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...]

Books Like This Should be a Warning Signal to Inerrantists

I just saw an announcement of a new book by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan. Copan and Flannagan are good guys, but some of the positions they have to defend (because of their commitment to Biblical inerrancy) are not.  I'm embarrassed for inerrantists. Just look at the publisher's description (presumably written by one or both of the authors). Reconciling a violent Old Testament God with a loving Jesus Would a good, kind, and loving deity ever command the wholesale slaughter of nations? We … [Read more...]

Hard-Hitting Critique of WLC’s Moral Argument by John Danaher “Necessary Moral Truths and Theistic Metaethics”

To be precise, this paper applies to WLC's moral argument for God's existence as follows.1. WLC argues that God exists because objective moral values and duties exist.2. Critics (theist, agnostic, and atheist) of WLC's moral argument have pointed out that, according to one version of moral realism, moral truths are necessary truths. Necessary truths neither have nor need an explanation. Therefore, God isn't needed to explain necessary moral truths and, hence, isn't needed to explain o … [Read more...]