Ethical Realism

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…)

May 5, 2013

The Problem of Evil & Objective Morality

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:54 pm
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The problem of evil refers to the fact that certain traditional views of theism involve contradictory beliefs. The problem is that God should be willing and able to make sure evil doesn’t exist, but evil exists. Some theists argue that atheists can’t reject the existence of God based on the problem of evil because atheists would then have to assume objective morality exists, but objective morality requires God. I will argue that the theist’s argument is irrelevant in consideration of one argument against one type of traditional theism, but it is somewhat relevant against another. Even so, both arguments are unsound. (more…)

January 29, 2013

Is Atheism or Theism The Default Position?

Filed under: metaphysics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:52 am
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Many atheists say that atheism is the default position, so theists have the burden of proof. I will consider the best argument I can come up with that theism is the default position and the best argument I can come up with that argument that atheism is the default position. I believe that the argument that atheism is the default position seems a little more plausible, but I am not yet convinced that either of the arguments are rationally compelling. Even so, the arguments I will present are merely food for thought and could be considered to be a starting point when considering whether atheism or theism is the default position (or perhaps neither). (more…)

May 15, 2012

Do Default Positions Exist?

The term “default position” refers to a belief (or lack of belief) that is preferable prior to debate or before any evidence is considered. Many people claim that some belief (or lack thereof) are default positions, so everyone who disagrees with those positions has the burden of proof. What exactly is a default position, and do default positions exist? (more…)

October 19, 2011

A Second New Kind of Stoicism: Common Sense Stoicism

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:12 am
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This is part 2. Go here to see part 1.

I have created a new form of Stoicism that doesn’t require a god that I call “Neo-Aristonianism.” I will now present a second new form of Stoicism (that doesn’t require a god) that I call “Common Sense Stoicism.” Neo-Aristonianism is a skeptical form of Stoicism that requires as few assumptions as seem necessary for a potentially comprehensive virtue ethics. Nonetheless, many assumptions are very plausible and many of us will prefer a more ambitious virtue ethics that involves some of these assumptions. (In particular, the existence of certain intrinsic values.) That’s where Common Sense Stoicism comes in. (more…)

October 16, 2011

A New Kind of Stoicism: Neo-Aristonianism

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:25 am
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Stoicism is one of the most neglected philosophical traditions, but I think it’s informative and helpful. I also think it’s likely that Stoicism’s been neglected in recent times because the Stoics believed in a deity, and now philosophers shy away from any philosophy involving God. For these reasons I will present a new form of Stoic ethics I call “Neo-Aristonianism” that doesn’t require us to believe in a deity. (more…)

September 19, 2011

Being Risk-Averse, Hedging Our Bets, and Secularism in Philosophy

Filed under: epistemology,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:26 pm
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We should generally prefer beliefs and theories that are well justified and don’t require ambitious metaphysical or religious assumptions. “Metaphysical” beliefs are beliefs about reality, and “ambitious” beliefs are difficult to justify in a satisfying way that would lead to anything resembling certainty. We attain absolute certainty when we have a belief that couldn’t possibly be wrong. (more…)

June 7, 2011

Philosophical Thought & An Illustration of An Objection

We can learn how to think more like a philosopher by engaging in philosophical debate, reading philosophy, thinking about the nature of philosophical argumentation, and examining the thought process of philosophers. A philosophy professor can be very helpful as a guide to help people engage in philosophical argumentation by helping them verbalize their arguments and avoid fallacious reasoning. Since I am writing about philosophical argumentation, I am not able to help guide your philosophical thoughts as you engage in philosophical debate. However, I can help you peer into the thoughts of someone who engages in philosophical thought. In particular, I will discuss the thinking involved with constructing a philosophical objection. (more…)

March 24, 2011

Why Theistic Religion Might Go Extinct

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:50 am
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Successful religions have historically been appealing to both the educated and the uneducated. They have appealed to the greatest minds and “experts” (the most distinguished philosophers and scientists) and people who aren’t especially interested in fully understanding life’s greatest mysteries. First, I will argue that the success of religions partially depends on appealing to both of these groups because (a) the religion needs educated people to join and persuade others that the religion is probably true (b) sometimes only the greatest minds can convince educated people that the religion is probably true. Second, I will argue that religions have lost the support from the experts that they need. This doesn’t mean that all religion will die off forever, but it does mean that truly successful religions of the future will probably have to regain support from the experts. These will probably be either revised versions of current religions or entirely new religions. (more…)

March 14, 2011

Does Morality, Meaning, or Knowledge Require God?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:12 am
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I was a guest contributor at Camels With Hammers by posting “Philosophy can Debunk Myths about Atheism.” In particular, many theists argue that atheists must reject morality, meaning, and knowledge because these things can only exist if God exists. Or of course, the atheist must convert to theism precisely because we know morality, meaning, and knowledge exist–and God is required for these things to exist.

Rather than prove that atheism is compatible with morality, meaning, and knowledge I merely discuss my personal understanding about why the natural world seems sufficient to explain the existence of these things. The theist will have to prove my personal understanding to be false or we have no reason to think God is required for such “facts” after all.

Go here to find out what I have to say on these issues.

January 29, 2011

Luke Nix’s Concerns About Atheistic Moral Absolutism

Luke Nix thinks that a satisfying sort of morality requires God. Without God, morality would be a matter of opinion, mere consensus, or cultural customs. Such an unsatisfying sort of morality is “relativism” or a form of “moral anti-realism.” He thinks a satisfying morality should be in some sense “absolute” (of a moral realist variety).1 We both mainly agree what a satisfying morality should look like. It shouldn’t be relativistic or a form of anti-realism. However, I don’t agree that God is required for moral realism. I have already responded to his argument in “An Argument Against Atheistic Moral Realism.” However, my response doesn’t answer all his concerns. I had a discussion with him on his blog and I found out many of his concerns. I wasn’t able to post my reply on his website (perhaps because of my use of html), so I will post it here. (more…)

January 25, 2011

An Argument Against Atheistic Moral Realism

Filed under: epistemology,ethics,metaethics,philosophy,review — JW Gray @ 11:11 am
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Luke Nix argues that atheistic moral realism (the view that there are moral facts) is impossible because atheistic evolution wouldn’t make it possible to know the truth about anything other than the empirical (observable) world. I will defend atheistic moral realism and object to his argument by saying that (a) atheism does not necessarily require empiricism and (b) empirical moral realism can be consistent.


January 18, 2011

Questions For Atheistic Moral Realists Answered

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:21 am
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The Thinking Christian, Tom Gilson, thinks moral realism requires God, and says that the following questions are somehow a problem for atheistic moral realists (mainly concerning a potential eternal moral reality.) I will respond to the questions using my own perspective, but atheists and theists alike will disagree about how to best answer them: (more…)

September 18, 2010

Joel Marks’s Moral Anti-Realism: An Atheistic View that Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:06 am
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I am unimpressed by atheists giving theism too much credit by assuming that morality requires God, and now I have read An Amoralist Manifesto by Joel Marks, where he discusses how he found himself persuaded by such horrible theistic arguments. The fact is that people had morality long before they thought the supernatural had anything to do with it. The reason to believe in morality has little to do with God, but a two thousand year old Christian tradition made people depend on religion and supernatural sources for morality. Many people then became unsure how morality could work without God.  (Hence, Nietzsche’s declaration that “God is dead.”) Aristotle, Epicurus, and many Buddhists had no problem having moral theories without requiring the supernatural. (More information here.) (more…)

July 27, 2010

Is Atheism Immoral?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:58 am
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Is atheism immoral, evil, sinful, satanic, or unholy? Atheists are one of the most hated groups in the United States. Many religious people openly admit they think that atheism is immoral. I will argue that atheism is not immoral. First, I will give some evidence that atheists are despised. Second, I will describe two ways people think atheism is immoral. Third, I will provide arguments that atheism is not immoral. Fourth, I will take a look at arguments people use to conclude that atheism is immoral. If we have good reason to believe that atheism can be morally permissible (rational from an individual’s standpoint) and we have no reason to think atheism is immoral, then we should agree that atheism is not immoral. (more…)

July 2, 2010

Moral Absolutism, Relativism, and the Situation

I have been surprised to find out how many people are moral absolutists. Moral absolutists believe that the situation can’t be relevant to morality. Many people argue that either moral absolutism is true or relativism is true, but I reject both of these positions. Moral reasoning is possible because morality has a connection to reality (unlike moral relativism) and the situation is relevant to moral reasoning (unlike moral absolutism). (more…)

June 22, 2010

Can We Reason About Morality?

Filed under: epistemology,ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:14 am
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One common objection against just about any philosophical argument is considered by philosophers to be amateurish – Philosophy can’t give us the truth. The implication is supposed to be, “Philosophy can’t give us the truth, so we might as well give up on arguing about such things.” This is especially a popular objection to moral philosophy in general, but it is little more than a declaration of one’s ignorance and distrust towards philosophy. The main problem with this argument is merely that philosophical arguments are usually not intended to actually give us the truth once and for all, and even natural science fails to do so. The point of philosophy tends to be to tell us what it is most rational to believe, or what is probably true given our current information. (more…)

June 17, 2010

Morality, God, Relativism, and Nihilism

Although most people have no idea what philosophers have to say about morality that doesn’t deter them from discussing philosophical ramifications of morality. In particular many people want to argue for one of the following:

  1. Objective morality requires God.
  2. Morality is relative.
  3. Nothing really matters.


June 9, 2010

Does Morality Require God? Free Ebook

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:01 pm
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I have organized some of my essays (blog entries) to make a free ebook that tries to answer the question, Does morality require God? Whether or not morality requires God is a hotly debated topic and many people think it does. However, this debate exists almost exclusively among non-philosophers and actual philosophers who want to know where morality comes from almost never think “God” is the answer they are looking for. I discuss why God is not required for morality. (more…)

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