Philosophy Club will be meeting next Tuesday (November 9th) at 3:00 PM in room 313 (i.e., on the 3rd floor) of the University Student Union building. Discussion will center around the short article, “Five Reasons Why Moral Philosophy Is Distracting and Harmful,” by Ronnie de Sousa. Undoubtedly, the very pretense that moral philosophy could be harmful will strike many of you as ridiculous. Good! I hope you’ll come ready to defend moral philosophy from de Sousa’s ridiculous — or sensible, depending what you think — insinuation 🙂
Here’s an opening snippet from de Sousa’s case:
I have taught moral philosophy for several decades. I have come to regard the very idea of morality as fraudulent. Morality, I now believe, is a shadow of religion, serving to comfort those who no longer accept divine guidance but still hope for an ‘objective’ source of certainty about right and wrong. Moralists claim to discern the existence of commands as inescapable as those of an omniscient and omnipotent God. Those commands, moral philosophers teach, deserve to prevail over all other reasons to act – always, everywhere, and for all time. But that claim is bogus.
By ‘morality’, I refer to the sort of rules the transgression of which common sense decries as ‘immoral’, ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’. Such rules are generally regarded as obliging us without qualification. They prescribe duties not in virtue of your goals or role – such as ‘the duties of the secretary include taking minutes of the meeting’ – but without qualification. They are claimed to ‘bind’ us merely in virtue of our status as human beings. And philosophers have constructed a vast industry devoted to the elaboration of subtle theories designed to justify them. Against morality thus conceived, I have five complaints.