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I'm interested in a reading list of critics of secular morality. What authors and books are there on the subject? Can be a criticism of consequentialism, hedonism, utilitarianism, or simply a general approach to secular morality as a whole.

Also any books on the benefits of natural law, or divine law would be appreciated. I've read some bits of Plato and Julius Evola that touch on the subject but I'd like to know of more comprehensive works.

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  • It is a good exercise to read the entry for natural law in: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia_of_Philosophy in the library. You have to read it yourself to comprehend the confusion. Ernst Bloch wrote a book on natural law (MIT, 1986). I thought to myself: ah, a non-Catholic on natural law, this should be interesting. It was interesting, but what it had to do with natural law I don't exactly know.
    – Gordon
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 23:30
  • Here you can read about the doctrine of double truth, something can be true in religion, and false in philosophy, and vice versa. Originally from Averroes and later into France. p. 99 This in an excellent book IMO, but in a broader context than your questions. "The Meaning of History" Erich Kahler, G. Braziller (1964). This book is about history, and it is a history.
    – Gordon
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 23:55
  • @Gordon is CS Lewis worth reading on this subject?
    – Charlie
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 0:13
  • @Charlie I have not read enough of C.S. Lewis to give you an answer. Maybe someone will come along who is more familiar with him than I am. He seemed to be a bit too much of an apologist for his faith to be objective from what I have read, but I think he was a respected scholar as well. Regarding the book by Kahler I mentioned, if you are in a large library , pull it down and thumb through it and read a little of it. I think you will find it helpful. See what you think of it. I think it could give you a good framework in which to place your questions.
    – Gordon
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 0:42
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    @Charlie Hitchens... not Dawkins. Hitchens is quoting Lewis directly though, it is yours truly that is paraphrasing. And just because Hitchens had an agenda does not mean you can dismiss the reasoning. By that very same argument Lewis's arguments have to be dismissed too, since Lewis had an agenda, i.e. to promote Christian teachings. If "having an agenda" is reason for you to dismiss arguments, then Lewis must go as well, lest you want to have people point out to you that you are accepting/dismissing arguments depending on whether the agendas in question match your own agenda or not.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 9:43

3 Answers 3

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One group of people not to miss in examining secular morality are those presenting Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). See, in particular, Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” for a book length description of it. For a video presentation on the underlying approach to rationalism, see Haidt discussing “The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology”.

There are three ideas to look for in MFT.

First, the existence of multiple, innate foundations of morality that generate conflict and stability. Both the innateness and multiple foundations in MFT undermine a rationalist approach to morality, although they do not eliminate the need for reasoning.

Second, rationalism is replaced with rationalization. We make snap decisions and then ask our brains to rationalize them.

Third, political tension is described as tension between different poles of these foundations. In particular, note how the tensions between individual rights and group loyalty are expressed across these foundations.

The theory is grounded in social psychology and neuroscience and it does not have a religious motivation although it is not hostile to religion. There is a politically liberal bias but MFT describes conservative moral positions as more balanced than those usually presented by liberals.

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You might try :

Jonathan Sacks, The Persistence of Faith: Religion, Morality & Society in a Secular Age (The Reith Lectures, 1990) ISBN 10: 0297820850 / ISBN 13: 9780297820857

Keith Ward, Christianity and Ethics, 1970.

Bert Musschenga (ed.), Does Religion Matter Morally ? A Critical Reappraisal of the Thesis of Morality's Independence from Religion, 1995.

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C.S. Lewis is fine, depending on the book you grab, but also I've enjoyed Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Evola, and Rudolf Steiner: those three authors, but mainly Nietzsche, then Evola for a concretizable version of Nietzsche's projects; they offer an illuminating understanding of how conventional/"secular" morality came into being. I haven't found more thorough-going philosophies that really concern themselves with genealogies, anthropologies, and other hard, historical research on the topic. Most modern/"left-wing" philosophies stick to conventional trends of moral/philosophy.

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