Ethical Realism

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…)


September 23, 2010

Ravi Iyer’s Argument Against “Moral Absolutism”

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:45 am
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I just read “Sam Harris’ TED video and the danger of liberal atheist moral absolutism” by Ravi Iyer. He argues that moral absolutism – the belief that there are right and wrong actions – is dangerous based on some data that was collected.1 He uses this argument as a response to Sam Harris’s suggestion that science can help us find answers to moral questions. I find several problems with Iyer’s essay and argument. For example, Iyer seems to think that there are no true moral beliefs, which would imply that he disagrees that “torturing babies is wrong.” (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 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…)

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 18, 2010

Is Moral Realism Dangerous? (What about Relativism?)

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:42 am
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Moral realism states that there are true moral statements that aren’t just a “matter of taste.” Some people think that moral realism encourages us to be oppressive, intolerant, and vengeful. Anti-realism (e.g. relativism) is supposedly much more “open minded” and encourages us to be tolerant of others. I disagree. I agree that certain forms of moral realism could lead to egregious forms of intolerance, but not all forms of moral realism. Although uneducated moral realist views can lead to problems, these problems can be avoided with careful philosophical consideration. Additionally, anti-realism itself could help people rationalize horrific actions. (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…)

February 4, 2009

Chapter 3.4 “Ethics, Mathematics, and Relativism” by Jonathan Lear

Jonathan Lear presents challenges to two forms of moral relativism: Cognitivist and noncognitivist. (more…)

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