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Moral Discernment and Doubt in the Human Journey

Perry Hamalis

Abstract

An ongoing challenge within all approaches to ethical decision making is reducing the degree of doubt about what action is right, good, or at least better in a given situation. The process of moral discernment within Christian thought is no exception; however, different Christian communities tend to understand moral doubt and moral certainty differently, to pursue different ways of allaying doubt, and to expect—and accept—different degrees of moral certainty. Drawing especially from Aristotelian virtue theory, selected teachings from the Eastern Orthodox tradition on humility, and recent discussions of the ‘grace of self-doubt,’ I sketch an account of virtuous moral doubt as a mean between the extremes of excessive and deficient moral doubt. My hope is doing so will help to make space and provide the framework for an ecumenical understanding of doubt’s proper role in moral discernment.

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