Social Life and Moral Judgment
by Antony Flew
New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction; 179 pp., $34.95
Antony Flew is one of Britain’s most lucid analytical philosophers and the most skilled demolisher of the myths of social justice that his country has ever produced. His new book, published in the United States, should prove of great interest to Americans as well as to his compatriots and will be valued by traditional conservatives and enthusiasts for the free market alike.
As in his earlier work on crime and disease, Flew confronts those social determinists who, using the language of science, seek to excuse deviant behavior. He shows with great clarity that these people confuse physical causes with moral ones that work through individual choice; we can never say of a person’s actions that it was physically impossible for him to act other than as he did. Flew further develops this argument to demolish the central theses of the overrated American socialist John Rawls.
I had not realized before Flew drew my attention to it that Rawls believed that no human qualities or virtues whatsoever deserve reward but are entirely arbitrary from “a moral point of view.” For Rawls, even the “willingness to make an effort” is “dependent upon happy family and social circumstances.” In Rawls’...