Ethical Realism

December 29, 2009

What Does “Meaning of Life” Mean?

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:47 am
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I am interested in the best “purpose for life” rather than answering the question, “Why were we created?” These are related questions for some people, but I want to know if anything really matters.

I am not going to try to answer the question, “Is there a meaning of life?” in this essay. Instead, I want to clarify what the question means. What would it mean if there is a meaning of life? What would it mean if there isn’t? The belief that there is a meaning of life (i.e. that something really does matter) is basically what philosophers call “intrinsic value.” If something really matters, then it has a very important sort of value. In general, we want to increase the number of good things and decrease the number of bad things in the world.

Intrinsic values has been part of philosophical discourse for thousands of years, but it has rarely been described well, and even philosophers seem to misunderstand what “intrinsic values” are supposed to refer to. In order to describe intrinsic values, I will discuss the following:

  1. What the term “intrinsic value” does and does not refer to.
  2. How people misunderstand intrinsic values


December 21, 2009

Does Morality Require God?

Some people believe that God is required or morality will no longer be justified. In particular, God has to exist or “nothing really matters.” Plato and many Christians agree that morality requires a foundation: The Forms or God. Either there is an ideal (Form) of the person that we must try to emulate, or God is the ultimate source of perfection that we must try to emulate. Without the Forms or God, supposedly there would be no intrinsic value. It is true that we want morality to be based on reality. We don’t want morality to be merely delusional or “just a matter of taste.” However, I will argue that the reality described by science seems to be sufficient to explain how intrinsic values can exist. (i.e. We don’t need a transcendent reality in order for something to “really matter.”) Pain seems to be bad and giving people an aspirin to help them avoid pain makes perfect sense, even if God doesn’t exist. (more…)

December 14, 2009

Should We Want Morality to Require God?

Plato may have been the first philosopher to suggest that ethics requires a “foundation,” which ended up being his theory of the Forms: A realm quite unlike the physical world (eternal, unchanging, perfect, and so on). An action is virtuous if it resembles the nature of the perfect human being. The Stoics and Epicureans did not agree with Plato because they only believed in the physical world. They found the Forms to require unnecessary commitments concerning reality. The physical world seemed sufficient to explain ethics. Then for a couple thousand years Christians dominated meta-ethical philosophy and agreed with Plato that a special foundation is necessary for ethics. In particular, God must exist (which, like the forms, is eternal, unchanging, and perfect). An action is virtuous if it resembles the nature of God. The Christians argued that if God doesn’t exist, then nothing really matters. (more…)

December 6, 2009

Denying the Meaning of Life

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:27 am
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Imagine that you will no longer exist within the next two seconds. If done properly, you will think about what your existence really means and appreciate the fact that you still exist. You will realize how amazing it is to be alive. Expect to no longer exist every moment and you will appreciate your life every moment. This is evidence that either our life really matters, or our life is worth living for some other reason. If we are not deluded when we imagine the value of our own existence, then we have evidence that something really does matter. However, it isn’t easy to be sure.

Do you want people to stop doing horrible crimes? Do you want to live a meaningful life? Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, you need to know if “anything really matters.” Philosophers have been trying to find out if “anything really matters” for thousands of years, and we have a lot we can learn from them. I am not going to currently attempt to prove that “something really matters.” Instead, I want to prove to you that the question, “Does anything really matter?” is something we should be asking ourselves, and we should want to know the best answers to the question available. (more…)

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