Ethical Realism

October 21, 2011

My Review of Lawrence Becker’s A New Stoicism

Filed under: ethics,philosophy,review — JW Gray @ 9:21 am
Tags: , ,

In A New Stoicism Lawrence C. Becker attempts to develop a new form of Stoicism compatible with current scientific assumptions concerning reality—without the Ancient Stoic metaphysical or psychological assumptions (such as the existence of a deity). Becker argues that his new Stoicism will agree that virtue is the greatest good and that all virtuous people are happy. Becker does not spell out his new Stoicism’s moral psychology in detail, but he does describe his new Stoicism’s understanding of virtue as “ideal agency.” I will discuss his understanding of virtue and offer my objection to it. In particular, I find this understanding of virtue to be impractical. (more…)

October 19, 2011

A Second New Kind of Stoicism: Common Sense Stoicism

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:12 am
Tags: , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , ,

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…)

November 11, 2010

Virtue Ethics

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:38 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The virtue ethics of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans, and the Stoics were very individualistic and primarily concerned with helping one person become a better person though self-improvement. This is a sharp contrast to the current popular moral theories—Kantianism and consequentialism—that tend to be concerned with categorizing actions as right and wrong. These moral theories provide us with a set of rules to follow. They are much like computer programs invented to determine which actions are (or tend to be) right or wrong. The personal requirement of “thinking for yourself” would ideally be dispensable because the moral theory can think for us. (more…)

August 20, 2010

Moral Theories (Normative Theories of Ethics)

Normative theories of ethics or “moral theories” are meant to help us figure out what actions are right and wrong. Popular normative theories include utilitarianism, the categorical imperative, Aristotelian virtue ethics, Stoic virtue ethics, and W. D. Ross’s intuitionism. I will discuss each of these theories and explain how to apply them in various situations. (more…)

March 23, 2010

Stoic & Buddhist Arguments Against Intrinsic Values

Nietzsche, Stoics, and Buddhists all have similar potential reasons to reject intrinsic values. Nietzsche wants to embrace all of life including pain, the Stoics believe that everything that happens is for the best, and Buddhism requires us to withhold judgment. I have discussed how Nietzsche’s amor fati (life affirmation) could be seen to conflict with pain’s intrinsic disvalue, and now I will discuss how some people could believe Stoicism and Buddhism conflict with pain’s intrinsic disvalue. However, I do not agree that these perspectives are necessarily incompatible with intrinsic values. (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…)

Blog at