Contemporary Meta‐Ethical Alternatives: Humanistic Naturalism

C. Stephen Evans

in Kierkegaard's Ethic of Love

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780199272174
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602061 | DOI:
Contemporary Meta‐Ethical Alternatives: Humanistic Naturalism

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Naturalistic humanism is another possible alternative to divine command theory. David Gauthier, in Morals by Agreement, rejects any objective theory of value, relying instead on the creation of social contracts developed by agreements whose purpose is to satisfy preferences. Three insurmountable problems confront Gauthier, however. First, grounding morality in agreements does not do away with the incentive to cheat. If morals develop when people employ strategies to maximize the efficient satisfaction of their preferences, then presumably they disappear when an opportunity arises to satisfy preferences even more thoroughly by abandoning those strategies. Second, if morality is grounded in a self-interested bargain, then its scope extends only to those who are party to the agreement. Finally, Gauthier’s belief that morality is valuable, in and of itself, flatly contradicts his thesis that morals are simply agreements and nothing else. With divine command theory, we have, by contrast, both an explanation for our beliefs about morality – God’s call – and an explanation for our failure to live a perfect, moral life – human sin.

Keywords: David Gauthier; Kierkegaard; meta-ethics; self-interest; social contract; Works of Love

Chapter.  11985 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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