Important New (Advanced but) Must-Read Book on Ethics without God by Erik Wielenberg

Image of Book Cover

Oxford University Press has just published the latest book by Erik Wielenberg, entitled Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Wielenberg’s work; his previous books include Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and God and the Reach of Reason: C.S. Lewis, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

As you would expect from with any philosophy book published by a respected academic publisher like OUP, this book is more advanced than, say, Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion or Dan Barker’s Losing Faith in Faith. But I think even nonphilosophers could read and understand this book, and it would be well worth their time and effort to do so.

Here is the table of contents for the book:

1. Metaphysics of Morals: Intrinsic Value, Reasons, and Obligations

2. Cudworth’s Revenge: Answering Theistic Challenges

3. Moral Psychology Meets Reliabilism

4. Answering Evolutionary Debunkers

In chapter one, Wielenberg addresses such foundational topics as intrinsic value, the meaning of life, reasons, obligations, three different types of moral supervenience, and the foundation of ethics. The philosophers he discusses in this chapter include Mackie, Schroeder, Jackson and Brown, and McPherson.

In his next chapter, he confronts head-on various theistic challenges to nontheistic metaethics, including values without God, meaningful lives without God, obligations without God, reasons to be moral without God, empirical evidence about atheism and morality, supervenience without God, theological stateism, and the connection between God and intrinsic value. In this chapter, he discusses the work of philosophers Baggett, Craig, Cudworth, Wainwright, Walls.

In his third chapter, Wielenberg addresses two different systems of epistemology, the “hidden principles claim,” a model of moral knowledge and its virtues, moral emotion (especially disgust), Greene’s rationalization argument, and Greene’s argument from morally irrelevant factors.

In the final chapter, he presents objections to various evolutionary debunking arguments, including those by Harman, Ruse, Mackie, Street, Joyce, and Kahane.

I have only begun reading this book, but my initial impression is that it appears Wielenberg has done his homework and done it very well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it becomes a classic in the field–the atheistic counterpart to Robert Adams’s excellent book, Finite and Infinite Goods. I think it is essential reading for anyone interested in the interface between metaethics and atheism.

The book is available now from Amazon and other sellers; for those of you who like to read digital versions of books, a Kindle version is available! You can order the book here.

(Thanks to John Danaher for the tip)