Hot! Kai Nielsen on Atheism and Morality


Kai Nielsen“We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me… Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”1

- Kai Nielsen (1926 – Present)

*Kai Nielsen, a prominent atheistic ethicist, is a leading advocate of contemporary atheism who serves as an adjunct professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Calgary. His areas of specialization include metaphilosophy, ethics, and social and political philosophy.2


1 Kai Nielsen, “Why Should I Be Moral?” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984), p. 90.
2 “Kai Nielsen,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (4 October 2009), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kai_Nielsen.

2 Comments

  1. The problem is that he’s using reason to limit it. Why think reason can supervise and adjudicate the issue in the first place? Does the vantage point from which one judges that reason can or cannot generate obligation, moral or not, *itself* obligate having one view about this issue, as opposed to any other? And must that meta-rational adjudication have to *itself* be rational?

    To be oblivious to the self-bootstrapping makes me suspicious, although it’s no secret that I consider Nielsen to be one of the greatest philosophers of all time solely because of his prior criteria and incoherence arguments against the existence of God. Most philosophical theists have not even read them.

  2. Roger, do you want a rational response to your question?

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