Ethical Realism

September 22, 2013

Is Death Bad? Is Grief Appropriate?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , ,

I will discuss two related philosophical questions related to death: One, is death bad? Two, how should we feel about death? (more…)

July 14, 2011

Do We Experience That Pain is Intrinsically Bad?

Filed under: ethics — JW Gray @ 4:55 am
Tags: , ,

We experience that our pain (or suffering) is bad, but is everyone’s pain bad? Is it wrong to cause other people pain (at least some of the time) because their pain is bad? Many philosophers think that (at least some) pain is “intrinsically bad”—bad just for existing and worthy of being avoided for its own sake. If so, it seems reasonable to say that everyone’s pain is bad and it’s wrong to cause needless pain to others. However, this is an interpretation of our experience of pain and not everyone agrees with it. I will discuss various interpretations of what it means to experience that pain is bad: (more…)

May 20, 2011

The Debate Over Moral Realism

The question over what morality refers to has lead to two groups of philosophers. One group describes itself as being “moral realists” and other other as “moral anti-realists.” Moral realists think that there’s more to morality than anti-realists. In particular, the moral realists believes that there’s at least one moral fact. I will describe these two groups then briefly describe why someone might accept or reject moral realism. (more…)

April 29, 2011

An Intuitive Argument for Intrinsic Value

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:36 pm
Tags: , ,

Intrinsic value is the kind of value something has if it good just for existing. I have already argued that intrinsic values are intuitive and that intuition can be a reliable form of justification—we can decide what we should believe based on our intuitions. I will now discuss my intuitive argument for intrinsic value. First, I will briefly discuss my argument and the justification for it. Second, I will discuss objections to it. Third, I will discuss whether or not it’s rational to believe in intrinsic values. (more…)

February 18, 2011

Intrinsic Values & Beliefs About Reality

Filed under: ethics,metaphysics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:13 am
Tags: , , ,

The belief in intrinsic values (and moral realism in general) is incompatible with certain beliefs about reality. Something has intrinsic value if it is good just for existing (perhaps happiness or human life). Moral realism is the view that there are moral facts beyond our personal interests and beliefs. If something has real value just for existing, then there are facts about what actions are better than others because some actions can promote intrinsic value better than others. For example, killing people destroys something with intrinsic value assuming human life has intrinsic value. (more…)

February 1, 2011

I Created A FAQ on Intrinsic Value

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:30 am
Tags: , , , ,

I created a FAQ on Intrinsic Value, which is now a permanent page on this site and a free ebook. Is there a meaning of life? Is there any reason for us to be moral? If intrinsic values exist, then yes. Human life, pleasure, and happiness all seem like they are good–they all seem worthy of promoting because of how important they are. This FAQ explains my beliefs and arguments concerning intrinsic value.

Much of what I say in the FAQ could be taken as a defense of Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape. There are philosophers who agree with a lot of what Sam Harris has to say.

Go here to see the FAQ.

November 25, 2010

Can Morality Be Known Through Science?

Can science lead to moral knowledge? If so, moral naturalism is true.

Naturalism is the philosopher’s jargon for saying “based on natural science.” “Moral naturalism” is the view that morality is part of the reality studied by science (physical reality) and can be known by science, but “moral naturalism” has more specifically become jargon for the view that there are moral facts and they can all be studied by science.1 “Empirical” knowledge (or justification) is knowledge attained through observation and experimentation (the scientific method).2 Naturalism is almost synonymous with “empiricism,” which is the view that we can know everything from observation—and “moral empiricists” would think that all moral knowledge is attained through observation and experimentation. (more…)

November 4, 2010

What are Moral Facts?

If you merely look at the world of tables, chairs, and atoms, you won’t find moral facts anywhere. Some people have suggested that moral facts are utterly mysterious—that we have no idea what could make something right or wrong. Some people decide that moral facts can’t exist because they are too “spooky.” Other people decide that moral facts could only be true with an independently existing moral realm of Platonic forms or with the existence of God. I don’t think moral facts are utterly mysterious or offensively spooky because we do have some ideas concerning what could make something good, bad, right, or wrong without being overly spooky—and I don’t think moral facts require anything like Platonic forms or God. That’s not to say that there is no mystery surrounding moral facts. I suggest that moral facts are primarily concerned with intrinsic values, but we are also interested in alternate possibilities. (more…)

October 19, 2010

Review of Robert Audi’s The Good in the Right

Robert Audi’s The Good in the Right (2004) attempts to offer a comprehensive understanding of morality that incorporates W. D. Ross’s moral intuitionism, Kant’s categorical imperative, and intrinsic values. I will summarize Audi’s major claims and assess their plausibility. The moral realist view that morality is irreducible to non-moral properties is traditionally the “intuitionist” project, and “intuitionism” is traditionally based on the idea that we know moral facts from “intuition”—and “intuition” is traditionally viewed as a realization that something is true based on self-evidence.1 First, Audi argues that Ross’s intuitionism is “intuitive” and can help us determine our “prima facie duties.” He defends a moderate form of intuition and argues that many arguments against self-evidence are based on misunderstandings. Second, he argues that the categorical imperative can be used as a way to ground intuitionism and help us choose between conflicting duties. Third, he argues that an understanding of intrinsic value can be used as a way to further ground our duties. (more…)

October 14, 2010

Does Human Life Have Value?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:28 am
Tags: , , ,

Does human life have intrinsic value? I proposed in my master’s thesis, Two New Kinds of Stoicism, that it does in the sense that our consciousness has value. I will similarly argue here that we have some reason to believe that human consciousness has value, and there can be different qualities of consciousness that can have differing values. I will also present the major objections that have been raised against the view that human life has intrinsic value including a famous objection given by Darek Parfit. (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 15, 2010

14 Arguments That Intrinsic Values Exist

If anything has intrinsic value, then something really matters.1 When we make decisions we often hope that our action will be as beneficial as possible and we hope our actions aren’t harmful. We often think some of our actions can produce truly good consequences. Making people happy seems to be really good and causing people suffering seems to be really bad. I suggest that we often assume happiness is intrinsically good and suffering is intrinsically bad. I have already given one argument that intrinsic values exist, but I now want to give more. I will present 14 arguments that help us understand why intrinsic values can make sense to a rational person. These are merely simple arguments that could be worthy of consideration and expanded in the future. I have discussed some of these arguments is more detail in the past. (more…)

June 9, 2010

Does Morality Require God? Free Ebook

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 10:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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…)

March 25, 2010

The Persistence of Moral Disagreement: An Objection to Moral Realism

Many people believe that morality is little more than cultural traditions. One culture can say that revenge is right and another can say it’s wrong. There is no “moral fact” of the matter. This view is known as “cultural relativism” and it’s a form of “moral anti-realism,” which is the view that moral truth consists in our opinions rather than reality itself. One important reason to endorse cultural relativism is Mackie’s Argument from Relativity, and the argument based on the “Persistence of Moral Disagreement” is a variation of the Argument from Relativity. It is claimed that even ideal people would disagree about moral facts, so moral realism is false. Everyone is entitled to their own moral opinions. (more…)

March 22, 2010

Are Intrinsic Value Beliefs Unhealthy? A Nietzschean Argument

Some people could think that intrinsic values should be rejected because it will lead to a negative attitude. If we think that pain is bad, then it will just make our lives worse. I think that some Nietzscheans could come to this conclusion. Nietzsche argued that we should embrace pain and suffering. However, I suspect that he doesn’t reject that “pain is  intrinsically bad” based on the argument I will present. Instead, he finds that pain is (1) only of superficial concern, (2) it brings us benefits, and (3) a healthy person would embrace pain. Of these issues, the third is Nietzsche’s primary concern. He doesn’t tell us “the truth” about reality. Instead, he tells us what he believes is healthy (or unhealthy). Although “embracing pain” might seem incompatible with the view that pain is intrinsically bad, I disagree. We can embrace pain when we experience it and still prefer to avoid pain when possible based on the belief that it’s intrinsically bad. I will discuss each of these issues. (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 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


January 21, 2010

Is There A Meaning of Life? Free Ebook (Updated 6-26-10)

I updated many of my essays to create a free ebook that features my argument that there is a meaning of life (intrinsic values exist). The essays can be found on this website. It is still in the rough draft stage, but you might get something out of it. Read on to see the abstract. (more…)

January 15, 2010

What is the Meaning of Life?

“The meaning of life” actually refers to various intrinsic values—various values that “really matter.” To live a meaningful life is to attain and promote intrinsic goods. I have argued that at least one intrinsic value exists, but I believe that there are more. Let’s consider what philosophers believe to have intrinsic value:

  1. Pain
  2. Pleasure
  3. Happiness
  4. Virtue
  5. Good will
  6. Human existence
  7. Consciousness


January 14, 2010

How to Find the Meaning of Life

I have suggested that several things seem to “really matter.” If something “really matters,” such as happiness, then we can live a meaningful life when we promote it (such as make people happy). If something “really matters” then it has “intrinsic value.” I have argued that there is at least one meaning of life (one thing that has intrinsic value)—Pain. However, pain is “bad.” If pain is the only thing that matters, then nothing could make life worth living. I don’t want to suggest that pain is the only thing with intrinsic vale, but we need to know how to find out what has intrinsic value. I have discussed one way to provide evidence that something has intrinsic value—our moral experiences.

We can provide evidence that X has intrinsic value based on the following evidence:

  1. We experience X as good (or bad).
  2. We know X is good (or bad) for everyone.
  3. X’s intrinsic value explains our moral experiences.
  4. Our experience of X’s value can’t be fully accounted for as a “final end,” usefulness, and/or a pre-existing desire.

I will attempt to explain each of these elements of evidence: (more…)

Next Page »

Blog at