Erik J. Wielenberg draws on recent work in analytic philosophy and empirical moral psychology to defend non-theistic robust normative realism, according to which there are objective ethical features of the universe that do not depend on God for their existence. He goes on to develop an empirically-grounded account of human moral knowledge.
Evolutionary debunkers of morality hold this thesis: If S’s moral belief that P can be given an evolutionary explanation, then S’s moral belief that P is not knowledge. In this paper, I debunk a variety of arguments for this thesis. I first sketch a possible evolutionary explanation for some human moral beliefs. Next, I explain how, given a reliabilist approach to warrant, my account implies that humans possess moral knowledge. Finally, I examine the debunking arguments of Michael Ruse, Sharon Street, (...) and Richard Joyce. I draw on the account of moral knowledge sketched earlier to illustrate how these arguments fail. -/- . (shrink)
Suppose there is no God. This might imply 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 and good and evil have no place. Erik J. Wielenberg believes this view to be mistaken and in this book he explains why. He argues that even if God does not exist, human life can have meaning, we do have moral obligations, and virtue is possible. (...) Naturally, the author sees virtue in a Godless universe as different from virtue in a Christian universe, and he develops naturalistic accounts of humility, charity, and hope. The moral landscape in a Godless universe is different from the moral landscape in a Christian universe, but it does indeed exist. Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe is a tour of some of the central landmarks of this under-explored territory. (shrink)
Many believe that objective morality requires a theistic foundation. I maintain that there are sui generis objective ethical facts that do not reduce to natural or supernatural facts. On my view, objective morality does not require an external foundation of any kind. After explaining my view, I defend it against a variety of objections posed by William Wainwright, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland.
In this paper I develop a novel challenge for sceptical theists. I present a line of reasoning that appeals to sceptical theism to support scepticism about divine assertions. I claim that this reasoning is at least as plausible as one popular sceptical theistic strategy for responding to evidential arguments from evil. Thus, I seek to impale sceptical theists on the horns of a dilemma: concede that either (a) sceptical theism implies scepticism about divine assertions, or (b) the sceptical theistic strategy (...) for responding to evidential arguments from evil fails. An implication of (a) is that sceptical theism is at odds with any religious tradition according to which there are certain claims that we can know to be true solely in virtue of the fact that God has told us that they are true. This result will render conceding (a) unattractive to many sceptical theists. (shrink)
In this paper I develop a novel challenge for sceptical theists. I present a line of reasoning that appeals to sceptical theism to support scepticism about divine assertions. I claim that this reasoning is at least as plausible as one popular sceptical theistic strategy for responding to evidential arguments from evil. Thus, I seek to impale sceptical theists on the horns of a dilemma: concede that either sceptical theism implies scepticism about divine assertions, or the sceptical theistic strategy for responding (...) to evidential arguments from evil fails. An implication of is that sceptical theism is at odds with any religious tradition according to which there are certain claims that we can know to be true solely in virtue of the fact that God has told us that they are true. This result will render conceding unattractive to many sceptical theists. (shrink)
One of the cornerstones of western theology is the doctrine of divine omnipotence. God is traditionally conceived of as an omnipotent or all-powerful being. However, satisfactory analyses of omnipotence are notoriously elusive. In this paper, I first consider some simple attempts to analyze omnipotence, showing how each fails. I then consider two more sophisticated accounts of omnipotence. The first of these is presented by Edward Wierenga; the second by Thomas Flint and Alfred Freddoso. I argue that both of these accounts (...) fail. Finally, I propose and defend a novel account of omnipotence. (shrink)
I draw on the literature on skeptical theism to develop an argument against Christian theism based on the widespread existence of suffering that appears to its sufferer to be gratuitous and is combined with the sense that God has abandoned one or never existed in the first place. While the core idea of the argument is hardly novel, key elements of the argument are importantly different from other influential arguments against Christian theism. After explaining that argument, I make the case (...) that the argument is untouched by traditional skeptical theism. I then consider positive skeptical theism, arguing that while DePoe’s view might provide a response to my argument, it entangles the theist in worries about divine deception. Because traditional skeptical theism and DePoe’s positive skeptical theism constitute the most promising extant strategies for answering my argument, the argument constitutes a serious challenge for the Christian theist. My overall aim, then, is to draw on various strands of the skeptical theism literature to present a challenge for all Christian theists, not just those in the skeptical theist camp, while at the same time revealing some important limitations of skeptical theism. (shrink)
In his recent book Lack of Character, John Doris argues that people typically lack character (understood in a particular way). Such a claim, if correct, would have devastating implications for moral philosophy and for various human moral projects (e.g. character development). I seek to defend character against Doris's challenging attack. To accomplish this, I draw on Socrates, Aristotle, and Kant to identify some of the central components of virtuous character. Next, I examine in detail some of the central experiments in (...) social psychology upon which Doris's argument is based. I argue that, properly understood, such experiments reveal differences in the characters of their subjects, not that their subjects lack character altogether. I conclude with some reflections on the significance of such experiments and the importance of character. (shrink)
I present a novel argument for the position that a morally unsurpassable God must create the best world that He has the power to create. I show that grace-based considerations of the sort proposed by Robert Adams neither refute my argument nor establish that a morally unsurpassable God need not create the best. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of my argument for the ‘no-best-world’ response to the problem of evil. (Published Online February 17 2004).
In Robust Ethics, I defend a nontheistic version of moral realism according to which moral properties are sui generis, not reducible to other kinds of properties (e.g., natural properties or supernatural properties) and objective morality requires no foundation external to itself. I seek to provide a plausible account of the metaphysics and epistemology of the robust brand of moral realism I favor that draws on both analytic philosophy and contemporary empirical moral psychology. In this paper, I respond to some objections (...) to my view advanced by William Craig, Mark Murphy, Tyler McNabb, and Adam Johnson. (shrink)
In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: "God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?" Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in (...) the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate - J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. Key Features A valuable debate about whether or not God is the best explanation for objective morality, bringing together theists and atheists working on the same subject who normally are not in conversation with each other. Includes clear coverage of ontological and epistemological issues in metaethical theories, focusing on Divine Command Theory and Non-natural Robust Moral Realism. Engaging and accessible throughout, making the book well suited for undergraduate and seminary classrooms. (shrink)
Erik Wielenberg has presented an objection to divine command theory (DCT) alleging that DCT has the troubling implication that psychopaths have no moral obligations. Matthew Flannagan has replied to Wielenberg’s argument. Here, I defend the view that, despite Flannagan’s reply, the psychopath objection presents a serious problem for the versions of DCT defended by its most prominent contemporary advocates — Robert Adams, C. Stephen Evans, and William Lane Craig.
C. S. Lewis is one of the most beloved Christian apologists of the twentieth century; David Hume and Bertrand Russell are among Christianity’s most important critics. This book puts these three intellectual giants in conversation with one another on various important questions: the existence of God, suffering, morality, reason, joy, miracles, and faith. Alongside irreconcilable differences, surprising areas of agreement emerge. Curious readers will find penetrating insights in the reasoned dialogue of these three great thinkers.
This essay addresses two popular worries about morality in an atheistic context. The first is a psychological or sociological one: the worry that unbelief makes one more disposed to act immorally than one would be if one had theistic beliefs and, consequently, widespread atheism produces societal dysfunction. This essay argues that the relationship between atheism and human moral beliefs and behaviour is complex, and that highly secularized societies can also be deeply moral societies. The second worry is philosophical in nature: (...) the worry that if there is no God or gods, then there are also no objective moral truths or facts. This essay make the case that the question of whether there are objective moral truths is independent of the existence or nonexistence of God. In the final section, the essay discusses the nature and possible grounds of objective morality in an atheistic context. (shrink)
Juan Comesaña and Carolina Sartorio have recently proposed a diagnosis of what goes wrong in apparently illegitimate cases of ‘bootstrapping’ one’s way toexcessively easy knowledge. They argue that in such cases the bootstrapper bases at least one of her beliefs on evidence that does not evidentially support the proposition believed. I explicate the principle that underlies Comesaña and Sartorio’s diagnosis of such cases and show that their account of what goes wrong in such cases is mistaken.
Alvin Plantinga has famously argued that naturalism is self-defeating. Plantinga's argument is, at its heart, an argument from analogy. Plantinga presents various epistemic situations and claims of each that (i) a person in such a situation has an undefeated defeater for each of his beliefs, and (ii) a reflective naturalist is in a relevantly similar situation. I present various epistemic situations and claim of each that a person in such a situation does not have an undefeated defeater for each of (...) his beliefs. I further claim that at least some of these situations are more relevantly like the situation faced by the reflective naturalist than any of the situations Plantinga describes. Therefore, Plantinga's argument fails to establish that the reflective naturalist has an undefeated defeater for each of his beliefs and hence fails to establish that naturalism is self-defeating. (shrink)
Gerald Harrison identifies two Euthyphro-related concerns for divine command theories and makes the case that to the extent that these concerns make trouble for divine command theories they also make trouble for non-naturalistic moral realism and naturalistic moral realism. He also offers responses to the two concerns on behalf of divine command theorists. I show here that the parity thesis does not hold for the most commonly discussed version of divine command theory. I further argue that his responses to the (...) two concerns fail. Finally, I draw on some of Harrison’s ideas to identify an advantage that non-naturalistic moral realism has over divine command theories and naturalistic moral realism. (shrink)
I argue that William Craig’s defence of the moral argument is internally inconsistent. In the course of defending the moral argument, Craig criticizes non-theistic moral realism on the grounds that it posits the existence of certain logically necessary connections but fails to provide an adequate account of why such connections hold. Another component of Craig’s defence of the moral argument is an endorsement of a particular version of the divine command theory. Craig’s version of DCT posits certain logically necessary connections (...) but Craig fails to provide an adequate account of why these connections hold. Thus, Craig’s critique of non-theistic moral realism is at odds with his DCT. Since the critique and DCT are both essential elements of his defence of the moral argument, that defence is internally inconsistent. (shrink)
William Lane Craig’s inuential kalam cosmological argument concludes that the universe has a cause of its beginning. Craig provides some supplementary reasoning to suggest that the first cause is God—a God that exists timelessly without the universe and temporally with the universe. I argue that Craig’s hypothesis about the nature of the first cause is impossible. In particular, it cannot be the case that God timelessly wills to create the universe and the universe begins to exist.
I critically examine Alexander Pruss’s conception of the one-body union described in Genesis 2:24. Pruss appeals to his conception of the one-body union to advance two arguments for the conclusion that homosexual sex is morally wrong. I propose an alternative conception of the one- body union that implies that heterosexual and homosexual couples alike can participate in the one-body union; I take that implication of my account to be a significant advantage over Pruss’s account.
Alfred Mele and M.P. Smith have presented a puzzle about omnipotence which they call “the new paradox of the stone.” They have also proposed a solution to this puzzle. I briefly present their puzzle and their proposed solution and argue that their proposed solution is unsatisfactory. I further argue that if their suggested solution to the original paradox of the stone succeeds, a similar solution also solves the new paradox of the stone.
The dissertation is centered around the Moral Virtuosity Project . The central task of the dissertation is to examine what other philosophers have had to say on this topic and ultimately to successfully complete this project. ;Chapter One is concerned exclusively with Aristotle's attempt to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. I defend the view that Aristotle holds that each moral virtue is a disposition toward proper practical reasoning, action, and emotion within a certain sphere. I critically examine Aristotle's argument for (...) the unity of the virtues. I then try to point to some areas where Aristotle's views on moral virtue fail to correspond with our ordinary common sense views on moral virtue. ;Chapter Two has three main parts. First, I consider Immanuel Kant's attempt to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. I develop an interpretation of Kant's views on this topic. Second, I take up the topic of the relationship between Aristotle's views on moral virtue and Kant's views on moral virtue. Third, I examine some objections to Kant's views on moral virtue. I conclude that Kant's account of moral virtue goes wrong because it is inextricably tied up with the concept of moral obligation. ;Chapter Three is devoted to critical discussions of contemporary attempts to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. Authors whose views are discussed include: G. H. von Wright, Philippa Foot, Judith Thomson, Linda Zagzebski, and Thomas Hurka. I conclude that each view has serious problems. ;In Chapter Four I develop a novel account of moral virtue by appealing to the concept of admirability. Drawing on work on virtue by Michael Slote, I try to shed some light on the concept of admirability and distinguish the concept from related concepts. I then appeal to the concept of admirability to explicate the concept of a moral virtue, thus completing the Moral Virtuosity Project. I discuss a number of other topics, including "hard cases", excessive virtue, and two sorts of morally virtuous persons: the Good Hearted Hero and the Conflicted Hero. (shrink)
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims that just about everyone agrees that the highest good is eudaimonia while disagreeing with one another about what eudaimonia is. A similar situation exists among many contemporary philosophers: they agree that naturalism is true while disagreeing with one another about what naturalism is. By their lights, the claim that a given entity exists is worth taking seriously only if the entity in question is compatible with naturalism ; otherwise, the entity is queer or spooky (...) and the claim that it exists should be rejected outright.In God, Value, and Nature, Fiona Ellis considers five increasingly expansive version of naturalism, ranging from a view according to which the only entities that qualify as natural rather than spookily supernatural are those that can be studied by the hard sciences to a view about that classifies the Christian God as natural. Part of Ellis’s project is to consider the extent to wh .. (shrink)
In his recent book "Divine Providence: The Molinist Account," Thomas Flint suggests that necessarily, a world is culled iff it is chosen. I argue that there is good reason to think that this thesis is false. I further argue that the thesis is inconsistent with certain other claims that many theists will want to endorse and hence that many theists will want to reject Flint's claim. I next consider Flint's reasons for endorsing the thesis and argue that his reasons are (...) not good ones. I then examine the implications of this debate with respect to two varieties of Molinism: Fourth Momentism and Fifth Momentism. Finally, I consider some objections to my view. (shrink)
C. S. Lewis is one of the most beloved Christian apologists of the twentieth century; David Hume and Bertrand Russell are among Christianity's most important critics. This book puts these three intellectual giants in conversation with one another to shed light on some of life's most difficult yet important questions. It examines their views on a variety of topics, including the existence of God, suffering, morality, reason, joy, miracles, and faith. Along with irreconcilable differences and points of tension, some surprising (...) areas of agreement emerge. Today, amidst the often shrill and vapid exchanges between 'new atheists' and twenty-first-century believers, curious readers will find penetrating insights in the reasoned dialogue of these three great thinkers. (shrink)
I distinguish two kinds of pleasures – value–based pleasures, which can be explained in terms of the values of those who experience them, and brute pleasures, which cannot be so explained. I apply this distinction to three related projects. First, I critically examine a recent discussion of moral character by Colin McGinn, arguing that McGinn offers a distorted view of good character. Second, I try to elucidate certain remarks Aristotle makes about the relationships between pleasure and courage and pleasure and (...) temperance. Third, I appeal to the distinction to elucidate the topic of moral improvement. (shrink)