. John Cottingham suggests that “only a traditional theistic framework may be adequate for doing justice to the role of conscience in our lives.” Two main reasons for endorsing this proposition are assessed: the religious origins of conscience, and the need to explain its normative authority. I argue that Graeco-Roman conceptions of conscience cast doubt on this first historical claim, and that secular moral realisms can account for the obligatoriness of conscience. Nevertheless, the recognition of the need for an objective (...) foundation for conscience which emerges from these debates should be embraced by both secular and religious ethicists alike. (shrink)
Recent authors, emphasizing Newman’s distaste for natural theology—especially William Paley’s design argument—have urged us to follow Newman’s lead and reject design arguments. But I argue that Newman’s own argument for God’s existence (his argument from conscience) fails without a supplementary design argument or similar reason to think our faculties are truth-oriented. In other words, Newman appears to need the kind of argument he explicitly rejects. Finding Newman’s rejection of natural theology to stem primarily from factors other than worries about cogency, (...) however, I further argue that there is little reason not to pursue design arguments in order to save the argument from conscience. (shrink)
In his dialogue, 'Non posse suaviter vivi secundum Epicurum', Plutarch of Chaeronea criticizes Epicurus for not believing that the gods are provident over human affairs and for not believing that our souls survive death. However, Plutarch’s arguments are striking in that they do not offer any theoretical justification for believing either of these religious claims to be true; rather, they aim to establish that we are practically justified in adopting them if we follow Epicurus’s rule that the goal of belief (...) is not truth in its own right, but mental tranquility. I argue that this form of argument assumes a novel justificatory theory of religious belief, based in Epicurean thought, that I call ‘strong doxastic hedonism.’. (shrink)
William Lane Craig has defended the following two contentions: (1) If theism is true, we have a sound foundation for morality, and, (2) If theism is false, we do not have a sound foundation for morality. Erik Wielenberg rejects (2). Specifically, Wielenberg argues that naturalists have resources to make sense of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral knowledge. In response to Wielenberg, I defend Craig’s second contention by arguing that Wielenberg’s theory fails to robustly capture our moral phenomenology as (...) well as make intelligible robust moral knowledge. (shrink)
In my original paper, I claimed that our moral obligations are real, objective, and grounded in the supernatural. In particular, I endorsed the claim that God's will is the basis or source of our moral obligations, where “God” is to be understood as the theistic being who is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, who created the universe, and who is still actively involved in the universe after creating it. In his critical article, Michael Shermer has raised a number of important challenges (...) to my view. Here I try to defend the position and respond to at least his most serious objections. (shrink)
This paper is part of a six paper exchange with Michael Shermer. Section one explains how “God” is meant to be understood. Section two then introduces the position that morality depends in some way upon God. Section three turns to some of the leading arguments for this view. Finally, we will conclude with the most powerful challenge to this approach, namely what has come to be called the Euthyphro Dilemma.
This paper is part of a six paper exchange with Michael Shermer. This is my critical commentary on Michael Shermer's paper “Morality is real, objective, and natural.” Shermer and I agree that morality is both real and objective. Here I raise serious reservations about both Shermer's account of where morality comes from and his account of what morality tells us to do. His approach to the foundations of morality would allow some very disturbing behaviors to count as moral, and his (...) approach to what morality says does not provide the action guidance we need from a moral theory. (shrink)
Evolutionary game theory is ethically neutral: its assumption of ‘rationality’ has nothing to do with selfishness but is in fact entirely compatible with altruism. If altruism has an evolutionary explanation then this fact is of no theological relevance: in particular it is not any sort of evidence of a divine plan etc.
God and moral obligations -- What is a divine command theory of moral obligation? -- The relation of divine command theory to natural law and virtue ethics -- Objections to divine command theory -- Alternatives to a divine command theory -- Conclusions: The inescapability of moral obligations.
In recent years, William Lane Craig has vigorously championed a moral argument for God's existence. The backbone of Craig's argument is the claim that only God can provide a ' sound foundation in reality' for morality. The present article has three principal aims. The first is to interpret and clarify the account of the ontological foundation of morality proposed by Craig. The second is to press home an important objection to that account. The third is to expose the weakness of (...) Craig's case for saying that without God morality would be groundless and illusory. (shrink)
Part I: The 'explanatory gap'. 1. Why take morality to be objective? -- 2. The gap opens: evolution and our capacity for moral knowledge -- Part II: Secular responses. 3. Alternatives to realism: Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard -- 4. Procedures and reasons: Tim Scanlon and Christine Korsgaard -- 5. Natural goodness: Philippa Foot's moral objectivism -- 6. Natural goodness and 'second nature': John McDowell and David Wiggin -- Part III: Theism. 7. From goodness to God: closing the explanatory gap (...) -- 8. Purpose without theism? Axiarchism and Neoplatonism. (shrink)
Divine law theories of metaethics claim that moral rightness is grounded in God’s commands, wishes and so forth. Expressivist theories, by contrast, claim that to call something morally right is to express our own attitudes, not to report on God’s. Ostensibly, such views are incompatible. However, we shall argue that a rapprochement is possible and beneficial to both sides. Expressivists need to explain the difference between reporting and expressing an attitude, and to address the Frege-Geach problem. Divine law theorists need (...) to get past the Euthyphro dilemma, and to avoid moral externalism. This paper shows how a combined theory helps us to achieve this. (shrink)