates six major parts. In a 151 152 BOOK REVIEWS cursory way, the first three parts consider large fields of research: first, classical philosophy, which, argue the authors, forms the " roots of casuistry in antiquity," next, the early and medieval Christian "precursors " of casuistry, and, finally, the renaissance phenomenon, which scholars usually identify as the period of casuistry. All in all, we move from the peripatetic Greeks of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. to the European casuists of the 16th and 17th centuries A.D. Part one locates the remote origins of casuistry in classical Greek philosophy and its concern for the difference between theory and practice in moral matĀ· ters. In part two, the authors consider representative figures from Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem in order to illustrate clearly that the resolution of moral perplexities has always formed part of any serious moralist's work. We also encounter the medieval canonists, confessors, and theologians. Unfortunately, the authors sometimes press a theologian into unwilling service for their working hypothesis. To cite one example, as expected, they focus their study of Aquinas onto his consideration of moral circumstances in Summa theologiae, Ia-Hae, qq. 7 and 18. It is true, their general theory holds: serious moralists do take into account those "special circumstances that mark the individual's lot" (George Eliot, "The Mill on the Floss"). However, the authors also overstate their conclusions. For instance, they implicate Aquinas as follows: In sum, ' the human act ought to vary according to diverse circumĀ· stances: this is the entire matter of morality.' That last text from Thomas Aquinas could almost serve as the motto for the whole enterprise of casuistry (p. 135) . Of course, such an evaluation does not take even partial account of Aquinas's moral theory. What is more to the point, the quotation does not exist in any of the three different places named by the authors, viz., Summa theologiae, Ia-Hae, q. 18, aa...


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