Ethical Realism

July 3, 2014

The Compatibilist Conception of Free Will

Filed under: metaphysics — JW Gray @ 11:36 pm
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moral responsibilityI suspect that the main reason there is a debate about determinism and free will in the first place is because people have different conceptions of free will and disagree about the nature of moral responsibility, which will also be discussed. I will briefly discuss the concepts of free will, determinism, moral responsibility, and the compatibilist conception of free will. (more…)

May 5, 2014

Normative & Descriptive Ethics

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:41 am
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I believe that one source of confusion can be solved by the distinction between normative and descriptive ethics. Whenever people talk about cultural relativism or evolutionary theories of ethics, I think they have descriptive ethics in mind, but they often jump to the conclusion that whatever they are talking about has certain obvious normative implications. In particular, some people claim that morality comes from evolution and others claim that morality is relative. What they have in mind often doesn’t actually make sense, as I will discuss in detail. (more…)

April 17, 2014

Can We Reason About Ethics?

Filed under: epistemology,ethics — JW Gray @ 7:51 am
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I think we can reason about what is good and bad (or right and wrong).

Let’s start off with a simple example. We have a choice to give to a charity that helps people or a charity we find out doesn’t really help people. Which charity should we give to? I think it is obvious. The one that actually helps people. There is no point to giving to a charity that doesn’t help anyone. (more…)

December 23, 2013

The View That Objective Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,metaphysics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:48 am
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Theists often say that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. This point is not that atheists are bad people or can’t understand morality. The point is that they think there has to be a basis (found in reality) for morality to be objective, and they think only God can be that basis. Many atheists don’t think there’s objective morality, and they might agree that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. However, I will argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible.

I will provide some important terminology, introduce Plato’s “Euthyphro,” explain the possible connection between theism and objective morality, describe other types of objective morality, argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible, and briefly illustrate a view of objective morality. (more…)

December 20, 2013

Atheism as Nonbelief

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:20 am
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A lot of people are saying ‘atheism’ is what we call it when people don’t believe in gods.1 The more traditional meaning of ‘atheism’ is the belief that no gods (or certain types of gods) exist. This newer (nontraditional) type of atheism is sometimes called ‘soft atheism’ as opposed to ‘hard atheism.’ I will describe atheism, consider reasons that the newer definition of ‘atheism’ can lead to confusion, and I will consider reasons why people might prefer this newer definition. (more…)

November 1, 2013

Thoughts on Ontological Naturalism, the Natural, & the Supernatural

Ontological naturalism is the view that only natural stuff exists (stuff that has some special connection to natural science). The term ‘naturalism’ refers to the methods of natural science in addition to the natural stuff that scientists are though to study. A lot of philosophers say that they are ontological naturalists (of at least some type), but what exactly is such a view really about? Such a view seems to require that we can identify what’s natural and what’s not. And since philosophers don’t agree about what counts as natural, there are actually multiple types of ontological naturalism. I’m not convinced that such a distinction means much of anything, but I can sympathize with certain types of ontological naturalism more than others. (more…)

September 30, 2013

More Philosophy Definitions Part 6

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:27 am
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I have defined several new philosophically-related terms for the Comprehensible Philosophy Dictionary (a work in progress). Some of these are words I’ve already defined before but have been significantly improved. You can let me know if you think any of the terms need further clarification or if any need improvement for any other reason. (more…)

September 22, 2013

Is Death Bad? Is Grief Appropriate?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:12 pm
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I will discuss two related philosophical questions related two death: One, is death bad? Two, how should we feel about death? (more…)

September 6, 2013

Interpreting Our Experience of Pain

Filed under: epistemology,ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:05 am

I recommend that you read “Do We Experience that Pain is Intrinsically Bad?” before reading this. If you don’t know what ‘intrinsically bad’ means, you should also read my FAQ on Intrinsic Values.

The question is how to properly interpret and describe our pain experiences. We say that there’s at least some sense that (intense) pain experiences are bad. What does ‘bad’ mean in this context? Could we ever experience that pain is intrinsically bad? I will define what ‘bad’ means and consider some examples of pain experiences. I will say a little about how I interpret the various pain experiences. (more…)

August 30, 2013

Manipulative Tactics

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:47 am
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Manipulative tactics are those used to trick people into believing something rather than to persuade people to believe something rationally. Informal fallacies are errors in reasoning that are often used as manipulative tactics, but sometimes we can use a manipulative tactic without actually committing an error in reasoning. Although informal fallacies are only one type of manipulative tactic, philosophers often treat them as though they were the same thing. Just about every type of manipulative tactic has a corresponding fallacy. I will give examples of various manipulative tactics and corresponding fallacies. I hope to help make it clear that the difference between manipulative tactics and fallacies is generally not important enough to worry about. Some people might defend a manipulative tactic by insisting it’s “not actually fallacious,” but that reply would usually miss the point. (more…)

August 23, 2013

Why Care About Philosophy?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:22 am

The most popular page on this site has been Philosophy is Important for quite some time, but that page has now been replaced with a new piece I recently wrote (that uses the same name). I was not convinced that the old piece deserved all the attention it got, but it is certainly an important issue.

The older piece that used to be there is now a PDF and can be seen here: 11 Reasons Philosophy is Important.

August 20, 2013

Eleven Types of Scientism

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:49 am
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A lot of people accuse those who are dismissive of non-scientific fields of study of having scientistic views. This raises important questions—Is science always the only legitimate source of knowledge? Could philosophy ever be a source of knowledge?

The main issue concerning scientism that I’m interested in is the scientistic view that philosophy has little to nothing it can contribute. For example, in 2011 Stephen Hawking said, “[P]hilosophy is dead… philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”1 And in 2012 Lawrence Krauss said, “[S]cience progresses and philosophy doesn’t.”2

Even so, anti-philosophical views are not the only types of scientism, and I believe that some types of scientism can be explicitly favorable to philosophy. What exactly is scientism? I will define and categorize various types of scientism. (more…)

August 13, 2013

More Philosophy Definitions Part 5

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:50 am
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I have defined several new philosophically-related terms for the Comprehensible Philosophy Dictionary (a work in progress). You can let me know if you think any of the terms need further clarification or if any need improvement for any other reason. (more…)

July 16, 2013

The Appeal to Authority

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 11:21 pm
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Should we ever trust anyone’s expertise? The “appeal to authority” is a well-known fallacy (nonrational way to reason) and some people claim that all appeals to authority are fallacious. I was once told that my religion is science because I trust the expert opinion of scientists, so apparently that person doesn’t think scientists should be trusted. I will explain why we should often trust expert opinion and we have little choice but to often do so. (more…)

The Critical Thinking Attitude & Critical Thinking Virtues

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:34 am
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Critical thinking is an educational domain concerned with good reasoning. In the broad sense critical thinking includes both formal and informal logic. The narrow sense of critical thinking (as it is often taught in universities) is primarily concerned with (and often equated with) informal logic. Formal logic primarily involves the study of logical systems, logical axioms, logical consistency, and logical validity; and informal logic primarily involves argument identification, argument interpretation, unstated premise identification, and informal fallacies. (See “What is Logic?” for more information.) Critical thinking is generally not thought to be merely about memorizing logical facts. Instead, it is also thought to involve the development of critical thinking skills, the critical thinking attitude, and critical thinking virtues. The purpose of this paper is to briefly discuss critical thinking skills, the critical thinking attitude, and critical thinking virtues. (more…)

July 8, 2013

Unstated Premises

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:18 am
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I will discuss what unstated premises are, how to identify them, and how to determine what they are.

What are unstated premises?

Unstated premises are premises that a deductive argument requires, but are not explicitly stated. Deductive arguments are popular and can be rationally persuasive, but people don’t always state all of the premises that their deductive arguments require. These premises can be called “unstated premises,” “missing premises,” or “hidden assumptions.” For example, consider the following argument: (more…)

July 1, 2013

More Philosophy Definitions Part 4

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:45 am
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I am now working on more definitions for the Comprehensible Philosophy Dictionary. What follows are several new definitions that will be added to it. Let me know if anything should be improved. (more…)

June 13, 2013

Good Arguments

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:15 am
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What’s the point of a rational argument? To give someone a good reason to believe something. A sufficiently good argument gives us a good reason to believe something is true. It is better for us to have beliefs that are supported by good arguments in the sense that they are more likely true based on our limited understanding of the world, but it is possible for them to be false. (more…)

May 26, 2013

Can ethics be a scientific domain?

Filed under: epistemology,philosophy — JW Gray @ 2:59 am
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Science has occasionally appropriated philosophical fields. Physics and psychology were originally discussed by philosophers rather than scientists. Right now ethics is considered to be a philosophical domain, but we could imagine science taking over the field. Will ethics ever be taught in a science class? Will we learn right and wrong from natural science?

People who reject that we could one day have a moral science generally do so due to skepticism, the gap between facts and values, and the is-ought fallacy. I will respond to these concerns and explain why I don’t think any of them are conclusive. (more…)

May 13, 2013

Logically Valid Arguments

Filed under: epistemology,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:28 pm
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A formal logic class or textbook should teach us ways to know when an argument has a valid argument form, and that can take a significant amount of time to learn. I encourage everyone to learn formal logic one way or another because it is of central significance to rational argumentation, and it is not something we spontaneously understand instinctively or through personal experience. Perhaps the first philosopher to understand formal logic and the importance of validity was Aristotle, and philosophers would have liked to understand it sooner. It was a great achievement because it can be so difficult to figure out on our own. Even so, we can learn a lot about valid argument form very quickly. I will explain why we need to make sure our deductive arguments are valid, give examples of valid argument forms, and explain how we can improve our arguments. (more…)

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