Kai Nielsen:

Ethics in a Secular World


Nielsen wants to argue that while there may be an historical relationship between religion and ethics, there is no theoretical connection between them. Thus, ethics may stand independently of any theological considerations. Belief in God is not necessary for moral action.

  1. The Apologist's Argument Against Secular Ethics -

    "Without God (or the religious weltanshauung). . ."

    1. We Feel Estrangement/Despair

      1. What's the Meaning of Life?
      2. No Transcendent Goals

    2. Respect for Others Cannot be Justified Unless. . .

      1. We are Made in the Image of God
      2. Each Individual is Unique

    3. Justice Cannot be Insured Unless. . .

      1. Divine Punishment
      2. Divine Reward

  2. Ethics Without God - A Pragmatic Consideration -

    "Even if there is no God. . ."

    1. The Meaning of Life = the Desire to be Happy -

      1. Freedom from Pain
      2. Some Measure of Pleasure
      3. Security
      4. Love/Companionship
      5. Meaningful Work
      6. A Rich Variety of Experiences

    2. Human Communities do not Require Religious Justification

      1. Human's are Social Animals
      2. Society Presupposes Mutual Respect

    3. Religious Belief does not Prevent (indeed it very often promotes) Injustice

      1. Religious Persecution
      2. Religious Wars

PHI 105 Page | Notes Index