Monday, December 29, 2003


I did three years of coursework in philosophy in my student days and I have had papers on philosophy -- including moral philosophy -- published in the academic journals. I have also been having a desultory email discussion of some issues with moral philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson lately. For the life of me, however, I still cannot see why so many people think it is so complex. I think that both the questions and the answers about the nature of morality are really simple. It seems to me that statements such as "X is right" (or "X is good" or "You ought to do X") can be unpacked in only four basic ways:

1. I like it when people do X
2. Doing X generally leads to widely desired results
3. It is the will of God that you do X
4. X has an eternal, inescapable, universal "moral" quality.

I think most people would agree with implications 1 and 2. I do. You have to believe in God to agree with implication 3 so I do not. And I think interpretation 4 is untestable, undemonstrable and hence gibberish -- though it does seem to be widely believed. But lots of clever people believe in global warming so beliefs are neither any proof of anything nor any cause for surprise. Now isn't that simple? I cannot see what the above account misses out.


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