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51 Vill. L. Rev. 499 (2006)


In turn of the 21st century United States there are serious moral disputes over issues such as abortion and torture among persons who see themselves as belonging to the same moral tradition. These disputes have not given rise to fruitful discussion about differences, but instead led to a breakdown of conversation and even of community. A part of these clashes and breakdowns are not the result of mutually inconsistent moral premises, but are driven by tensions between two styles of moral discourse, the prophetic and casuistical. The former invokes the absolute and fiery rhetorical style of biblical prophets while the latter deploys intricate and practical reasoning. While the two styles are not hermetically sealed from each other they have often been used in a debased way, which upholds one style over another and fails to show respect for the other style. A more positive vision of the dynamics of moral discourse, which sees casuistry as a basic framework for making decisions and prophecy as an extraordinary moral discourse which corrects its course is needed.


Reprinted with permission of Villanova Law Review, 51 Vill. L. Rev. 499 (2006) .