As I've made arguments about the necessity of metaphysics to keep morality from sliding into nihilism, I've repeatedly made two points.
The first point has been the most contentious and the one we've devoted most of our attention to, the necessity of metaphysics to ground morality and ethics.
Atheist - Readers - Sorts - Questions - Metaphysics
Skeptical atheist readers have had all sorts of questions about what I mean by "metaphysics" "grounding" ethics.
By metaphysics, as I have repeatedly said, I don't mean spooky or supernatural. By metaphysical I mean how some systems require axiomatic givens, a priori truths, and first principles. My argument is that morality only escapes nihilism if it can assert some goods and values as axiomatic givens, as a priori truths, as guiding first principles, non-negotiable values that the legal philosopher Hans Kelsen has called "basic norms." With basic norms in place we can proceed with the task of ethical deliberation asking, "What ought we do do?" Without asserting some basic norms we can never get traction on that question. We'd have no criteria to define "the good."
Metaphysics - Ethics - People - Word
I think all that describes what I mean by metaphysics "grounding" ethics. But people still get tripped up on the word "grounding." What do I mean by "grounding"?
The definition of grounding I'm using is this: grounding involves "taking something vague, theoretical and abstract and giving it a firm practical basis." Metaphysics "grounds" ethics in that it takes abstractions like "good," "evil," "right," "wrong," "well-being," "harm," and "flourishing" and makes them practical by specifying the values necessary to give those terms concrete, actionable meaning.
Example - Ways - Abstraction - Values - Table
For example, we all want to act in ways that are "good." But that abstraction--good--is meaningless until we lay some values on the table to define what we mean by "good." The same goes for words like "harm," "well-being," and "flourishing." There are wildly different views about...
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