John P. Gunnemann, The Moral Meaning of Revolution

West, Cornel

This book's basic aim is "to clarify the relationship between revolutionary practice and moral reasoning" (p. 2). This aim primarily involves presenting a complex
argument to show that revolution cannot be justified in the usual sense of what it means to justify an act precisely because the ordinary moral courts of appeal are called into question by revolutionaries. This is so because, for Gunnemann, revolution is, fundamentally, a rejection of an existing understanding of the problem of evil and an attempt to put forward a new solution to the problem of evil. Following the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn in philosophy of science, Gunnemann holds that ordinary moral courts of appeal are rejected by revolutionaries because such courts of appeal "imply residual confidence in the existing theodicy and the revolutionary loses his case merely by submitting to such a process" (p. 43). Hence, revolution is better understood as an apocalyptic event or as a religious conversion than as a moral act. For Gunnemann, conflicting paradigm solutions to the problem of evil—defined by Max Weber as the incongruity between destiny and merit—are at the heart of the moral meaning of revolution.



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Journal of Religion

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Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
Published Here
March 6, 2013