Good & Evil, Right & Wrong
Normative Ethics (Westview Press: 1998), pp. 15-6.
The position we have arrived at is this: in defending a moral theory, we must see how well that theory fits in with a wide variety of judgments that we are inclined to make about many different matters. We have opinions about cases, about principles, about the nature of morality, about what counts as an adequate explanation, and more. Some of these opinions are fairly specific, others are more general; some are arrived at rather "intuitively" and spontaneously, others only after considerable reflection; some are extremely difficult to give up, others are more easily abandoned. We try to find the moral theory that provides the overall fit with this eclectic set of beliefs. But if — as seems overwhelmingly likely — no theory can actually accomodate all of the relevant initial beliefs, we revise the set: we alter our beliefs, and reevaluate our theories, until we arrive as best we can at a theory that seems on balance to be more plausible than any of its rivals. Ultimately, then, defending a normative theory is a matter of arguing that it provides the best overall fit with our various considered judgments.
Normative Ethics (Westview Press: 1998), p. 1.
How should one live? There are few questions, I think, that are as gripping and as inescapable as this one. Unlike many of the other classical questions of philosophy, this question — the central question of moral philosophy — seems pressing and important. It matters what answers we come up with, for it matters what I do with my life. What I make of myself, how I live, what I do, what kind of person I become — these things are of vital concern to each of us, even if few of us normally reflect on them in a systematic or critical fashion.
"A Critique of Moral Relativism", in Ethical Theory (Wadsworth, 1998), 41.
If there were only one person on earth, there would be no occasion for morality because there wouldn't be any interpersonal conflicts to resolve or others whose suffering he or she would have a duty to ameliorate. Subjectivism implicitly assumes something of this solipsism, an atomism in which isolated individuals make up separate universes. Subjectivism treats individuals like billiard balls on a societal pool table where they meet only in radical collision, each aimed at his or her own goal and striving to do in the others before they themselves are done in. This atomistic view of personality is belied by the facts that we develop in which we share a common language, common institution, and similar rituals and habits, and that we often feel one another's joys and sorrow. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent."
"A Critique of Moral Relativism", in Ethical Theory (Wadsworth, 1998), 49.
Imagine that you have been miraculously transported to the dark kingdom of hell, and there you get a glimpse of the sufferings of the damned. What is their punishment? Well, they have eternal back itches, which ebb and flow constantly. But they cannot scratch their backs, for their arms are paralyzed in a frontal position, so they writhe with itchiness throughout eternity. But just as you are beginning to feel the itch in you own back, you are suddenly transported to heaven. What do you see in the kingdom of the blessed? Well, you see people with eternal back itches, who cannot scratch their own backs. But they are all smiling instead of writhing. Why? Because everyone has his or her arms stretched out to scratch someone else's back, and, so arranged in one big circle, a hell is turned into a heaven of ecstasy. In our story people in heaven, but not in hell, cooperate for the amelioration of suffering and the production of pleasure. These are very primitive goods, not sufficient for a full-blown morality, but they give us a hint as to the objectivity of morality. Moral goodness has something to do with the ameliorating of suffering, the resolution of conflict and the promotion of human flourishing.
Thomas Nagel on Ethics said...
The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 103.
[J]ust as there was no guarantee at the beginning of cosmological and scientific speculation that we humans had the capacity to arrive at objective truth beyond the deliverances of sense-perception — that in pursing it we were doing anything more than spinning collective fantasies — so there can be no decision in advance as to whether we are or are not talking about a subject when we reflect and argue about morality. The answer must come from the results themselves. Only the effort to reason about morality can show us whether it is possible, whether, in thinking about what to do and how to live, we can find methods, reasons, and principles whose validity does not have to be subjectively or relativistically qualified.
J.P. Moreland on the Good Life said...
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 35.
From Old Testament times and ancient Greece until this century, the good life was widely understood to mean a life of intellectual and moral virtue. The good life is the life of ideal human functioning according to the nature that God Himself gave to us. According to this view, prior to creation God had in mind an ideal blueprint of human nature from which he created each and every human being. Happiness was understood as a life of virtue, and the successful person was one who knew how to live life well according to what we are by nature due to the creative design of God.
John Stott on Abortion said...
Authentic Christianity (Intervarsity Press: 1996) pp. 367-8.
The popular euphemisms make it easier for us to conceal the truth from ourselves. The occupant of the mother's womb is not a 'product of conception' or 'gametic material', but an unborn child. Even 'pregnancy' tells us not more than that a woman has been 'impregnated', whereas the truth in old-fashioned language is that she is 'with child'. How can we speak of the 'termination of a pregnancy' when what is terminated is not just the mother's pregnancy but the child's life? And how can we describe the average abortion today as 'therapeutic' (a word originally used only when the mother's life was at stake), when pregnancy is not a disease needing therapy, and what abortion effects nowadays is not a cure but a killing? And how can people think of abortion as no more than a kind of contraceptive, when what it does is not prevent conception but destroy the conceptus? We need to have the courage to use accurate language. Induced abortion is feticide, the deliberate destruction of an unborn child, the shedding of innocent blood.
John Stott on Abortion said...
Authentic Christianity, (Intervarsity Press) 1996, p. 367
Since the life of the human fetus is a human life, with the potential of becoming a mature human being, we have to learn to think of mother and unborn child as two human beings at different stages of development. Doctors and nurses have to consider that they have two patients, not one, and must seek the well-being of both. Lawyers and politicians need to think similarly. As the United Nations' 'Declaration of the Rights of the Child' (1959) put it, the child 'needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth'. Christians would wish to add 'extra care before birth'. For the Bible has much to say about God's concern for the defenceless, and the most defenceless of all people are unborn children. They are speechless to plead their own cause and helpless to protect their own life. So it is our responsibility to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 529.
One of the first things I ever said to you was that I'm old-fashioned where romance is concerned. "A dinosaur I think I called myself. Being a dinosaur, I made a huge exception to my own laws of survival when I started living with you. But I didn't start living with you because I'd changed. I did it because I couldn't help it. There's a big difference. I never really thought we were living "in sin'' (I'm not that Paleolithic.) But we were living with dangerously little definition by my standards, which standards are based, by the way, on my belief that romance isn't just romance, that it naturally leads to love-making, which naturally leads to babies, who are naturally helpless creatures in a naturally beautiful but lethal world, so they naturally need as many pieces of the ancient Father-Mother-Shaman-Tribe-Home-hearth Paradigm as we are able to gracefully give them.
Robin Le Poidevin on Ethics said...
Arguing for Atheism, (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 85.
If God is the basis of moral values, then such values must be objective, and we are, therefore, faced with the following questions: (1) How do we come to be aware of these moral values, if they exist entirely independently of us? (2) Why do moral facts supervene on natural facts? (3) How can the existence of objective moral values be reconciled with the existence of different conceptions of what is right. These difficulties are not faced by the atheist.