Good & Evil, Right & Wrong or Ethical Systems
Andrew Fisher and Simon Kirchin, eds. (Routledge: July 2006), 621 pages.
Arguing about Metaethics collects together some of the most exciting contemporary work in metaethics in one handy volume. In it, many of the most influential philosophers in the field discuss key questions in metaethics: Do moral properties exist? If they do, how do they fit into the world as science conceives it? If they don’t exist, then how should we understand moral thought and language? What is the relation between moral judgement and motivation? As well as these questions, this volume discusses a wide range of issues including moral objectivity, truth and moral judgements, moral psychology, thick evaluative concepts and moral relativism. The editors provide lucid introductions to each of the eleven themed sections in which they show how the debate lies and outline the arguments of the papers. Arguing about Metaethics is an ideal resource text for students at upper undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Richard Joyce (MIT Press: February 2006), 283 pages.
Moral thinking pervades our practical lives, but where did this way of thinking come from, and what purpose does it serve? Is it to be explained by environmental pressures on our ancestors a million years ago, or is it a cultural invention of more recent origin? In The Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce takes up these controversial questions, finding that the evidence supports an innate basis to human morality. As a moral philosopher, Joyce is interested in whether any implications follow from this hypothesis. Might the fact that the human brain has been biologically prepared by natural selection to engage in moral judgment serve in some sense to vindicate this way of thinking — staving off the threat of moral skepticism, or even undergirding some version of moral realism? Or if morality has an adaptive explanation in genetic terms — if it is, as Joyce writes, "just something that helped our ancestors make more babies" — might such an explanation actually undermine morality's central role in our lives? He carefully examines both the evolutionary "vindication of morality" and the evolutionary "debunking of morality," considering the skeptical view more seriously than have others who have treated the subject. Interdisciplinary and combining the latest results from the empirical sciences with philosophical discussion, The Evolution of Morality is one of the few books in this area written from the perspective of moral philosophy. Concise and without technical jargon, the arguments are rigorous but accessible to readers from different academic backgrounds. Joyce discusses complex issues in plain language while advocating subtle and sometimes radical views. The Evolution of Morality lays the philosophical foundations for further research into the biological understanding of human morality. ~ Product Description
J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler (NavPress: Jan. 17, 2006), 224 pages.
Starting from the American "pursuit of happiness," Moreland (a philosophy professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University) and Issler (a Christian education and theology professor, also at Talbot) connect with a widely felt desire. Yet they immediately take readers into deeper reflection of the very content of the happiness we pursue, arguing that our consumerist culture has replaced the more satisfying content of true happiness with a poor substitute. Moving smoothly into a discussion of discipleship, they focus on spiritual disciplines as the key to true happiness in life. Subsequent chapters explore how the spiritual disciplines can be used to improve many areas of our lives–emotions, thoughts, risk taking and the development of a more mature faith during difficult times. They end with a convincing chapter on the importance of spiritual friendships. Although exploring some deep topics, this will still be accessible to most readers and very useful for study groups, particularly with the excellent discussion questions at the end of each chapter. The practical suggestions and creative exercises throughout will be particularly helpful for those new to spiritual disciplines. ~ Publishers Weekly
Hilary Putnam (Harvard University Press: November 2005), 176 pages.
In this brief book one of the most distinguished living American philosophers takes up the question of whether ethical judgments can properly be considered objective — a question that has vexed philosophers over the past century. Looking at the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century, Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical context. Hilary Putnam's central concern is ontology — indeed, the very idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous consequences of ontology's influence on analytic philosophy — in particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective of ethical judgments — Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are extraneous to mathematics and ethics — and is thus deeply misguided. ~ Product Description
Robert Audi (Princeton University Press: Jul 25, 2005), 256 pages.
This book represents the most comprehensive account to date of an important but widely contested approach to ethics - intuitionism, the view that there is a plurality of moral principles, each of which we can know directly. Robert Audi casts intuitionism in a form that provides a major alternative to the more familiar ethical perspectives (utilitarian, Kantian, and Aristotelian). He introduces intuitionism in its historical context and clarifies — and improves and defends — W. D. Ross's influential formulation. Bringing Ross out from under the shadow of G. E. Moore, he puts a reconstructed version of Rossian intuitionism on the map as a full-scale, plausible contemporary theory. The Good in the Right is a self-contained original contribution, but readers interested in ethics or its history will find numerous connections with classical and contemporary literature. Written with clarity and concreteness, and with examples for every major point, it provides an ethical theory that is both intellectually cogent and plausible in application to moral problems.
Russ Shafer-Landau (Oxford University Press: July, 2005), 332 pages.
Shafer-Landau defends non-naturalist moral realism. Moral realism is the thesis there are objective moral facts. In other words, it is the thesis that there are moral facts, and they are not constituted by what any actual or possible person (or any actual or possible group of persons) thinks, feels, believes, etc. Shafer-Landau argues that these objective moral facts are non-natural facts. The moral facts are sui generis, and in particular they are not a sort of natural facts. His non-naturalism also includes a thesis about moral language: that it cannot be analyzed into the language of the natural or social sciences. In explaining his position, Shafer-Landau emphasizes that it does not commit him to the existence of strange, inexplicable moral stuff. His position is that the moral facts are wholly constituted by non-moral (probably wholly natural) facts, though they are not identical to any non-moral facts. This rests on a form of property pluralism according to which moral properties, though not identical to non-moral properties, are realized by non-moral properties. Things have moral properties that are not identical to natural properties, and therefore moral facts (i.e. facts about which things have which moral properties) are wholly constituted by natural facts but are not themselves natural facts. ~ ctdreyer at Amazon.com
G. E. Moore, original 1903 (Barnes & Noble: January 2005), 264 pages.
When Principia Ethica appeared, in 1903, it became something of a sacred text for the Cambridge-educated elite who formed the core of the Bloomsbury Group. In a letter of October 11, 1903, Strachey confesses to Moore that he is "carried away" by Principia, which inaugurates, for him, "the beginning of the Age of Reason." Moore's critique of convention, his caustic dismissal of his philosophical predecessors, and the relentless rigor of his method promised a revolution in morality commensurate with the modernist transformation of art and literature. Principia Ethica shifted the study of ethics away from normative questions to issues of "metaethics," the study of ethical concepts.
William J. Wainwright (Ashgate Publishing: May 2005), 264 pages.
Covering a broad range of topics, this book draws on both historical and contemporary literature, and explores afresh central issues of morality and religion offering new insights for students, academics and the general reader interested in philosophy and religion. • "It is well-written, cogent, the analyses were informative and detailed (but not so detailed they'd put you to sleep) and the arguments rigorous, clear and cogent. ... Wainwright is a top notch Kant scholar, and you can see he has a passion for the man's work when he discusses Kant's argument for the existence of God. The arguments are so clear, so simple, and he defends them so well, I'm almost tempted to write in the margins 'QED'. I really thought Wainwright shed new light on this subject, and pulled effectively from other scholars who have done work on it. The same is true of his analysis of the argument from the phenomenology of conscience. His presentation, his analysis of possible objections and his counter-arguments are like water, this way truth lies. ~ Plantinganut at Amazon.com
Erik J. Wielenberg (Cambridge University Press: February 2005), 202 pages.
Suppose there is no God. This supposition implies that human life is meaningless, that there are no moral obligations and hence people can do whatever they want, and that the notions of virtue and vice, right and wrong, and good and evil have no place in the universe. Erik J. Wielenberg believes this view to be utterly erroneous and, in this thought-provoking book, he explains the reasons why. He argues that, even if God does not exist, human life can still have meaning, humans do have moral obligations, and human virtue is still possible. Wielenberg offers readers a cogent explanation of the ethical implications of naturalism — a view that denies the existence of the supernatural in human life. In his view virtue exists in a godless universe but it is significantly different from virtue in a Christian universe, and he develops naturalistic accounts of humility, charity, and hope. The overarching theme of Virtue and Value in a Godless Universe is what ethics might look like without God. Erik Wielenberg takes readers on an extraordinary tour of some of the central landmarks of this under-explored territory. ~ Product Description
Richard Carrier (AuthorHouse: Feb 23, 2005), 444 pages.
If God does not exist, then what does? Is there good and evil, and should we care? How do we know what’s true anyway? And can we make any sense of this universe, or our own lives? Sense and Goodness answers all these questions in lavish detail, without complex jargon. A complete worldview is presented and defended, covering every subject from knowledge to art, from metaphysics to morality, from theology to politics. Topics include free will, the nature of the universe, the meaning of life, and much more, arguing from scientific evidence that there is only a physical, natural world without gods or spirits, but that we can still live a life of love, meaning, and joy. ~ Product Description
Jean Porter (Eerdmans: January 2005), 436 pages.
This noteworthy book develops a new theory of the natural law that takes its orientation from the account of the natural law developed by Thomas Aquinas, as interpreted and supplemented in the context of scholastic theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Though this history might seem irrelevant to twenty-first-century life, Jean Porter shows that the scholastic approach to the natural law still has much to contribute to the contemporary discussion of Christian ethics. Aquinas and his interlocutors provide a way of thinking about the natural law that is distinctively theological while at the same time remaining open to other intellectual perspectives, including those of science. In the course of her work, Porter examines the scholastics' assumptions and beliefs about nature, Aquinas's account of happiness, and the overarching claim that reason can generate moral norms. Ultimately, Porter argues that a Thomistic theory of the natural law is well suited to provide a starting point for developing a more nuanced account of the relationship between specific beliefs and practices. While Aquinas's approach to the natural law may not provide a system of ethical norms that is both universally compelling and detailed enough to be practical, it does offer something that is arguably more valuable — namely, a way of reflecting theologically on the phenomenon of human morality. ~ Product Description
Louis P. Pojman (Cengage Learning: August 2004), 208 pages.
Louis Pojman's new How Should We Live? is a concise and engaging text that offers a provocative discussion of the central questions and theories in moral philosophy. Crafted by one of contemporary philosophy's most gifted teachers, it begins with a poignant meditation on Golding's Lord of the Flies, a starting point for an eye-opening examination of central metaethical concepts such as relativism, objectivism, egoism, and whether or not religion is a necessity for morality. From there Pojman presents with even-handed consideration and in a readily accessible style the three most seminal ethical theories: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue-based ethics. The book's discussion culminates with a very timely exploration of the grounds for human rights in today's increasingly global society. ~ Product Description
G. E. Moore, original 1903 (Dover Publications: Aug 2004), 256 pages.
It took us thousands of years of struggling with science and ethics before we thought to combine the two. While scientific ethics has advanced only gradually, the science of ethics burst into existence in 1903 with the publication of G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica, which did for the study of morality what Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica did for mathematics — clarify old confusions and define terms that are still with us today. Practically overnight, ethicists turned into meta-ethicists, studying their own terms to establish theoretical ground on which to stand before trying to build any prescriptive edifices. Moore begins by clearing up some of the most widely spread confusions plaguing moral philosophy, such as the naturalistic fallacy of Bentham, Spencer, and others who insisted on a precise, concrete definition of good. According to Moore, we have to settle for an intuitive assessment of goodness, and his arguments are powerfully compelling. Proceeding to define terms and territory that have lasted a century, he revolutionized philosophy and single-handedly altered the course of ethical studies for generations. While Principia Ethica isn't the easiest book to read (a dictionary of philosophy comes in handy for most of us), it is well worth careful study by anyone interested in the difference between right and wrong. ~ Rob Lightner at Amazon.com
Linda T. Zagzebski (Cambridge University Press: August 2004), 410 pages.
Because she is widely regarded in the field of contemporary philosophy of religion, Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski's latest book will be a major contribution to ethical theory and theological ethics. At the core of her work lies a new form of virtue theory based on the emotions. Distinct from deontological, consequentialist and teleological virtue theories, this theory has a particular theological Christian foundation. ~ Product Description • "Well-written and cogently argued, this is an important text... Agree or disagree with Zagzebski's arguments, most readers will profit from this fine work." ~ J.A. Colombo, University of San Diego
John Hare in Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological and Religious Perspective (Eerdmans: 2004), pp. 187-203.
I am going to talk about the question of whether we can find an evolutionary basis for human morality. I am not a scientist, but a philosopher. So I am not going to try to pass judgment on the theory of evolution itself, as it applies to human beings. I do not regard philosophers as professionally competent either to pass a positive or negative judgment on the theory, except insofar as there are philosophical commitments embodied in it. However, I do regard myself as having made some progress in understanding human morality. In particular, I have been interested in and have written about the gap between the demands of morality on us and our natural capacities to meet those demands. This gap presents the problem of how we can be held accountable or responsible for a standard we are not equipped to meet either by innate capacity or natural development. So I want to ask the conditional question: if we assume that the theory of evolution as it applies to human beings is correct, does this help us answer the questions of whether we can be morally good and why we should be morally good? The first question, whether we can be morally good, is the question raised by the moral gap between the demands of morality and our natural capacities. It is only after answering this first question, “yes, we can be morally good,” that the second question arises of why we should be morally good, for we can only be held accountable or responsible for standards that we are able to reach. The burden of my presentation will be that we do not get an answer to these two questions from the theory of evolution. I am not arguing here that the theory is false, but that even if it is true, it doesn’t give us an answer. I will be looking at a number of recent attempts to provide such an answer from the theory, but I will claim that all of them fail.
William Lane Craig, presented to the Christian Theological Research Fellowship meeting at the AAR in November, 1996
William Lane Craig argues first that objective morality is indefensible apart from the existence of God, and second, therefore, that the evident fact of objective morality is evidence for the existence of God. If not A (no God) then not B (no objective morality), then conversely, B therefore A. Craig justifies his thesis by noting the inability of atheism to account for moral evaluation, moral responsibility, and moral accountability. He is careful to stipulate that he is not arguing that belief in God is required for moral action and character, as the argument is sometimes misconstrued. Rather, "that if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding." ~ Afterall
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 69-70.
The agents of atrocities have a self-interest in keeping their acts invisible, buried, and publicly forgotten. The Nazis meant to plough under every death camp, and Himmler once consoled his SS cohorts that, while the German public would never know the full scope of their service to racial cleansing of the nation, they should always take pride in their work. In South African torture cells, the torturers taunted their victims with the prediction that, just as no one could hear their present screams, no one would remember them in the future either. The moral damages of amnesia are multiple: to victims, whose final indignity in survival or in death is to have their suffering forgotten; to perpetrators, whose moral health cannot be restored without confrontation of their immorality; and — not least — to a public that has every prudent self-interest in knowing enough about an evil past to be put on alert against its repetition.
Philippa Foot (Oxford University Press: October 2003), 136 pages.
Philippa Foot has for many years been one of the most distinctive and influential thinkers in moral philosophy. Long dissatisfied with the moral theories of her contemporaries, she has gradually evolved a theory of her own that is radically opposed not only to emotivism and prescriptivism but also to the whole subjectivist, anti-naturalist movement deriving from David Hume. Dissatisfied with both Kantian and utilitarian ethics, she claims to have isolated a special form of evaluation that predicates goodness and defect only to living things considered as such; she finds this form of evaluation in moral judgements. Her vivid discussion covers topics such as practical rationality, erring conscience, and the relation between virtue and happiness, ending with a critique of Nietzsche's immoralism. This long-awaited book exposes a highly original approach to moral philosophy and represents a fundamental break from the assumptions of recent debates. Foot challenges many prominent philosophical arguments and attitudes; but hers is a work full of life and feeling, written for anyone intrigued by the deepest questions about goodness and human. ~ Product Description
Alexander Miller (Wiley, John & Sons: June 2003), 328 pages.
An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics provides a highly readable critical overview of the main arguments and themes in twentieth-century and contemporary metaethics. It traces the development of contemporary debates in metaethics from their beginnings in the work of G. E. Moore up to the most recent arguments between naturalism and non-naturalism, cognitivism and non-cognitivism. • A highly readable critical overview of the main arguments and themes in twentieth century and contemporary metaethics. • Asks: Are there moral facts? Is there such a thing as moral truth? Is moral knowledge possible? • Traces the development of contemporary debates in metaethics from their beginnings in the work of G. E. Moore up to the most recent debates between naturalism and non-naturalism, cognitivism and noncognitivism. • Provides for the first time a critical survey of famous figures in twentieth century metaethics such as Moore, Ayer and Mackie together with in-depth discussions of contemporary philosophers such as Blackburn, Gibbard, Wright, Harman, Railton, Sturgeon, McDowell and Wiggins. ~ Product Description
David Ross (Oxford University Press: January 2003), 256 pages.
The Right and the Good, a classic of twentieth-century philosophy by the eminent scholar Sir David Ross, is now presented in a new edition with a substantial introduction by Philip Stratton-Lake, a leading expert on Ross. Ross's book is the pinnacle of ethical intuitionism, which was the dominant moral theory in British philosophy for much of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Intuitionism is now enjoying a considerable revival, and Stratton-Lake provides the context for a proper understanding of Ross's great work today. ~ Product Description