Keeping Me Honest

Our newest commenter, Jacques, is holding my feet to the fire once again in the comment-thread to our recent post on the “Black Pill”. (These things tend to scroll down and disappear, so I thought I’d mention it; J. is prying open some old (i.e., eternal) questions I haven’t written about in years.)


  1. colinhutton says


    Browsing around a while ago, I came across a great post of yours (The Meaning of Life : July 8, 2008, prompted by something posted by BV), quoting stuff from Dennett which I hadn’t previously come across. I also worked through the extended discussions you then held with bob koepp (BK) and peter lupu (PL). Instructive and enjoyed – thank you.

    I mention the earlier post because it seems to me that it traverses similar territory to that covered in your recent discussion with Jacques (J), which, as with your discussions with BK and PL, ends in deadlock.

    I have been pondering about that deadlock, given that it seems to me that your arguments in all three instances had not been refuted. Which made me think of something I hadn’t thought of before.

    I ‘worked out’ for myself a few years ago (but several years after you had written it down here – hard to be original!) that moral/ethical norms were a nonsensical notion. (My own example was ‘boiled baby for breakfast’ rather than PL’s “torturing babies for fun”). There are only ‘preferences’. I now conclude that the only reason this did not disturb me then, and suddenly seemed self-evident, was that I am an atheist. Thinking about it now, it is surely impossible to reconcile a belief in God (as the word is generally understood) with the non-existence of ethical norms.

    Now, I do not know where BK, PL and J stand on the issue of God. However, assuming that they are believers (or even wish only to hold open the possibility of a meaningful/personal deity), they could never accede to your argument. Certainly in BV’s case, though, it is not surprising that he has gone “radio silent” (as you describe it) rather than to acknowledge an evolutionary account of how interests, purposes, intentionality, and meanings have entered this world.

    Posted May 13, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  2. colinhutton says

    On further thought. A poor comment. Ignorable.

    My point might give a biblical literalist pause for thought; but hardly a knock out blow against a metaphysical philosopher.

    Posted May 13, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi colin,

    …it is surely impossible to reconcile a belief in God (as the word is generally understood) with the non-existence of ethical norms.

    Not impossible at all, I think, but it’s hard to see why a theist would feel the need to.

    Posted May 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

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