How Does Philosopher AC Grayling Ground Atheist Morality?

I thought this was an excellent answer. It came from a recent interview at The Freethinker:

It is actually very easy to identify and to act upon the moral baselines. Moral baselines derive from our understanding of what it is to be human and what human beings need to flourish. For example, at a minimum people need food, they need somewhere comfortable, dry and warm to be, they need friendship, they need opportunities to use their intelligence, because we’re a highly intelligent species. People need opportunities to develop, they need time to rest and benefit from the creativity of leisure, they need safety, and they need social bonds.

We know all these things, and if you look at human rights instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what they say is what the minimum requirements are for opening a space around individuals, so that they can use their abilities to do things that are good and satisfying for them.

So this very basic understanding of what it is to be human, along with what we dislike, what we want to avoid, what we need, what we benefit from, tells us something about what our obligations are to other people.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to How Does Philosopher AC Grayling Ground Atheist Morality?

  1. Heuristics says:

    Well, morality comes easy, we all have it and as Grayling says we all know it. The problem is that what we know is different from person to person and culture to culture.

    In our shared western culture of course it is easy to see that this is the correct moral values to have, but is it not suspicious that this just happened to be the correct type of moral system, do we not have better arguments for it then we just know it to be true? Could it not be that know it to be true simply because this is the morals we already have, that we are fooling ourselves into a type of circular reasoning? Atheistic China and the Islamic middle east have long had a different outlook and have even at times been hostile to the human rights declaration.

    The Chinese (ie not only their government but also some of it’s people) would most likely very often want to frame it not on a personal level but on a community level and try to see what is best for the community, not the individual person.

    Islamic nations (not only the governments, also some of the people) would for example sometimes not agree with the right to use ones own intelligence to change religion.

    (I feel i should also point out that there would be many exceptions to the two above mentioned examples and I don’t want to generalize over everyone).

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