The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring 2023

Timothy Furlan
Pages 99-124

Alan Donagan and the Fundamental Principle of Judeo-Christian Morality

Alan Donagan, in The Theory of Morality, famously claims that the principles of “common morality” (i.e., the morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition) form a consistent system that can be derived from a single fundamental principle: It is impermissible not to respect every human being, oneself or any other, as a rational creature. In particular, I want to show that the prohibition contained in the fundamental principle is interpreted by appeal to prior convictions about particular sorts of cases, whether they involve the violation of “respect” or not, and that this has unfavorable consequences for Donagan’s claim that the principles of common morality form a truly deductive system of morality.