Ethical Realism

February 26, 2010

Four Terrible Ways to Argue

Philosophers have mentioned thousands of fallacies (errors in reasoning), but I will discuss four more in detail that I find to be very common. These fallacies are terrible ways to argue. I have already discussed several other fallacies, but here are four more that everyone needs to know about. Understanding these fallacies can help us develop better argumentation, and they can help us identify errors in reasoning given by others. The four fallacies are the following:

  1. Appeal to Ignorance
  2. Equivocation
  3. Reversal of Burden of Proof
  4. Begging the Question


February 25, 2010

Four Types of Justification

Whenever we provide an argument we should provide some justification for any controversial premise that our argument requires everyone to accept. We need to answer the question, “Why should anyone agree?” I will discuss four kind of justifications and the corresponding fallacies:

  1. Appeal to Authority
  2. Argument from Analogy
  3. Generalization
  4. Personal Experience (more…)

February 24, 2010

Four Requirements for Good Arguments

Formal logic can help us achieve clarity and help us make sure our arguments are relevant in various ways, but there are other requirements for a good argument. Most philosophers seem to get caught up discussing fallacies (errors in reasoning) rather than good reasoning. I will discuss the following four requirements for writing good arguments and the corresponding fallacies for failing to achieve the requirements:

  1. Supporting Evidence
  2. Relevant Evidence
  3. Consider all Viable Options
  4. Charity


February 22, 2010

What You Need From Formal Logic

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It can be extremely helpful to know some formal logic in order to visualize how arguments work. Formal logic shows how the form of an argument can be valid or invalid. Assuming that the premises of an argument are true, a valid argument form guarantees that the conclusion is true. An invalid argument doesn’t. In other words, a valid argument can give us a complete reason to agree to a conclusion and an invalid argument can’t. Knowledge about argument form helps us achieve clear thinking and relevant arguments. (more…)

February 19, 2010

Eight Essential Philosophy Books

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:54 am

If you have decided to learn about philosophy, then you might want to start by reading some of the greatest philosophy texts. It will often be a good idea to read supplemental books along with the classic texts to help you understand them. Many philosophers have written their own interpretations of the classic texts in order to help us make sense out of them. Here are eight fairly enjoyable philosophy texts that I recommend: (more…)

February 18, 2010

How to Become a Philosopher

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

Whether you want to read philosophy, argue well, have a philosophy hobby, become a philosopher, or help others learn philosophy, you should start with the basics. Why try to reinvent philosophy entirely on your own when you can learn quite a bit of the basics from other philosophers? They have spent two millennium cataloging and analyzing many common pitfalls and “words of advice.” To introduce yourself to philosophy, you could take some philosophy classes, but it is also possible to try to teach yourself. If you want to teach yourself or others, I recommend using the following six steps: (more…)

February 17, 2010

Why Philosophy is Awesome

If you are thinking about learning philosophy on your own or taking a philosophy class, it can be a good idea to think about why philosophy is so important. Philosophy is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Medication, self-help books, get quick rich schemes, and religion are all rather meaningless unless they have been vindicated through philosophy. There are at least two reasons that we should learn philosophy. One, it is enjoyable. Two, it helps us live a better life. (more…)

February 16, 2010

What is Philosophy? Free Ebook (Updated 6/27/2011)

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 2:12 am
Tags: , ,

I have included my my free ebook that discusses the main ideas of philosophy as well as a short answer to the question, “What is Philosophy?” This is the first chapter to a larger “introduction to philosophy” guide book (reader) that I wrote for my philosophy students.


February 12, 2010

Everyday Arguments that Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:10 am
Tags: ,

Whether or not morality requires God is a popular topic of conversation to laymen. It is worth considering arguments given by laymen because philosophers should stay close to real life and try not to drift into armchair abstraction that lacks real world application. Laymen argue about what matters to them based on everyday assumptions and concerns. I will take a look at some arguments given by laymen that morality requires God. In particular, an argument given by Ray Cotton, Marvin Olasky, and Luke Pollard. I will describe their arguments and I will explain why I do not find their arguments to be persuasive. (more…)

February 11, 2010

William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument for God

William Lane Craig argues that intrinsic values (real objective moral value) requires God. We can be nice to each other if God doesn’t exist, but it wouldn’t “really matter.” (You can find his argument in text format here or as a free streaming video here.) He basically argues that we have to either be reductionistic materialists or theists, but reductionistic materialists can’t believe in intrinsic values. We know intrinsic values exist, so we have to be theists (believe in God). (more…)

February 10, 2010

Practical Arguments for the Existence of God

Filed under: ethics,philosophy,review — JW Gray @ 12:00 am
Tags: ,

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy presents some practical arguments for the existence of God. These arguments don’t claim that intrinsic values require God’s existence, and they don’t claim that it is irrational for atheists to try to be moral. Instead, they argue that there is some sort of benefit to believing in God. This is a very modest argument and it could corroborate the conviction many people have that believing in God is helpful in various ways. I will take a look at two arguments. (more…)

February 9, 2010

A Moral Argument for the Existence of God Based on Skepticism

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy,review — JW Gray @ 7:30 am
Tags: ,

Many people claim that morality requires God. There are multiple arguments that attempt to infer that God exists because morality exists. I haven’t extensively read the current literature, but I am familiar with contemporary metaethics, which gives me a good idea why many of these arguments don’t work. Additionally, some of these arguments are discussed on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I will discuss an argument by Linda Zagzebski that “we either know little to nothing about morality or we get moral knowledge from God. Our intention of being moral requires us to know a lot about morality, so we must accept that God exists.” I believe that this argument reflects a sort of ethical skepticism that has historically plagued Christianity, and we have very little reason to agree with it. (more…)

February 8, 2010

Two New Stoic Ethical Theories (Free Ebook, updated 12/11/10)

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:46 am
Tags: , , , , ,

If you want to know the meaning of life, then my master’s thesis is relevant. My master’s thesis, Two New Kinds of Stoicism, was on ethical theory. In particular, I developed two new sorts of Stoic ethics without the need for a reference to God (Universal Reason). Such a theory is meant to tell us what has value, and it is meant to help us identify right and wrong, and make moral decisions.

Although my thesis has not been peer-reviewed by loads of professional philosophers, it was accepted as my master’s thesis by three philosophy professors at San Jose State University. (That doesn’t mean they agreed with it. It just means that it was good enough to help me get a degree.)

The thesis can also be downloaded from the San Jose State University website. It was published in 2008. (more…)

February 6, 2010

A Moral Realist Point of View Part 4

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 2:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

In this installment, I will discuss how the following moral concepts can relate to moral realism:

  1. Unconditionality
  2. Ideals
  3. Praise & Blame
  4. Reward & Punishment
  5. Guilt
  6. Moral Rules
  7. Equality


February 5, 2010

A Moral Realist Point of View Part 3

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:43 am
Tags: , ,

In this installment, I will discuss how the following moral concepts can relate to moral realism:

  1. Virtue
  2. Justice
  3. Rights


February 4, 2010

A Moral Realist Point of View Part 2

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:23 am
Tags: , , ,

In this installment, I will discuss how the following moral concepts can relate to moral realism:

  1. Universality
  2. Responsibility
  3. Rationality


February 3, 2010

A Moral Realist Point of View Part 1

I have given a general outline of a moral realist perspective, but there is much more to be said. We have many moral concepts that seem relevant for morality that I have not discussed sufficiently. We need to know how these concepts relate to intrinsic values (moral realism). I do not have a fully developed account of our moral vocabulary, but I can discuss my current thoughts on these concepts. I will start my discussion of moral concepts with the following:

  1. Good & Bad
  2. Oughts
  3. Right & Wrong


Create a free website or blog at