Hi there,

I am working through morality particularly pertaining to a naturalistic framework. I am trying to place myself in the atheist’s shoes and trying to understand how they would reason for an action to be called moral and immoral.

A theist can say that God has endowed human beings with intrinsic worth and therefore any action which violates that intrinsic worth is deemed immoral - I get this and the strong explanatory power which it offers.

Suppose the atheist reasons as follows: “I don’t like it when I experience pain, and therefore I am not going to inflict pain on other people,” or “Any sane person doesn’t want to be murdered, therefore I am not going to murder.”

Now I am trying to clearly understand why this doesn’t form a viable way to develop a moral framework.

  • Pain is universal so can’t we then reason that we should act in a manner which avoids inflicting pain on others?
  • I guess essentially it is taking the Golden Rule and applying it to moral reasoning.

Why is this approach still not sufficient when it comes to moral reasoning?

I look forward to someone helping me further understand this problem and bring more clarity. Thank you.


@Higgs Greetings :slight_smile: This approach to ethics is chiefly pragmatic and it works as long as a majority of the people within a society are on board and have an agreed upon definition of what it means to inflict pain on another person. But what happens if people do not agree on what it means to hurt someone else?

For example, what if one person says that it is merciful to allow an elderly person who is tired of life to euthanize themselves and another person says it is murder? Or, what if one person says an unborn baby is not human and another person says that the baby is human? Or what if one person says it is okay to round up people in reeducation camps for the good of society and another person says it is harmful?

The problem with these types of utilitarian or pragmatic ethical systems is that they completely fall apart whenever people disagree because, in reality, they have no solid foundation. They turn in to a rule by the majority.

You might enjoy checking out some of these C. S. Lewis Doodles on morality: