Does Darwinism Make Morality Fictional?

Larry Arnhart always writes terrific blog posts; this one from 2013 is no exception. (If you're a regular reader of the Secular Outpost but not of his blog, then you should start reading his blog.) In this post, he takes issue with (among others) Michael Ruse's claim that evolutionary naturalism undermines the foundations of morality. Aside: isn't it amazing how apologists like William Lane Craig will quote Michael Ruse to make an argument from authority to support the claim that atheism leads t … [Read more...]

Atheism, Morality, and Divine Nature Theories vs. Ideal Observer Theories

This another item I found while organizing material on my hard drive. I think I am the author, but I am not certain of that. What is the advantage of divine nature theories over ideal observer theories?  Consider, for example, a divine nature theory of moral value.  On such a view, God’s nature, not God, is the source of moral value.  But what is the distinction between God and His nature?  Presumably, God’s nature is simply the collection of God’s properties or attributes (e.g., the property of … [Read more...]

Quentin Smith’s Argument for Moral Realism

I am summarizing Smith's argument here, without comment pro or con, for interested readers. Feel free to debate in the combox.In his history of 20th century moral philosophy, Ethical and Religious Thought, Quentin Smith draws the following distinction between first-level and second-level ethical beliefs: A first-level ethical belief is that something is good or evil or that something is of equal or greater value than something else, for example, that philosophical understanding is at least a … [Read more...]

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...]

What *Is* the Logical Structure of Mackie’s Anti-Moral Realism Argument?

Although the contemporary metaethics literature contains many references to (and discussions of) the late J.L. Mackie's arguments against moral realism, I've never seen anyone formally analyze its logical structure. (If I'm mistaken and someone has done that, please provide a citation in the combox.) The goal of this post is to try to take first step towards filling that lacuna.The primary source of Mackie's argument(s) against moral realism may be found in his classic book, Ethics: … [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...]


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