Remember the poor: Duties, dilemmas, and vocation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This volume hopes to renew a conversation that has a long history in the academy, the Church, and the wider world. In addition to various precursors in English and Scottish moral philosophy, theistic engagement with the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill had a profound impact on Anglo-American theology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the 1960s and 1970s, Christian ethics focused explicitly on various theories of act- and rule-utilitarianism. Ongoing debates about proportionalism in Roman Catholic moral theology trade upon the extent to which proponents of this view adopt a form of consequentialism inconsistent with church doctrine. Today, however, sustained engagement with utilitarianism by theologians typically occurs more indirectly through proxy debates in economics, public policy, political theory, and psychology. Deontological and utilitarian ethics still frame many discussions in normative and applied ethics. Peter Singer’s own writings have done much to fund this interest, often provoking polemical charges of immorality and irrationality by philosophers and theologians alike. At the same time, the growing appeal of virtue language in theological circles tends to focus on character and goodness rather than right action. In contrast to previous generations, contemporary Christian ethics has been shaped more by alliances with Kantian contractualism and Aristotelian virtue ethics than utilitarianism. Indeed, despite the appeal of proportionalism or the soft consequentialism of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Realism, it is difficult to think of a prominent Christian consequentialist or even explicit treatment of contemporary utilitarian philosophers in recent Christian ethics. It is therefore a welcome development for theological ethics to engage directly one of the most influential and recent philosophical expressions of utilitarian thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGod, the Good, and Utilitarianism
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives on Peter Singer
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781107279629
ISBN (Print)9781107050754
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Remember the poor: Duties, dilemmas, and vocation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this