Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press: October 1, 1999)
The only boring aspect of this book is its title, which doesn't do justice to apologist Kreeft's intelligent, engaging dialogue between two fictional friends during a week of relaxation at Martha's Vineyard. Kreeft, philosophy professor at Boston College and author of more than 25 books, describes the absolutist character 'Isa as a Muslim fundamentalist from Palestine who teaches philosophy at the American University in Beirut. His interviewer and sparring partner is Libby Rawls, an African-American, liberal feminist journalist. Using a classic debate format, with impressive fairness to the opposite side, Kreeft defines relativism and its importance. Tracing relativism's evolution and history in Western philosophy, Kreeft notes that relativism is a fairly modern perspective, originating within the last few hundred years. He outlines the philosophical distinctions between it and absolutism with clarity and an integrity that will delight both the layperson and the professional philosopher. For Kreeft, relativism has eroded a collective and individual sense of accountability and contributed to social decay, yet he can see the other side, especially with regard to cross-cultural differences. Although the purpose of the book is to uphold absolutism, Kreeft outlines the relativist perspective in an approachable, respectful manner. By giving counterarguments a fighting chance, this becomes a book that may actually persuade people, not just preach to the absolutist choir. ~ Publishers Weekly
Craig A. Boyd (Brazos Press: November 2007), 272 pages.
Boyd presents an insightful account of natural law ethics, the view that ethical principles derive from the requirements of human nature. A prime obstacle to the acceptance of this type of ethics is that it transgresses the fact-value dichotomy. Boyd responds in detail to this objection, as well as to G.E. Moore's criticism of ethical naturalism. Although he defends natural law, Boyd holds that the classical version of that view as advanced by Thomas Aquinas cannot be accepted. It is based, he writes, on outdated biology, and attention to modern evolutionary theory results in a natural law position less universalistic in its claims than the classical doctrine. Boyd further criticizes other attempts to use evolutionary biology in ethics, as expressed in Larry Arnhart's Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature and the writings of E.O. Wilson. Natural law, Boyd argues, needs to be supplemented with virtue ethics. He also compares natural law to divine command ethics and addresses postmodernist and relativist criticisms. Boyd discusses an unusually wide range of material, and his challenging book is recommended for philosophy collections. ~ Product Description
Mark C. Murphy (Cornell University Press: August 2002), 224 pages.
In the first book wholly concerned with divine authority, Mark C. Murphy explores the extent of God's rule over created rational beings. The author challenges the view-widely supported by theists and nontheists alike-that if God exists, then humans must be bound by an obligation of obedience to this being. He demonstrates that this view, the "authority thesis," cannot be sustained by any of the arguments routinely advanced on its behalf, including those drawn from perfect being theology, metaethical theory, normative principles, and even Scripture and tradition. After exposing the inadequacies of the various arguments for the authority thesis, he develops his own solution to the problem of whether, and to what extent, God is authoritative. For Murphy, divine authority is a contingent matter: while created rational beings have decisive reason to subject themselves to the divine rule, they are under divine authority only insofar as they have chosen to allow God's decisions to take the place of their own in their practical reasoning. The author formulates and defends his arguments for this view, and notes its implications for understanding the distinctiveness of Christian ethics. ~ 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
Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man") (1033-1109).
When it is said that what God wishes is just, and that what He does not wish is unjust, we must not understand that if God wished anything improper it would be just, simply because he wished it. For if God wishes to lie, we must not conclude that it is right to lie, but rather that he is not God. For no will can ever wish to lie, unless truth in it is impaired, nay, unless the will itself be impaired by forsaking truth. When, then, it is said: "If God wishes to lie," the meaning is simply this: "If the nature of God is such as that he wishes to lie;" and, therefore, it does not follow that falsehood is right, except it be understood in the same manner as when we speak of two impossible things: "If this be true, then that follows; because neither this nor that is true;" as if a man should say: "Supposing water to be dry, and fire to be moist;" for neither is the case. Therefore, with regard to these things, to speak the whole truth: If God desires a thing, it is right that he should desire that which involves no unfitness. For if God chooses that it should rain, it is right that it should rain; and if he desires that any man should die, then is it right that he should die. Wherefore, if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has
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.
Michael Martin (Prometheus: Oct, 2002), 330 pages.
Despite the pluralism of contemporary American culture, the Judaeo-Christian legacy still has a great deal of influence on the popular imagination. Thus it is not surprising that in this context atheism has a slightly scandalous ring, and unbelief is often associated with the lack of morality and a meaningless existence. Distinguished philosopher and committed atheist Michael Martin sets out to refute such notions in this thorough defense of atheism as both a moral and a meaningful philosophy of life. Martin shows not only that objective morality and a purposeful life are possible without belief in God but also that the predominantly Christian worldview of American society is seriously flawed as the basis of morality and meaning. ~ Product Description
Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1955), 171.
[T]here was one way in which the world, as ... rationalism taught me to see it, gratified my wishes. It might be grim and deadly but at least it was free from the Christian God. Some people (not all) will find it hard to understand why this seemed to me such an overwhelming advantage... I was, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission. To such a craven the materialist's universe had the enormous attraction that it offered you limited liabilities. No strictly infinite disaster could overtake you in it. Death ended all. And if ever finite disaster proved greater than one wished to bear suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit.
John Hare, presented at Baylor University (April 2002).
Hare summarizes his talk as follows: "I have been defending a divine command theory of the right. The version I have been defending is that of Duns Scotus. In this version we distinguish between the two tables of the law, or the two great commandments Jesus gives us. The first, we say, is necessary. God has to order us towards loving God. The second is contingent, and is the route God has chosen for us to reach our final destination, which is union with God. I have then replied to two objections to this view. First, there is the objection that divine command theory makes morality arbitrary. The reply is that the route is not arbitrary because it does lead to our destination. The second objection is that divine command theory makes morality infantile. The reply is that if there is a God who knows what is good for all of creation, then it is not infantile to follow the commands of such a being, but excellent good sense." Also see, "Can We Be Good Without God?".
John Hare, presented at Baylor University (April 2002).
Here is the thesis of this paper. Morality as we are familiar with it in our culture originally made sense against the background of a set of beliefs and practices in traditional theism. In elite Western culture these beliefs and practices have now been widely abandoned. The result is that morality no longer makes sense within that culture the way it once did. There are two problem areas in particular that I will stress. The first is the gap between the moral demand on us and our natural capacities to meet it. This gap produces the question: Can we be morally good? The second problem area is the source of the authority of morality. This produces the question: Why should we be morally good? The traditional answer to these questions has been that God enables us to live in the way we should, and that we should live that way because God calls us to live that way. I will be looking at various kinds of incoherence that arise when these traditional answers are no longer available. [Also see, "Can We Be Good With God?"]
Norman L. Geisler (Baker Academic: Sep 1, 1989), 336 pages.
An introductory presentation of Christian ethics, where the Bible is taken as the authoritative text for discussing issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. "This book is the most current of Geisler's books on ethics and incorporates many of the points of previous works such as Ethics: Alternatives & Issues, Options in Contemporary Christian Ethics, and The Christian Ethic of Love. The book is, as the title suggests, a presentation of Christian ethics, so the Bible is taken as the standard text for discussing certain issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. But scientific and rational arguments are also used in addition to Biblical exposition to reach conclusions." ~ Cameron B. Clark @ Amazon.com
James Rachels (Oxford University Press: Aug 1, 1990), 256 pages.
A remarkably clear, straightforward, and brief (211-page) discussion, from a Univ. of Alabama philosophy professor, of the implications of Darwinism for animal rights. Most of Rachels' book is a review of Darwin's work and of the responses and relevant ideas of biologists, philosophers, and others - both Darwin's contemporaries who rejected his theories for their assault on religion and human dignity, and other thinkers who have argued that humanity's creation in the image of God or, later, human speech, intellect, and/or moral sense make human specialness compatible with evolution. Rachels then puts forth his own argument for "moral individualism," based on his belief that evolution precludes the concept of human specialness and forces a reconsideration of our treatment of animals. In the end, he restores a sort of relativist respect for human claims in his distinction between "biological" and "biographical" life, but this same distinction supports his assertion that a rhesus monkey might have a higher claim to consideration than a severely brain-damaged human. But such a summary ignores the specific topics of debate, as well as the arguments of philosophers from Kant to sociobiologists and animal-rights advocates, that Rachels characterizes so neatly and accessibly - and that, along with his own provocative argument, should earn the book serious attention. ~ Kirkus Reviews
Larry Arnhart (State University of New York Press: May 1, 1998), 332 pages.
This book shows how Darwinian biology supports an Aristotelian view of ethics as rooted in human nature. Defending a conception of "Darwinian natural right" based on the claim that the good is the desirable, the author argues that there are at least twenty natural desires that are universal to all human societies because they are based in human biology. The satisfaction of these natural desires constitutes a universal standard for judging social practice as either fulfilling or frustrating human nature, although prudence is required in judging what is best for particular circumstances. The author studies the familial bonding of parents and children and the conjugal bonding of men and women as illustrating social behavior that conforms to Darwinian natural right. He also studies slavery and psychopathy as illustrating social behavior that contradicts Darwinian natural right. He argues as well that the natural moral sense does not require religious belief, although such belief can sometimes reinforce the dictates of nature.
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739) Part 1, Sect. 1.
Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance. 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 reflexion 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...
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.
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
"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.
"Is Christianity Good for the World?", Christianity Today debate between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens. (May, 2007)
But it is interesting that the same thing happens to you when you have to give some warrant for trusting in "reason". I noted your citation of LaPlace in your book and am glad you brought him up here. LaPlace believed he was not in need of the God hypothesis, just like you, but you should also know he held this position as a firmbeliever in celestial and terrestrial mechanics. He was a causal determinist, meaning that he believed that every element of the universe in the present was "the effect of its past and the cause of its future."
Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, ed. (Cornell University Press: Jan 1, 1989), 317 pages.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the best single volume on the realism/anti-realism dispute in contemporary meta-ethics. Basically, what is at issue between realists and anti-realists is the objectivity of ethics. According to Sayre-McCord, the central issue is the existence of moral facts. Realists claim that such facts exist; anti-realists deny their existence. There is more to the debate than this, however. The following is a list of claims that most realists will make about morality: (i) there are moral facts (or moral truths), and these facts (or truths) are mind-independent in some important way; (ii) cognitivism about moral discourse is true: that is, moral moral claims purport to describe moral facts (or moral truths), and (at least some of) these claims successfully do so; and (iii) moral knowledge is possible, and we have some of it. ~ ctdreyer