I have been consistently judgmental — a pejorative characteristic these days, but a laudable trait in my opinion. For, to put it bluntly, just as humanity must distinguish between what is true and what is false, so it must discriminate between what is right and what is wrong. ¶ Good and Evil are not merely subjective perspectives of various civilizations. They are basic notions of humanity, even if often erring. They have to be decided by thoughtful exploration and not by public opinion poll. Just as the belief that the world is flat is mistaken, even if at one time most people thought it to be true, so to kill a person who is blameless is wicked, even if in some cultures it may be justified.
Do we desire things because they are good, or are they good because we desire them? Objectivists answer that we desire things because they are good; subjectivists answer that things are good because we desire them. Further, does it make sense to account for moral disagreement by claiming, as the moral relativist does, that something might be good for one person but not for another? Some essays in this book consider whether objective moral truths can be grounded in an understanding of the nature of human beings as rational and social animals. Some discuss the ethical theories of historical figures-Aristotle, Aquinas, or Kant-or offer critical assessments of the work of recent and contemporary theorists — such as Moore, Putnam, Ayn Rand, Philippa Foot, and Rosalind Hursthouse. Other essays ask whether moral principles and values can be constructed through a process of practical reasoning or deliberation. Still others consider what the phenomenology of our moral experiences can reveal about moral objectivity. ~ Product Description
This is an important book in contemporary meta-ethics since it is the first and only book-length treatise on so-called "Cornell Realism." What is perhaps most distinctive of the Cornell Realists is that they draw on work in recent philosophy of science to argue that we have good reason to believe that moral inquiry is objective in much the same way that scientific inquiry is objective. They also adhere to a battery of views on specific meta-ethical issues, and this helps to distinguish them from other thinkers. At the center of their metaphysics of morality is the view that moral facts and properties are natural, though they cannot be reduced to the properties of physics, biology, chemistry, or any other discipline in the natural sciences.
"David Brink’s book is the best development, synthesis, and defense now available of a naturalistic moral realism." ~ Ethics
Every culture has a concept of murder, distinguishing this from execution, killing in war, and other "justifiable homicides." The notion of incest and other regulation upon sexual behavior, the prohibition upon untruth under defined circumstances, of restitution and reciprocity, of mutual obligation between parents and children — these and many other moral concepts are altogether universal.
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 civilisation and, in the last resort, from a single centre — ‘carried’ like an infectious disease or like the Apostolical succession.