Posts tagged secular

A primer on secular ethics

This past weekend I was searching through old articles on the Council for Secular Humanism's web site when I came across an excellent essay by philosopher Paul Kurtz that provides a brief yet sound outline of secular ethics. I've rarely posted here in defense of secular ethics broadly — I guess I've taken their acceptance among my readers as a given — so if you're interested in the subject, you might enjoy reading this:

But “How can you be ethical if you do not believe in God?” protests the believer. Perhaps such a person should enroll in an elementary course in ethics, where he or she would discover a rich philosophical literature dealing with this question. The good is usually defined as “happiness,” though there are differences between the eudemonistic (emphasizing enriched self-development) and the hedonistic (particularly American) brand of intemperate consumption. Perhaps a harmonious integration of the two theories can be achieved. I would call it rational exuberance. Philosophers have emphasized the importance of self-restraint, temperance, rational prudence; of a life in which satisfaction, excellence, and the creative fulfillment of a person’s talents is achieved. It does not mean that “anything goes.” Humanist ethics focuses on the good life here and now.

A couple weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion on secular ethics featuring Anne Klaeysen, Massimo Pigliucci, Roy Speckhardt, and moderator John Rafferty. The event was organized by the Secular Humanist Society of New York and the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Several videos have surfaced on the web, but this one appears to have the best quality.