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Christian Tractatus

Non-theistic Ethics

(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)


  1. This Appendix attempts to demonstrate that it is possible to construct a system of ethics that is not undergirded by any particular form of theism, or indeed having any extramundane sanction1.
  2. The fundamental problem with non-theistic ethics is that we risk coming down to premises that are nothing but matters of opinion2 (even if most "reasonable" people share them). We risk having nothing underwriting these basic assumptions: no way of reasonably arguing against someone who refuses to accept them.
  3. As with any system that claims to provide knowledge, we can examine an ethical system both for internal consistency and for conformity3 to the world.
  4. I would like to draw a distinction between two distinct aspects of any ethical theory that should not be confused. From now on, I will use the terms ethics and morality4, respectively, for these two aspects.
  5. The aim of ethics is to determine the rules5 of conduct which have the highest probability of achieving those ends towards which we think our society (or the individuals within it) should aim.
  6. A fundamental question in building any theory of ethics is: should ethics be individual or collective6? Because, as a contingent fact, we live in societies, I suggest that ethical principles have to be treated as collective.
  7. A principle that will assist us in defining ethical strategies is that of reflexivity7. That is, that we should not (in general) do to others what we would not have them do to us.
  8. In any ethical system, we need to provide a procedure whereby we can categorise8 an action as right or wrong.
  9. Since we have defined right action to be parasitic on our conception of the good, what is it that constitutes the good9?
  10. By defining the good in the way we have, we have adopted an essentially consequentialist10 (utilitarian) view.
  11. The stance I am adopting here is that of a liberal ironist11. This term, (but not necessarily the meaning I apply to it) is due to Richard Rorty.




Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
12/08/2007 10:17:46 195 (Non-theistic Ethics) CT Introduction

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Non-theistic Ethics - Categorisation Non-theistic Ethics - Collective Non-theistic Ethics - Conformity Non-theistic Ethics - Consequentialism Non-theistic Ethics - Ethics + Morality
Non-theistic Ethics - Good Non-theistic Ethics - Introduction Non-theistic Ethics - Liberal Ironist Non-theistic Ethics - Opinion Non-theistic Ethics - Reflexivity
Non-theistic Ethics - Rules        

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

CT Introduction Purpose Reconstruction - Morality    

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