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Abstract

I begin with two stories about values in a "postmodern world"-that is, a world in which the norms and standards by which people habitually guide their actions have come under attack, and the norms are suddenly seen to be nonnecessary, historical, and "all-too-human." The first story is from Ancient Greece, where this assault on the normative began; it concerns the skeptical philosopher Pyrrho, the legendary author of the assault. It reveals, I think, both the intellectual deficiency and the ethical danger inherent in many versions of the postmodern assault on normativity. The second story comes from New York in 1991; it concerns a dramatic reaffirmation of commitment not only to values (which frequently may be local both in origin and in application) but also to abstract values that transcend any particular culture and that claim to apply to all human beings as such. It shows, I think, the ethical importance of such abstractions, despite their dangers.

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