What is Morality? Meta-Ethics in Plain Talk (version 1.0, pdf)
44 Pages
English
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What is Morality? Meta-Ethics in Plain Talk (version 1.0, pdf)

Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer
44 Pages
English

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US%T%.B%IU$PBJZ!J8M What is Morality?meta-ethics in plain talkVersion 1.0, March 2009This book is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNoncommercial 3.0 license. You may copy andmodify this work freely, as long as you (1) attribute this original work to Luke Muehlhauser, and (2) don’t chargemoney for any derivative works.http://commonsenseatheism.comhttp://lukeprog.comCover photo by Flickr user samsnet, used under Creative Commons license:http://flickr.com/photos/samsnet/132997008/Many thanks to Alonzo Fyfe, who spent decades developing the theory defended in this book, and who proofedearly drafts of this book.Free audiobook version also available, at http://commonsenseatheism.com.1ContentsChapter 1 Chapter 6Good and Bad..............................................3 Morality as a Myth.....................................18Chapter 2 Chapter 7Gods............................................................8 Moral Value that Really Exists....................21Chapter 3 Chapter 8Virtue........................................................10 Objections.................................................30Chapter 4 Chapter 9Duty..........................................................12 How to Make the World a Better Place.......37Chapter 5The Greatest Good.....................................152CHAPTER 1GOOD AND BAD§Some people don't care what is good or ...

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What is Morality? meta-ethics in plain talk
Version 1.0, March 2009
This book is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNoncommercial 3.0 license. You may copy and modify this work freely, as long as you (1) attribute this original work to Luke Muehlhauser, and (2) don’t charge money for any derivative works.
http://commonsenseatheism.com http://lukeprog.com
Cover photo by Flickr user samsnet, used under Creative Commons license: http://flickr.com/photos/samsnet/132997008/
Many thanks to Alonzo Fyfe, who spent decades developing the theory defended in this book, and who proofed early drafts of this book.
Free audiobook version also available, at http://commonsenseatheism.com.
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Chapter 1 Good and Bad..............................................3
Chapter 2 Gods............................................................8
Chapter 3 Virtue........................................................10
Chapter 4 Duty..........................................................12
Chapter 5 The Greatest Good.....................................15
Contents
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Chapter 6 Morality as a Myth.....................................18
Chapter 7 Moral Value that Really Exists....................21
Chapter 8 Objections.................................................30
Chapter 9 How to Make the World a Better Place.......37
CHAPTER1 GOOD ANDBAD
§
Some people don't care what is good or bad. They don't care if they make the world a better place, a worse place, or if they leave no mark on it at all.
This book is for people whocare, and who want to make the worldbetter.
If you're one of those people, you have chosen a hazardous course. Billions of people before you wanted to make the world a better place, but they actually made itworse.
During World War II, German and Japanese soldiers thought they were fighting to make the world better. If you had been born in  in Japan, you would have thought the same thing. All those people died making the worldworse, despite their best efforts to make it better.
Billions of wellmeaning people defended and spread tribalism, slavery, sexism, and racism,
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because they honestly thought those things were moral.
Muslims and Christians have oppressed women and persecuted gays, because they thought that was what God wanted  that doing so would make the world a better place.
All th people made the world worse when they were trying to make it better. If ' ese you re going to make the world a better place, you're going to have to be smarter or more careful than them, someh Th ’ oing to be easy. ow. at s not g
If you want to make the world better, you have to know what "better" is. Is capitalism better? Is abortion better? Do some prejudices  like prejudices against pedophiles  make the world better? Can preemptive war make the world better? Does spreading the morals of Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, or Jainism make the world better? Are closed romances better than open ones? Is lying better? In which circumstances?
Most people think they know the answers to these questions. You probably think so, too. But think of all those people who made the world worse. They also thought they knew the answers.
And here’s the thing. If you're like most people, you make your moral decisions the same way they did. You close your eyes, shut out distractions, and ask your conscience. And then your conscience  yourmoral feeling delivers you the answer.
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That is exactly how racists, sexists, bigots, fascists, religious zealots, and violent people throughout history answered their moral questions.
re go We' ing to have to find a more accurate way to answer moral questions.
That s where metaethics comes in. '
Meta-Ethics
Meta Ethics is the practice of asking the big questions about morality. Does morality exist? How so? What does “good” mean? How can we know what is good?
It is no use asking "Is rape wrong?" if we have no idea if "wrongness" actually exists or what makes something wrong.
When people say "theft is wrong," they seem to mean that an act like theft emits a kind moral radiation  tiny particles we might call “ d ” and “badons”  and that we have goo ons evolved a sense to detect those particles. Somehow the act of typing commands into a financial computer to embezzle money emits the same kind of moral radiation as driving a truck through the wall of a department store and running off with designer jewelry. Moreover, the universe somehow “knows” the intent of your “heart,” and that also influences
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which moral radiation is given off by each of your actions.
Isthiswhat we mean when we talk about morality? Does this accurately describewhat really existsin the universe? If not, what kind of moral valuesdoexist?
Those are the questions of metaethics. If we can find solid answers to them, we may be able to do better than most people who have come before us, and reallyknow not justfeel how to make the world a better place.
The First Question
Do moral values exist? That is the First Question of metaethics. If moral values do not exist, then morality is a myth. It is a fantasy story we tell ourselves, like the tales of Zeus or Luke Skywalker. If moral values do not actually exist, then the other questions of metaethics do not matter much.
In this short book, we’ll look at several attempts to answer the First Question  several theories of how moral values might really exist.
How are we going to pick the winner? How do we know which theory, if any, will truly help us make the world better?
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We can’t choose the winner based on how well it conforms to what our conscience tells us. Your conscience is just a product of evolution and culture. Two centuries ago, your conscience would have told you that racism and sexism were good. Your conscience cannot be trusted.
We are not looking for the theory that welike. We’re looking for a theory that  just like any good scientific theory  accurately describes our universe. You “become” a utilitarian or a Kantian the same way you “become” an atomist. It doesn’t matter whether youlikethe idea that matter is made of tiny atoms; it only matters whether or not that istrue.
So, do moral values exist? If so, what are they? Let’s see if we can find out.
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CHAPTER2 GODS
§
The oldest moral systems to address the First Question  “Do moral values exist?”  are religious ones. According to most religions, moral values exist because they come from the gods. The gods tell us what is right and wrong.
Suspiciously, the gods of every tribe and nation always agreed with those in power, and also with their ignorance of the world (a flat earth, an earthcentric universe, magical explanations for everything instead of a germ theory for disease or a neurological theory for mental illness). Did these morals come from the gods, or from the ancient people who first told us about their gods?
Besides, we can’t tell which gods are real and which ones aren’t. And even if we could, how would we know they are telling us what is really moral? What if God himself is evil? God is so much smarter and more powerful than we are; how would we know? Or what if God tells us a bunch of random nonsense just to see if we’ll play along? That doesn’t seem too far
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fetched with some gods  like Yahweh, who supposedly commanded us not to shave, gather sticks on Saturdays, or wear mixed fabrics. If we are told, “Do this because God says so,” we can always ask, “and why should I do what God says?”
We must also ask, “Can moral values really be nothing more than a person’s whim?” If God decided to command rape, would that make rape good? Or perhaps God merely passes on to us moral values that exist beyond him. But then the foundation of moral values is just as mysterious as ever.
Because of these problems, most philosophers  including religious ones  donot we think can get moral values from God.
There is also the slight problem that gods do not exist.
But religion was a primitive and ignorant attempt to answer moral questions. It was a nice try for its time. Perhaps we have found better answers in the age of science and reason.
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CHAPTER3 VIRTUE
§
Some philosophers think that we should not measureactions as good or bad, butcharacter. Goodness is that which is done out of a virtuous character.
But then, what is virtuous? Virtue is any habit or quality that allows an agent to achieve its purpose. The virtues for an axe are sharpness and durability. The virtues for a hunting dog are a sensitive nose, stealth, obedience, and more.
So, to know what is virtuous for a human, one must know what the purpose of a human is. Perhaps our purpose is to pass on our genes, in which case ambition, sex, and childrearing are virtues. Maybe it is to live in a stable society, in which case cooperation, fairness, and compliance are virtues.
Philosophers have had different ideas of what human purpose is, and have therefore proposed very different lists of virtues. How could we choose which list is more accurate?
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