J.L. Mackie’s Argument from Queerness against Objective Values

In his highly significant book, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, the late Oxford philosopher J.L. Mackie rejected moral objectivism and instead defended an error theory.[1] Although Mackie admitted that ordinary moral language and first-level moral beliefs imply moral objectivism, he argued on empirical grounds that moral objectivism is false.  Mackie called one of his anti-objectivist arguments the “argument from queerness.”  Mackie viewed his argument as having “two parts, one metaphysical, t … [Read more...]

Morality Cannot Have a Foundation in God: A Summary for the General Reader by Quentin Smith

The following essay was written by Quentin Smith around 2001 or 2002, but inexplicably fell through the cracks. While organizing files on my computer, I recently rediscovered it and am happy to be able to share it with our readers. I am posting it here, without taking a position pro or con, for interested readers. Feel free to debate in the combox.  MORALITY CANNOT HAVE A FOUNDATION IN GOD: A SUMMARY FOR THE GENERAL READER                                                   BY QUEN … [Read more...]

Index: Atheist Error Theorists

Many atheists have claimed that atheism entails that moral realism is false; many theistic apologists gleefully quote those atheists. But how do those atheists support their claim? This page provides an index to other Secular Outpost posts which discuss specific atheists' arguments for the claim that atheism somehow supports moral nihilism or error theory.Coyne, Jerry (see here; cf. here, here, here) "John" (see here and here) Mackie, J.L. (see here) Provine, William (see here … [Read more...]

Michael Ruse’s Argument against Moral Realism and for Error Theory

Michael Ruse is a philosopher of biology and an atheist who is well-known for his writings about evolution. In various writings, Ruse has argued against moral realism by appealing to (Darwinian) evolution. Instead, he argues, the scientific facts about evolution justify the conclusion that moral error theory is correct. In this post, I want to assess Ruse's argument against moral realism and for error theory.In his 1989 book, The Darwinian Paradigm, Michael Ruse argues that evolution, … [Read more...]

Does Evolution “Explain” Objective Morality? A Reply to Jerry Coyne

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne recently wrote about Leah Libresco's conversion from atheism to Catholicism based on a moral argument for God's existence. In his article, Coyne promotes the idea, which he has done many times before, that biological evolution somehow "explains" objective morality. While there is a sense in which Coyne is correct, that has nothing whatsoever to do with the kind of moral argument which Libresco finds persuasive. So while I join Coyne in rejecting Libresco's … [Read more...]

Amoral Atheism Part 2

Physics cannot justify why anything is morally right or wrong. No one says that is a defect of physics because that's not what physics is about.Like physics, atheism is also not about morality. So why should it be a defect of atheism that it cannot justify why anything is morally right or wrong? … [Read more...]

An F-Inductive Moral Argument for Theism

Here is an F-inductive argument for theism based on ontologically objective moral values. Note that this argument assumes that such things exist. If you don't think they exist, then you may want to skip reading this post.As usual, let B be our background information; E be the evidence to be explained (in this case, the existence of ontologically objective moral values); T be theism; and N be naturalism. Here is the explanatory argument.1. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1. … [Read more...]

Stan on Materialism and Morality

A reader named Stan recently posted many comments on another page on this blog about materialism and morality. I'm going to copy and paste several of his comments together to provide a convenient summary of his argument. Stan's Definitions Here is a summary of Stan's definitions. Materialism: functional materialism is the set of constraints on science; Philosophical Materialism claims that there is no possible existence which is not physical or derived straight from physical … [Read more...]


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