Good & Evil, Right & Wrong or Ethical Systems
David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls (Oxford University Press: Apr 2011), 304 pages.
This book aims to reinvigorate discussions of moral arguments for God's existence. To open this debate, Baggett and Walls argue that God's love and moral goodness are perfect, without defect, necessary, and recognizable. After integrating insights from the literature of both moral apologetics and theistic ethics, they defend theistic ethics against a variety of objections and, in so doing, bolster the case for the moral argument for God's existence. It is the intention of the authors to see this aspect of natural theology resume its rightful place of prominence, by showing how a worldview predicated on the God of both classical theism and historical Christian orthodoxy has more than adequate resources to answer the Euthyphro Dilemma, speak to the problem of evil, illumine natural law, and highlight the moral significance of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Ultimately, the authors argue, there is principled reason to believe that morality itself provides excellent reasons to look for a transcendent source of its authority and reality, and a source that is more than an abstract principle. ~ Book Description
Edmund Burke on Lost Chivalry said...
Reflections on the Revolution in France (J. Dodsley: 1790) pp. 112-8.
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, — glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and splendor, and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what an heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream that, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. — But the age of chivalry is gone. — That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprize is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.
J. Budziszewski (Ignatius Press; Rev Exp edition: February 15, 2011), 300 pages.
In this new revised edition of his groundbreaking work, Professor J. Budziszewski questions the modern assumption that moral truths are unknowable. With clear and logical arguments he rehabilitates the natural law tradition and restores confidence in a moral code based upon human nature. What We Can't Not Know explains the rational foundation of what we all really know to be right and wrong and shows how that foundation has been kicked out from under western society. Having gone through stages of atheism and nihilism in his own search for truth, Budziszewski understands the philosophical and personal roots of moral relativism. With wisdom born of both experience and rigorous intellectual inquiry, he offers a firm foothold to those who are attempting either to understand or to defend the reasonableness of traditional morality. While natural law bridges the chasms that can be caused by religious and philosophical differences, Budziszewski believes that natural law theory has entered a new phase, in which theology will again have pride of place. While religious belief might appear to hamper the search for common ground, Budziszewski demonstrates that it is not an obstacle, but a pathway to apprehending universal norms of behavior. ~ Book Description
"The Definition of Morality" in Empiricism and Ethics (Cambridge University Press: 1967), pp. 143-4.
One suspects that some modern philosophers have used the device of defining morality as a means of softening the rigours of subjectivism. They are unable to accept an objectivist ethic, and feel forced to conclude that moral utterances merely express attitudes that men happen to have acquired. They are, however, reluctant to accept the consequence that they have no reason for condemning the moral attitudes of (say) Hitler except that they do not happen to share them. They try to avoid this conclusion by saying that it applies only to certain kinds of attitude. Others may be excluded simply because, by definition, they are not moral. ¶ It is clear, however, that to say ... that moral desires are, by definition, those impersonal desires which we want others to share does not excuse us from saying why we think that personal desires should yield to impersonal ones, when they conflict; nor does it justify us in condemning another man if he prefers to give precedence to personal desires. Again, to say ... that moral principles are, by definition, 'universalizable' does not automatically justify a preference for universalizable principles over ones that cannot be universalized. The hard questions for subjectivism still remain, however morality is defined.
John M. Doris (Oxford University Press: July 2010), 504 pages.
The Moral Psychology Handbook offers a survey of contemporary moral psychology, integrating evidence and argument from philosophy and the human sciences. The chapters cover major issues in moral psychology, including moral reasoning, character, moral emotion, positive psychology, moral rules, the neural correlates of ethical judgment, and the attribution of moral responsibility. Each chapter is a collaborative effort, written jointly by leading researchers in the field. John M. Doris is Associate Professor in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program and Philosophy Department, Washington University in St. Louis. ~ Product Description
"Kant, God, and Immortality" in Religion and Morality (Ashgate Publishing: 2005), p. 7.
The trouble with acting solely on the basis of natural incentives like sympathy is therefore this. The maxims which are guiding our actions are derived from desires which aren't shared by all (possible) rational beings, and thus can't be regarded as expressions of pure moral reason. ¶ Why does Kant adopt this position? A person's emotions, feelings, and inclinations are part of his or her biological inheritance. However admirable they may be, acts that are only expressions of feeling and inclination are acts of human animals, of beings caught up in the web of nature, locked into the system of natural causes and effects. When we act because we see that something is right, however, our behavior is an expression of our reason and will, of those aspects of ourselves which transcend nature. ¶ Two "worlds" or realities must be distinguished. The phenomenal world or world of appearances discloses itself in sense perception and is investigated by science. It includes observable substances, qualities, and events, and theoretical entities like subatomic particles which science postulates to explain them. "Behind" the world of appearances lies the noumenal world — reality as it is in itself, and not as it manifests itself to us. This world is inaccessible to theoretical reason and is therefore, in the strict sense, unknowable. But human beings belong to both worlds. As parts of nature, we are members of the phenomenal world, and our behavior can be explained in terms of natural causality. As free and rational beings, we are members of the noumenal world, and our actions are self-determined.
Louis Pojman and Lewis Vaughn, eds. (Oxford University Press: April 2010), 4th edition, 1008 pages.
Now in its fourth edition, Louis P. Pojman and Lewis Vaughn's acclaimed The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature brings together an extensive and varied collection of eighty-five classical and contemporary readings on ethical theory and practice. Integrating literature with philosophy in an innovative way, the book uses literary works to enliven and make concrete the ethical theory or applied issues addressed. Literary works by Angelou, Camus, Hawthorne, Huxley, Ibsen, Le Guin, Melville, Orwell, Styron, Tolstoy, and many others lead students into such philosophical concepts and issues as relativism; utilitarianism; virtue ethics; the meaning of life; freedom and autonomy; sex, love, and marriage; animal rights; and terrorism. These topics are developed further through readings by philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Singer, Sartre, Nagel, and Thomson. This unique anthology emphasizes the personal dimension of ethics, which is often ignored or minimized in ethics texts. It also incorporates chapter introductions, study questions, suggestions for further reading, and biographical sketches of the writers.
Louis P. Pojman (Cengage Learning: February 2010), 704 pages.
This authoritative and reader-friendly anthology will help you think through some of humanity's most persistent questions regarding right and wrong, good and bad. Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings cuts through the confusion and delivers a clear and comprehensive selection of readings from classical and contemporary sources. Presented in a dynamic pro and con format, with detailed summaries of each argument, this comprehensive anthology allows you to watch the ethical debate unfold before your eyes. • "This introductory textbook describes the historical schools, major problems, and current trends concerning the study of ethics. Selections from key philosophers cover topics like relativism and objectivism, egoism, value, utilitarianism, deontology, virtue, metaethics, skepticism, religion, sociobiology, feminism, and determinism. Representing the span of the Western canon, selections are drawn from the ancient, modern, and post-modern periods. A glossary is included." ~ Booknews
"Are There Secular Reasons" at The New York Times (February 22, 2010).
Whether the argument appears in its softer or harder versions, behind it is a form of intellectual/political apartheid known as the private/public distinction: matters that pertain to the spirit and to salvation are the province of religion and are to be settled by religious reasons; matters that pertain to the good order and prosperity of civil society are the province of democratically elected representatives and are to be settled by secular reasons. As John Locke put it in 1689 (“A Letter Concerning Toleration”), the “care of men’s souls” is the responsibility of the church while to the civil magistrate belongs the care of “outward things such as money, land, houses, furniture and the like”; it is his responsibility to secure for everyone, of whatever denomination or belief, “the just possession of these things belonging to this life.” ¶ A neat division, to be sure, which has the effect (not, I think, intended by Locke) of honoring religion by kicking it upstairs and out of sight. If the business of everyday life — commerce, science, medicine, law, agriculture, education, foreign policy, etc. — can be assigned to secular institutions employing secular reasons to justify actions, what is left to religious institutions and religious reasons is a private area of contemplation and worship, an area that can be safely and properly ignored when there are “real” decisions to be made. Let those who remain captives of ancient superstitions and fairy tales have their churches, chapels, synagogues, mosques, rituals and liturgical mumbo-jumbo; just don’t confuse the (pseudo) knowledge they traffic in with the knowledge needed to solve the world’s problems.
Kelly James Clark in Realism/Anti-Realism, William Alston, ed. (Cornell University Press: 2002).
In this paper, I defend the importance of narrative to moral philosophy, in particular to moral realism. Moral realism, for the purposes of this essay, is the claim that there are moral truths independent of human beliefs, attitudes, desires and feelings.i Contemporary philosophers typically focus on discursive arguments and exclude narrative. But narrative is considerably more powerful than argument in effecting belief-change. I shall argue that through such belief-change one can attain to moral truth.ii This account is opposed to that of fellow narrativalist, Richard Rorty, who denies moral realism. Since I believe the clash between realists and anti-realists resolves into a clash of intuitions, I don't propose to offer a convincing argument in favor of moral realism. Instead, like Rorty I will draw a word-picture, which stands in stark contrast to the word-picture that he draws about stories; it is my hope that the reader will find my word-picture more compelling than Rorty's word-picture. In the final section I will offer some considerations in favor of moral realism.
C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (1943), chp 3.
Lewis observes that man's increasing power over nature is at the same time the unavoidable empowering of some men over other men, whether it be nation over nation, the majority over the minority, or this generation over the next. "Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger." Lewis imagines that day when science conquers the last domain of nature, human nature, and gains the power to determine even what it is to be human. Released thereby from the dictates of the Tao, an ultimate rule that guides behavior and law in conformity with the natural order, we will have recourse only to impulse, to emotion, to whim. "At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely 'natural' — to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man." Our defeat by nature is the inevitable outcome of making ourselves mere constituents of nature. "Either we are rational spirit obliged forever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own 'natural' impulses." Lewis' Abolition of Man has been widely lauded as one of the great prophetic works of the twentieth century. ~ Afterall
C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (1943), Appendix.
The following illustrations of the Natural Law are collected from such sources as come readily to the hand of one who is not a professional historian. The list makes no pretence of completeness. It will be noticed that writers such as Locke and Hooker, who wrote within the Christian tradition, are quoted side by side with the New Testament. This would, of course, be absurd if I were trying to collect independent testimonies to the Tao. But (1) I am not trying to prove its validity by the argument from common consent. Its validity cannot be deduced. For those who do not perceive its rationality, even universal consent could not prove it. (2) The idea of collecting independent testimonies presupposes that 'civilizations' have arisen in the world independently of one another; or even that humanity has had several independent emergences on this planet. The biology and anthropology involved in such an assumption are extremely doubtful. It is by no means certain that there has ever (in the sense required) been more than one civilization in all history. It is at least arguable that every civilization we find has been derived from another civilization and, in the last resort, from a single centre — 'carried' like an infectious disease or like the Apostolical succession.
C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (1943), chp 1.
Lewis takes as his subject the thesis presented by two unnamed schoolmasters in what he calls "The Green Book": that our value judgments refer only to our own sentiments and never to any intrinsic worth in the objects we judge. He is concerned as to what this will mean for the education of English children, and this essay constitutes one part of Lewis' Abolition of Man, subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools". In the authors' seemingly innocent and casual subjectification of value there is a subversive outcome: "I do not mean, of course, that [the schoolboy] will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial. The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is 'doing' his 'English prep' and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all." The Green Book's authors analyze a piece of banal and deceptive advertising. But, Lewis notes, the authors have effectively precluded any normative judgment of the ad, for a similiar judgment upon Johnson, Wordsworth, or Virgil could be no less an accurate description of a reader's sentiments, and there is no other quality to which to appeal. Lewis ends with this oft-cited poetic prose: "And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful." His argument continues in "The Way". ~ Afterall
A Treatise of Human Nature (Longmans, Green: 1909), p. 245.
Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which-ever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but 'tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compar'd to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind: And this discovery in morals, like that other in physics, is to be regarded as a considerable advancement of the speculative sciences; tho', like that too, it has little or no influence on practice. Nothing can be more real, or concern us more, than our own sentiments of pleasure and uneasiness; and if these be favourable to virtue, and unfavourable to vice, no more can be requisite to the regulation of our conduct and behaviour.
Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy (Prometheus: 1998), p. 253.
The Darwinian argues that morality simply does not work (from a biological perspective), unless we believe that it is objective. Darwinian theory shows that, in fact, morality is a function of (subjective) feelings; but it shows also that we have (and must have) the illusion of objectivity.
Normative Ethics (Westview Press: 1998), pp. 26-7.
It is important to understand that in saying that the moral status of an act is determined (at least in part) by its results, this is meant to include all af its results. It is not only the immediate, or short term, results that matter: long term results, side effects, indirect consequences — all these matter as well, and they count just as much as short term or immediate consequences. If, for example, I must choose between an act with a small immediate positive effect — but no other later effects — and an alternative act act that will have no immediate effect, but will eventually produce a lot of good, it is the second act I should perform. Similarly, if an act will have both good results and bad results, then these must all be taken into account. The question is: how good or bad will the results be overall, on balance, taking into account all of the results; and how does this compare to the overall results of the other acts available to the agent?
Shelly Kagan on Morality vs. Law said...
Normative Ethics (Westview Press: 1998), pp. 9-10.
But there is something else normative ethics should not be confused with: the law. Determining what people morally should do is not the same thing as determining what the law says they should do. For the law may permit someparticular act, even though that act is immoral; and the law may forbid an act, even though that act is morally permissible, or even morally required.
C.S. Lewis, Excerpts from "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe", Book One in Mere Christianity (original 1944).
In this oft discussed passage from Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis spurns the supposed implications of a century's worth of cultural anthropology, arguing that virtually all people possess an innate moral compass that is at bottom similar or the same, in spite of surface differences. He begins by noting that human quarreling presupposes such a shared set of moral norms, that without a common set of "Rules of Human Nature", quarreling would be, in effect, impossible. An interesting thought. Lewis goes on to argue that this set of moral obligations we find in ourselves suggests a moral lawgiver. En route, he comments on the proper limits of science, on what we can infer on the basis of our own self-knowledge, and on the hypocrisy of those who claim no such common moral knowledge exists. Lewis' essay is hardly the most rigorous moral argument for theism on offer, but it does display his knack for drawing on the everyday to illustrate his premises and his argument for a common ethic is especially worth considering in view of the conventional wisdom about the radical diversity of moral norms. The moral differences between persons and cultures is profound. Can Lewis' argument for universal "Rules of Human Nature" be sustained? I'm particularly keen to reflect on the extent to which apparent moral differences should actually be attributed to different beliefs about reality. On this, see his thought provoking comments on the old practice of burning witches at the stake. Also note his observation that the materialistic and religious views of reality are not a bifurcation emerging out of the Enlightenment, but rather a fundamental divergence that turns up "wherever there having been thinking men".
John E. Hare (Wiley-Blackwell: July 2009), 320 pages.
God and Morality evaluates the ethical theories of four principle philosophers, Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Kant, and R.M. Hare and: Uses their thinking as the basis for telling the story of the history and development of ethical thought more broadly; Focuses specifically on their writings on virtue, will, duty, and consequence; Concentrates on the theistic beliefs to highlight continuity of philosophical thought. ~ Product Description • "This is a splendid history of philosophical ethics, with special interest in God’s presence and importance in that perennial enterprise, by one of the leading philosophers of ethics writing today. Hare tops off this surprising, exciting, and unorthodox history with an account of his own that collects together the best features of the theistic ethics of the past. God and Morality is written with crystal clarity and impressive scholarship." ~ Robert Roberts, Baylor University
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Oxford University Press: Jul 2009), 192 pages.
Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right. Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance. ~ Product Description