Philosophy of History and the Problem of Values [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 20 (3):549-549 (1967)
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A book whose primary concern is to show the possibility of making objective value judgments within a context that acknowledges the inescapable historicity of the human situation. Mr. Stern discusses problems such as the nature of historical reality, the difference between past and present history, the questionable presuppositions of a teleological philosophy of history, and the confrontation in modernity between a doctrine of natural right and that of historicism. While accepting a kind of relativism consequent upon an historicist position, the author finds a locus for objective moral evaluation in the universality of the human project. That men of all times are born, live, suffer, die, and welcome that which conduces to human well-being, enables us to condemn civilizations that have thwarted the human endeavor to conserve life. Although the means at the disposal of men to carry out the human project differ in different historical periods, what remains unalterable, according to Mr. Stern, is that at all times men praise what conduces to health and relieves suffering. While the author gives many cogent arguments in favor of his position, the "ontological status" of the universal human project remains, in the last analysis, problematic. To overcome historicism in the way that Mr. Stern sets out to do requires a more rigorous theory of knowledge and being than he offers us.—L. W. W.



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