God, Morality and the Meaning of Life

In Samantha Vice & Nafsika Athanassoulis (eds.), The Moral Life. Palgrave Macmillan. 201--227 (2008)
Abstract
In this chapter, I critically explore John Cottingham's most powerful argument for the thesis that the existence of God is necessary for meaning in life. This is the argument that life would be meaningless without an invariant morality, which could come only from God. After demonstrating that Cottingham's God-based ethic can avoid not only many traditional Euthyphro meta-ethical concerns, but also objections at the normative level, I consider whether it can entail the unique respect in which morality is normative, and, upon considering various ways to develop the view, I conclude that it can. However, I then raise another objection that I maintain cannot be replied to satisfactorily. The objection is that, if we had conclusive evidence for a God-based meta-ethic, then our evidence for the existence of God and of wrongness would be comparable, but they are not, either for Cottingham or for readers more generally. That is, I argue that it is incoherent to claim to know that wrongness is a function of God, given that one knows that wrongness exists, but does not know that God does. I also present an alternative, naturalist meta-ethic that avoids this incoherence, fits better with our extant metaphysical knowledge, and grounds an invariant moral system.
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