Tag Archives: metaphysics

What Is Real Essentialism?

David Oderberg, in his book Real Essentialism (Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 11), describes the metaphysical system that derives from Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and their students. This system is the closest thing to explaining our common sense knowledge of the world around us that I have ever seen. It is sometimes called classical Christian metaphysics or Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics.

If it embodies the best common sense, then why write about it? Everybody should be agreed! It turns out that every one of its tenets has been and continues to be attacked by philosophers who propose competing metaphysical systems. As you read through the presuppositions for real essentialism below, keep in mind that every point is disputed by somebody in the academic, philosophical world.

Oderberg offers five presuppositions for real essentialism:

First, there is a real world , by which I mean a world that is wholly objective. . . . Of course there are many dimensions of contrast for the term ‘real’ – real v. fictional, real v. artefactual, real v. imaginary and the like – and the essentialist incorporates all of these distinctions into his ontology. But the overall position he holds is that there is a real world, and that the things in it are all real in the sense that they are beings of one kind or another and their being is not a matter of opinion or conjecture.

Secondly, the reference to being indicates that the real essentialist starts from the classic Aristotelian position that metaphysics is the study of being qua being: being in all its manifestations and varieties, classified according to a suite of concepts and categories that derive from the Aristotelian tradition. . . . Real essentialism takes nature seriously, and whilst it may countenance the existence of the immaterial – as I think it should – it does not reduce or refer nature as it is in concrete physical reality to a realm of the immaterial that is supposed to be its ultimate ontological ground.

Essences are real, they encompass all kinds of being and, thirdly, they are knowable. The essentialist is committed to the view that the human mind can come to know the essence of things. Knowledge of the truth just is the conformity of the mind to the way things are, and so knowledge of essence is the conformity of the mind to the natures of things. The knowledge is frequently only partial and incomplete, but it is no part of the real essentialist worldview that humans can always achieve complete, adequate knowledge of the essences of things. This not a counsel of despair but an encouragement to the increase and improvement of knowledge.

Fourthly, real essentialism holds that knowledge of essence is captured by means of real definition. As Fine puts it, ‘[ j]ust as we may define a word, or say what it means, so we may define an object, or say what it is’ (Fine 1994a: 2). The prejudice against real definition is a deeply held one, going back to the roots of empiricism. Yet it is hard to see why the concept is unacceptable. Indeed, since defining a word is best seen as giving the essence of a kind of object (the meaning), the opponent of real definition who at least concedes that we can define words has already conceded the principle that one can define objects of a certain kind; if that kind, why not others ? . . . To define something just means, literally, to set forth its limits in such a way that one can distinguish it from all other things of a different kind. . . . Putting the point again in Aristotelian terminology . . . , to give the definition of something it to say what it is, to give the ti esti or to ti e-n einai of the object. Put simply, the real essentialist position is that it is possible to say correctly what things are.

Fifthly, the real essentialist holds that the world is orderly and hence that things are classifiable, a point heavily emphasized, and rightly so, by Ellis. Describing the world accurately requires one to be able to classify the things within it into kinds of being. This does not depend on there being multiple examples of any particular kind, for even if each thing that existed were the only one of its kind it would still be classifiable as a member of some kind or other. . . .  The real essentialist, however, is concerned primarily with classification not according to some real dimension or other, but according to what objects are in their entirety. This is given by the form of the object as a whole, and this too is multiply instantiable.

Let’s simplify further to the following five statements:

  1. There is a real world.
  2. The metaphysician should study the world as it is.
  3. Essences are real, they encompass all kinds of being, and they are knowable.
  4. It is possible to say correctly what things are.
  5. The world is orderly and the things in it are classifiable.

From these five points is where the real essentialist starts. Again, all of these statements seem blindingly obvious to me, but philosophers at universities that you are sending your kids to might disagree. All I can say is, “Beware.” Once you start denying these five points, you are on a trajectory of intellectual chaos and confusion.

Can Atheists Avoid a Cause of the Universe?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

That is exactly what Sean Carroll attempted to do in his recent debate with William Lane Craig. Here is what Carroll said:

Why should we expect that there are causes or explanations or a reason why in the universe in which we live? It’s because the physical world inside of which we’re embedded has two important features.

There are unbreakable patterns, laws of physics — things don’t just happen, they obey the laws — and there is an arrow of time stretching from the past to the future. The entropy was lower in the past and increases towards the future. Therefore, when you find some event or state of affairs B today, we can very often trace it back in time to one or a couple of possible predecessor events that we therefore call the cause of that, which leads to B according to the laws of physics.

But crucially, both of these features of the universe that allow us to speak the language of causes and effects are completely absent when we talk about the universe as a whole.  We don’t think that our universe is part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws.  Even if it’s part of the multiverse, the multiverse is not part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws.  Therefore, nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause.

If Carroll’s argument works, then atheists have discovered a clever way to avoid any form of the cosmological argument for God’s existence. But does his argument really work? According to philosopher Ed Feser (in this blog post), it does not, at least not if Carroll is arguing against classical Christian theology.

Feser takes up Carroll’s argument:

Now in fact it is Carroll who has said absolutely nothing to establish his right to dismiss the demand for a cause as confidently as he does. For he has simply begged all the important questions and completely missed the point of the main traditional classical theistic arguments . . . .

One problem here is that, like so many physicists, Carroll has taken what is really just one species of causation (the sort which involves a causal relation between temporally separated events) and identified it with causation as such. But in fact, the Aristotelian argues, event causation is not only not the only kind of causation but is parasitic on substance causation.

Feser continues:

But put that aside, because the deeper problem is that Carroll supposes that causation is to be explained in terms of laws of nature, whereas the Aristotelian view is that this has things precisely backwards. Since a “law of nature” is just a shorthand description of the ways a thing will operate — that is to say, what sorts of effects it will tend to have — given its nature or substantial form, in fact the notion of “laws of nature” metaphysically presupposes causation.

So what does causation look like if it is not essentially about tracing a series of events backwards in time?

On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent.

The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it — even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it.

Thus the universe requires a cause outside it. As Feser explains, only that

which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.

In the end, Carroll has simply not addressed the arguments from classical Christian theology and philosophy. He has not, therefore, successfully avoided the need for the universe to have a cause.

#6 Post of 2013 – Can We Know Moral Values Without Knowing God?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Clearly the answer must be “yes.”  In fact, the apostle Paul teaches this very truth in the book of Romans. There are some moral truths that can be known without a person ever acknowledging God’s existence. In fact, the world would be a complete disaster if everyone had to agree on the existence and attributes of God before anyone could know moral truths.

But it seems that atheists often think that Christians are making this claim. They think that Christians are saying a person cannot be moral or know right from wrong without believing in God. No Christian thinker of any stature has ever said this, though.

When Christians present moral arguments for God’s existence, or when they argue that moral values cannot exist unless God exists, they are making a very different point. David Baggett and Jerry Walls explain what is going on in their book Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality:

[I]t might seem inconsistent to argue that moral truth is dependent on God if we can know it without even thinking of God. This alleged inconsistency can be dispelled if we recognize, as numerous classical thinkers have pointed out, that the order of being is different from the order of knowing. That is, the order in which we come to know things might be different from the order in which things exist, or have come to exist.

The order of being has to do with metaphysics and the order of knowing has to do with epistemology. Christian arguments about God and morality are almost always about metaphysics (the order of being) and not about epistemology (the order of knowing). Baggett and Walls add:

Certain moral truths might be as evident to us as anything can be, but may still leave unanswered the question of where morality came from. Likewise, the foundations of morality might be at a greater distance from us in terms of immediate knowledge than morality itself. This is a fundamental distinction, but one that is often missed, resulting in needless confusion.

Baggett and Walls point out that many atheists just seem to completely miss this distinction:

Recent books defending atheism have perpetuated this confusion, unfortunately, but not surprisingly. For instance, Richard Dawkins seems to ignore this distinction when he asks, “if we have independent criteria for choosing among religious moralities, why not cut out the middle man and go straight for the moral choice without the religion?”

Nobody disagrees that we can gather a bunch of people from different worldviews together in a room and agree on a basic set of moral values.  This simply is not in dispute. What is in dispute is the question of where these moral values come from. Answering this question is what atheists need to work on.

How Does Christian Metaphysics Ground the Good? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 1 we left off with the question, “What is man’s ultimate purpose?” We cannot identify the good for man without knowing what his ultimate purpose is.

Many answers have been offered throughout the millennia to this question. The most common answers are the following: wealth, honor, fame, power, pleasure, health, wisdom, and virtue. All of these are, no doubt, goods, but are they the ultimate good?

It would seem not because a man, once acquiring any of these goods, is still not satisfied. These goods only satisfy for a short time and then leave a man desiring something more. The ultimate good should satisfy forever and completely, otherwise it wouldn’t be ultimate.

Thomas Aquinas, having considered the finite goods of man, concludes,

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness.  For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired.  Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true.  Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good.  This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone . . . . God alone constitutes man’s happiness.

Any moral theory which cannot locate the good in God is, therefore, fundamentally and profoundly deficient.  If God is the ultimate purpose, the final cause of all final causes, for human beings, then God must be front and center for any moral theory.

Finite goods certainly exist for man, and Christians can even agree with non-theists that human well-being is a good.  Health, pleasure, wisdom, and virtue are all goods, or ends, for which human nature was designed, but it is a grave error to think these are the ultimate purposes for man.

We can now see how metaphysics is foundational for the Christian identification of the good.  The very existence of finite beings composed of act and potency leads inexorably to a being of pure actuality, God.  The principles of form and matter inform us that humans, along with all other form/matter composite beings, possess a real nature that is eternally fixed in the mind of God.

Humans are mind (form)/body (matter) unities.  The four causes enable us to explain the existence of human beings.  Humans are characterized by formal causality, material causality, efficient causality, and final causality.  It is only through the knowledge of formal and final causes that we can know the good for human beings.  Without these principles in place, the metaphysical locus of moral values is adrift on a sea of instability and change.

In part 3, we will compare atheist Sam Harris’s identification of the good with the Christian identification of the good to contrast the abilities of metaphysical naturalism and Christian theism to undergird moral realism (the view that there are real, objective moral values).

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 3 we introduced the four causes which give a complete explanation of a thing. In part 4 we introduce the concepts of being and goodness.

Metaphysics is the study of being, as such.  Act, potency, form, and matter are all aspects of being.  Edward Feser comments that “being is the most comprehensive concept we have, applying as it does to everything that exists, so that there is no way to subsume it under something more general.”

Being is an analogical notion, so it cannot be applied univocally to all beings.  “[M]aterial things and angels can both be said to have being, but material things are composites of matter and form while angels are forms without matter; created things and God both have being, but in created things essence and existence are distinct and in God they are not; and so forth.”

The good is convertible from being (they are both transcendentals).  According to Feser, “Something is good to the extent that it exists as, or has being as, an instance of its kind.”

As Aquinas says, “everything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual.”

There is more, however, to the essence of goodness than existence.  A thing is good because it is in some way desirable or appetible.  Joseph Owens relates, “Goodness, accordingly, is being when considered in relation to appetite.  It adds nothing real to being, for it is merely being itself, now conceived as appetible.”

Aquinas summarizes, “Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really. But goodness presents the aspect of desirableness, which being does not present.”

A chair is good insofar as it accomplishes its purpose (i.e., final cause) of providing a place to sit.  In a metaphysical sense, the chair “desires” to provide a place to sit; that is why it was created.

A heart is good insofar as it accomplishes its purpose (i.e., final cause) of pumping blood.  In a metaphysical sense, the heart “desires” to pump blood; that is why it was created.

Note that these are not examples of moral goodness, though.  The transcendental notion of goodness contains more than human morality.  Morality is a subset of transcendental goodness, having to do specifically with the desirableness of human behavior.  In other words, human behavior is good in so far as it accomplishes the final causes for which human beings were brought into existence.

In part 5, we look at ultimate being: God.

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 2 we introduced the metaphysical principles of form and matter. In part 3 we introduce the four causes.

Aristotle taught, and the Scholastics agreed, that there are four different causes, and that these four causes give a complete explanation of a thing. Modern English-speaking people tend to only use the word “cause” in a narrow sense, but the ancients thought of “cause” in at least four different ways: efficient, formal, material, and final.

If we take a wooden chair as an example, the material cause is the material – wood – out of which the chair is made; the formal cause, or the form, is the pattern or structure it exhibits – having legs and a seat; the efficient cause of the chair is that which actualizes a potency and brings the chair into existence – a carpenter; the final cause is the purpose for which the chair was made – to provide a place for a person to sit.

The material and formal causes of a thing are simply the form/matter composite (recall part 2) that constitute a substance.  Efficient and final causality give rise to other basic principles.  From efficient causality, or causing a thing to come into being, emerges the principle of causality. This principle states that whatever comes into existence must have a cause, and that cause cannot be the thing itself.  From final causality emerges the principle of finality, or the fact that every agent acts for an end.

According to Edward Feser, final causality exists “wherever some natural object or process has a tendency to produce some particular effect or range of effects.” In other words, wherever there is a regularity in nature, a pattern where a particular cause repeatedly produces a particular effect, final causality is present. Thus when the principle of finality refers to every agent acting toward an end, this includes “agents” that are both conscious and unconscious.

For example, if we think of the heart as an agent, the heart’s final cause is the pumping of blood, but we would not say that the heart is consciously pumping blood. Feser remarks that “the same directedness towards a certain specific effect or range of effects is evident in all causes operative in the natural world.”

In part 4 we will look at being and goodness.

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 1 we introduced the metaphysical principles of act and potency. In part 2 we introduce the metaphysical principles of form and matter.

Ordinary objects of our experience are composed of two metaphysical principles – form and matter.  Edward Feser explains these principles, again using a rubber ball:

The rubber ball of our example is composed of a certain kind of matter (namely rubber) and a certain kind of form (namely the form of a red, round, bouncy object). The matter by itself isn’t the ball, for the rubber could take on the form of a doorstop, an eraser, or any number of other things. The form by itself isn’t the ball either, for you can’t bounce redness, roundness, or even bounciness down the hallway, these being mere abstractions. It is only the form and matter together that constitute the ball.

The form thus determines what a thing is.  In this sense, the form of an object is sometimes called its essence or nature.  Feser explains that matter

will always have some substantial form or other, and thus count as a substance of some kind or other; . . . The notion of prime matter is just the notion of something in pure potentiality with respect to having any kind of form, and thus with respect to being any kind of thing at all. . . . [W]hat is purely potential has no actuality at all, and thus does not exist at all.

It should be noted that the Aristotelian-Thomistic notion of “form” is not the same as Plato’s notion.  Plato held that forms only exist in a realm wholly apart from the material world.  For Aquinas, the forms are instantiated in individual substances which exist in the world.  Apart from substances, forms are abstractions, but they are nonetheless real things, not mere human inventions.

Feser comments, “When we grasp [forms such as] ‘humanity,’ ‘triangularity,’ and the like, what we grasp are not mere inventions of the human mind, but are grounded in the natures of real human beings, triangles, or what have you.”

In part 3 we will look at the famous four causes.

Introduction to Classical Christian Metaphysics – Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Most Christians don’t care anything about metaphysics, and truth be told, don’t even know what it is. I hope to entice you, the reader, with a reason to learn about it. One very important reason for learning Christian metaphysics is because any Christian ethical system must be grounded in metaphysics.

You can’t generate a robust ethics without a robust metaphysics lying underneath. Philosopher David Oderberg explains that it is “impossible to know how the world ought to go, more specifically how one ought to act (or what makes a state of affairs or action good, or worthwhile, praiseworthy, etc.) without prior knowledge of how the world is.”

A realist moral theory (one that claims that there are real, objective moral values) must define/identify the source of moral values before it can get off the ground.  Metaphysics is the discipline that does the work of identifying the source of moral values, because metaphysics is the study of being, of existence.  If moral values really exist, then metaphysics must identify them.

Obviously there are other reasons for learning Christian metaphysics, but I will approach this introduction with the goal of providing a foundation to Christian ethics. What follows is largely taken from three books which I cannot recommend enough for anyone who wants to understand these issues. They are The Last Superstition and Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide, both by Edward Feser, and An Elementary Christian Metaphysics by Joseph Owens.

Let’s begin with the metaphysical principles of act and potency. In order to explain the way change of any kind is possible, Aristotle introduced the metaphysical principles of act and potency.  Edward Feser illustrates:

Take any object of our experience: a red rubber ball, for example. Among its features are the ways it actually is: solid, round, red, and bouncy. These are different aspects of its ‘being.’ There are also the ways it is not; for example, it is not a dog, or a car, or a computer. The ball’s ‘dogginess’ and so on, since they don’t exist, are different kinds of ‘non-being.’ But in addition to these features, we can distinguish the various ways the ball potentially is: blue (if you paint it), soft and gooey (if you melt it), and so forth.

Thus the red rubber ball is in act by way of actually being solid, red, round, and bouncy.  It actually is those things.  The ball is in potency by way of potentially being blue, soft, and gooey.  It could potentially become those things.  Change occurs when a potency is brought into act, or when a potentiality for being is made actual.  There is a potential for blueness in the ball, but this potential will not become actual unless an external influence acts upon the ball.  Thus the classical Aristotelian principle emerges: whatever is changed is changed by another.

All finite beings are composites of actuality and potentiality.  However, Edward Feser notes that “while actuality and potentiality are fully intelligible only in relation to each other, there is an asymmetry between them, with actuality having metaphysical priority,” for potentiality cannot exist without actuality.  “It is incoherent to speak of something both existing and being purely potential, with no actuality whatsoever.” However, it is perfectly coherent for pure actuality to exist without any potentiality.

In part 2 we will look at the metaphysical principles of form and matter. Remember that we are building a metaphysical base for Christian ethics, but you won’t be able to see how all of these metaphysical principles work together until we get to the end, so stick with me!

How Does Sam Harris’s Metaphysical View Undermine His Moral Landscape? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 3 we continue our analysis of Sam Harris’s “moral landscape” in view of his metaphysical naturalism, a worldview which denies the existence of anything that is timeless or transcendent in any sense.

We note that even after identifying moral values with well-being, Harris concedes that his moral landscape may not be good after all.  He explains:

It is also conceivable that a science of human flourishing could be possible, and yet people could be made equally happy by very different ‘moral’ impulses. Perhaps there is no connection between being good and feeling good— and, therefore, no connection between moral behavior (as generally conceived) and subjective well-being.  In this case, rapists, liars, and thieves would experience the same depth of happiness as the saints.  This scenario stands the greatest chance of being true, while still seeming quite far-fetched. . . .

However, if evil turned out to be as reliable a path to happiness as goodness is, my argument about the moral landscape would still stand, as would the likely utility of neuroscience for investigating it.  It would no longer be an especially ‘moral’ landscape; rather it would be a continuum of well-being, upon which saints and sinners would occupy equivalent peaks.

Harris is quick to suggest that because of human evolution and the fact that we all live in the same physical world, this scenario is highly implausible. However, his allowance for the possibility that the good of rapists, liars, and thieves is equivalent to the good of saints, as mapped on his moral landscape, surely indicates that his metaphysics is a disaster for his moral theory.

In this single passage, Harris has completely undermined his identification of the good with human well-being. William Lane Craig revealed this inconsistency during his debate with Harris.  Craig argued that “by granting that it’s possible that the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape, Dr. Harris’s view becomes logically incoherent.”

Since Harris’ metaphysics fail to provide him a source of moral values which transcends all conscious creatures, another problem surfaces for his moral landscape.  Harris considers the following scenario posed by Robert Nozick: “Nozick . . . asks if it would be ethical for our species to be sacrificed for the unimaginably vast happiness of some superbeings.”

Incredibly, Harris answers,

I think the answer is clearly ‘yes.’  There seems no reason to suppose that we must occupy the highest peak on the moral landscape. If there are beings who stand in relation to us as we do to bacteria, it should be easy to admit that their interests must trump our own, and to a degree that we cannot possibly conceive.

Because there is nothing ontologically greater than the physical brain states of conscious creatures, Harris simply must admit that as soon as a greater conscious creature arrives on the scene, then that creature’s well-being becomes identified with the good, and the well-being of human beings falls by the wayside.

Contrary to Harris, it surely is not easy to admit, nor is it intuitive, nor is it even remotely plausible that the wanton destruction of human beings by a superior alien race would ever be good.  Instead of abandoning his naturalistic metaphysics, Harris arrives at the totally counter-intuitive idea that human well-being is good only until a superior conscious creature appears.  I pray that when the aliens ask to be taken to our leader, Harris is nowhere around.

It should be abundantly clear that Harris’ naturalistic metaphysics leads him to a completely inadequate account of the source of moral values.  The well-being of conscious creatures fails to provide an unchanging, transcendent ground for the good.  The good is apt to be different for each person, depending on what gives him feelings of well-being. For Harris, cruelty and generosity could both be good; saints and sinners can both occupy peaks on the “moral landscape.” The fact of the matter is that nothing in Harris’ metaphysics guarantees what seems completely obvious to all of us: moral values are timeless and transcendent.

How Does Sam Harris’s Metaphysical View Undermine His Moral Landscape? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 1 we looked at some serious difficulties that Sam Harris’s metaphysical views cause his “moral landscape” to have. We continue with that analysis in part 2.

Recall that we ended part 1 by noting that Harris’s identification of the moral good with that which brings individual human flourishing and well-being is inadequate. Harris admits that the well-being and flourishing of a psychopath such as Ted Bundy is not morally good, but he can’t know this based on his identification of the good, so he is appealing to moral knowledge outside his own metaphysics.

Harris’s emphasis on the well-being of the community over Bundy still does not save his definition of the good.  What if someone like Ted Bundy lived in a community that generally valued rape and the occasional killing of women as fulfilling?  Harris, himself, sees this problem.  He asks:

But what if advances in neuroscience eventually allow us to change the way every brain responds to morally relevant experiences?  What if we could program the entire species to hate fairness, to admire cheating, to love cruelty, to despise compassion, etc.  Would this be morally good? . . . Is this really a world of equivalent and genuine well-being, where the concept of ‘well-being’ is susceptible to ongoing examination and refinement as it is in our world?  If so, so be it.

Harris concedes that what constitutes well-being could very well change in the future, and that the good could, conceivably, be identified with cheating and cruelty. If you’re scratching your head, join the club.

Surely Harris has misidentified the source of moral values if his source allows for cheating and cruelty to become moral values.  Moral values are, after all, timeless.  We routinely morally judge people who lived centuries ago because we know that moral values do not change over time; they transcend time.

Harris, himself, seems to take for granted that moral values are timeless as he refers to moral progress: “Despite our perennial bad behavior, our moral progress seems to me unmistakable. Our powers of empathy are clearly growing. Today, we are surely more likely to act for the benefit of humanity as a whole than at any point in the past.” Moral progress without timeless moral values would be simply incoherent, yet Harris’ metaphysics leave no room for timeless values.

As a metaphysical naturalist, Harris cannot identify the good with a timeless source that transcends the subjective feelings of individual human beings currently living. Thus metaphysical naturalism acts as universal acid which eats away the foundation of Harris’s moral landscape. In part 3, we will continue to watch the acid do its work.