I have a book.
For a couple of years now, some people who have read my writing have asked to have some of its core ideas written in book form, because they prefer books to reading online, and because they wanted something they could give to others.
Some did the research on how to do this and sent me the results.
So, I created a book.
It contains a set of essays that are rewritten and reworked versions of some things that you will find here and on my web site. The amount of editing that I have done to these chapters (compared to their original versions) is extensive in many cases as I tried to make my arguments as clear as possible in light of the comments I have received on postings here and in discussion forums. I have even changed my mind on some things.
Specifically, the book contains:
Chapter 1: Introduction: Reasons for Action: This is an over view that explains in rough detail what value is, what moral value is, and why even atheists have reason to be concerned about moral value.
Chapter 2 Desire Utilitarianism: A description of desire utilitarianism, starting with the nature of desire as propositional attitudes, value as relationships between states of affairs and desires, moral value as relationships between malleable desires and other desires, and explaining why the evaluation of desires is primary and the evaluation of actions is secondary.
Chapter 3. Objectivism and Subjectivism in Ethics: An account of the different senses of the terms ‘objective’, ‘subjective’, ‘relative’, and ‘absolute’, used to explain why desire utilitarianism fits three of these classifications, but not the fourth.
Chapter 4. Ethics from Scripture: If a person wishes to make the world a better place than it would have otherwise been, here are four reasons why one would not turn to scripture for moral guidance.
Chapter 5. Doing Good without God: How and why does a person do what he morally should if there is no God waiting to punish him?
Chapter 6. Moral Persuasion: What does it mean to persuade somebody that something is wrong? Can you convince somebody that something is wrong, have him believe you, and simply have him dismiss your proof as unimportant?
Chapter 7. Hume on ‘Is’ and ‘Ought’: This takes a detailed look at Hume’s famous argument that you cannot derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’ to show how it is possible to make this derivation, and that Hume himself makes it.
Chapter 8. In Defense of Realism: Answering J.L. Mackie: J.L.Mackie argued that a moral realist must believe that moral properties are intrinsically prescriptive properties and that they exist. Because no such properties exist, Mackie denies that moral realism is a possibility. In this essay I agree with Mackie that intrinsically prescriptive properties do not exist, but that they are not necessary for moral realism. Moral properties are real, even if they are not instances of intrinsic prescriptivity.
Chapter 9. Rational Self-Interest: This chapter takes a look at the idea that morality can be reduced to questions of rational self interest. It argues that those who defend this position confuse ‘interest of the self’ with ‘interest in (the benefit of the) self’, and that arguments for morality as rational self-interest depend on equivocating between these two concepts.
Chapter 10. A Problem with Faith: This takes a look at the idea that there is a special problem with faith. It argues that most theists and most atheists have nearly identical ways of determining moral views and that this method is seriously flawed. However, the flaw has nothing to do with faith.
Chapter 11. Morality as Evolved Sentiment: Here, I take a look at the idea that morality is an evolved sentiment – an evolutionarily selected disposition to view some acts as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I identify six problems with such a view.
Chapter 12. The Desire for True Belief: This chapter contains a defense of three sets of virtues/vices – a love of true belief (and aversion to deception), intellectual curiosity (and intellectual laziness), and intellectual responsibility (and intellectual laziness). It defines what these are and where they can be found. It also defends liberty of belief and liberty of action based on one’s own beliefs – up to the point that one’s beliefs make one a threat to others by ‘justifying’ actions that are harmful to others.
Chapter 13. The Meaning of Life: This is a reprinting of my very short story that attempts to describe how there can be meaning in an atheist’s life – more meaning, in fact, than can be found in following religious doctrines.
I worte the book, as I wrote this blog, for readers who are reasonably intelligent but who have no specific education in moral philosophy. I also wrote it with an eye towards atheists and to those who hold that an atheism cannot handle moral concepts.
I hope that you might find it useful - particularly if you are accustomed to debating others (theists and atheists) on moral issues. If you do decide to read it, I would be interested in your comments. Feel free to write any time.
And I thank you for your support.