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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 23.3 > Getting Real About Right and Wrong

Getting Real About Right and Wrong

ARTICLE

ARE GOOD AND EVIL IN SOME SENSE REAL? Or is one man’s merit another man’s poison? Such questions haunt many of us, and confusion on the subject buttresses influential appeals to religion. After all, if we can’t say what makes an act right or wrong, how can we deny that moral judgments are a matter of taste?

About a hundred generations ago, the philosopher Plato urged us to take a close look at the idea that morality originates in divine dictates. Does this idea really make sense? It turns out it doesn’t. For why would a deity command us to do this or not do that unless there were some underlying reason? If there is such a reason, then that’s what makes the act right or wrong, not the divine command itself. God, in this scenario, isn’t morality’s creator; he’s just a middleman or enforcer. So why not cut out the middleman? Why not grasp the underlying reasons ourselves? Sure, this involves eating from the tree of knowledge, but a deeper understanding of the nature of right and wrong can only help us, right?

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About Skeptic

SCIENCE AND MORAL VALUES Jordan Peterson Phenomenon; Thought Crimes: Jordan Peterson and the meaning of the Meaning of Life; Special Section on Science & Morality. Getting Real About Right and Wrong; No, Being Religious Will Not Save You from Suicide; Lessons from Behavioral Science in a Warzone: How Reason, Skepticism, and Compassion Can Win Hearts and Minds; Moral Philosophy and its Discontents: Can science determine moral values? An Exchange with Massimo Pigliucci, Michael Shermer, and Kevin McCaffree; Facilitated Communication Redux: Persistence of a Discredited Technique; The Mystery of Elite Religious Scientists: A Cognitively Impenetrable Illusion; Five Questions About Human Errors for Proponents of Intelligent Design; The SkepDoc: Beware Stem Cell Clinics that Offer Untested Treatments; Junior Skeptic: Astral Projection