Philosophia Christi Discusses Erik Wielenberg’s “Robust Ethics”

February 15, 2019
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The Winter 2018 issue leads with an important symposium that evaluates the “Godless Normative Realism” thesis of Erik Wielenberg.

Adam Lloyd Johnson: “Introduction to the American Academy of Religion Panel Forum on Erik Wielenberg’s Robust Ethics”

Erik Wielenberg is the most important contemporary critic of theistic metaethics. Wielenberg maintains that God is unnecessary for objective morality because moral truths exist as brute facts of the universe that have no, and need no, foundation. At times his description of these brute facts make them sound like abstract objects or Platonic forms. At the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in Boston in November of 2017, we organized an Evangelical Philosophical Society panel to discuss Erik Wielenberg’s book Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism. All five papers presented there are included in this journal. 

William Lane Craig: “Erik Wielenberg’s Metaphysics of Morals”

Focusing on Erik Wielenberg’s metaphysic of morals, I argue that his moral Platonism is, given the presumption against the existence of abstract objects, unmotivated. Moreover, Godless Normative Realism is implausible in light of the mysterious causal relations said to obtain between concrete objects and moral abstracta. His appeals to theism in order to motivate such causal connections is nugatory. If Wielenberg walks back his moral Platonism, then his metaphysics of morals collapses and Godless Normative Realism becomes explanatorily vacuous. 

Tyler Dalton McNabb: “Wile E. Coyote and the Craggy Rocks Below – The Perils of Godless Ethics”

William Lane Craig has defended the following two contentions: (1) If theism is true, we have a sound foundation for morality, and, (2) If theism is false, we do not have a sound foundation for morality. Erik Wielenberg rejects (2). Specifically, Wielenberg argues that naturalists have resources to make sense of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral knowledge. In response to Wielenberg, I defend Craig’s second contention by arguing that Wielenberg’s theory fails to robustly capture our moral phenomenology as well as make intelligible robust moral knowledge. 

Mark C. Murphy: “No Creaturely Intrinsic Value”

In Robust Ethics, Erik Wielenberg criticizes all theistic ethical theories that explain creaturely value in terms of God on the basis that all such formulations of theistic ethics are committed to the denial of the existence of creaturely intrinsic value. Granting Wielenberg’s claim that such theistic theories are committed to the denial of creaturely intrinsic value, this article considers whether theists should take such a denial to be an objectionable commitment of their views. I argue that theists should deny the existence of creaturely intrinsic value, and that such a denial is not an objectionable commitment of theism. 

Adam Lloyd Johnson: “Fortifying the Petard – A Response to One of Erik Wielenberg’s Criticisms of the Divine Command Theory”

Erik Wielenberg argued that William Lane Craig’s attack against nontheistic ethical models is detrimental to Craig’s Divine Command Theory (DCT) as follows: Craig claims it is unacceptable for ethical models to include logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of why such connections hold. Yet Craig posits certain logically necessary connections without providing an explanation of them. Wielenberg concluded that “Craig is hoisted by his own petard.” In this paper I respond to Wielenberg’s criticism by clarifying, and elaborating on, the DCT. I will attempt to provide a preliminary explanation for the logically necessary connections included in the DCT. 

Erik J. Wielenberg: “Reply to Craig, Murphy, McNabb, and Johnson”

In Robust Ethics, I defend a nontheistic version of moral realism according to which moral properties are sui generis, not reducible to other kinds of properties (e.g., natural properties or supernatural properties) and objective morality requires no foundation external to itself. I seek to provide a plausible account of the metaphysics and epistemology of the robust brand of moral realism I favor that draws on both analytic philosophy and contemporary empirical moral psychology. In this paper, I respond to some objections to my view advanced by William Craig, Mark Murphy, Tyler McNabb, and Adam Johnson.

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