Simon Nightingale on BBC Radio 3, 2 April: listen

Simon Nightingale did a short talk on distributive justice, referring to John Rawls, in Shropshire Radio’s Sunday morning “Faith and Ethics” program.

To hear it go to and listen on the time line from 1.18.15 to 1.23.50.

He then talked about the recent problems of the neurology service at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital until 1.27.00

Online now: Simon Nightingale on moral decisions and trolleyology

exphilSimon Nightingale, our chairman, spoke on BBC Radio Shropshire’s “Pause for Thought” today.

Simon’s talk discusses how our instinctive moral decisions are often very good, but sometimes can lead us astray. He illustrates this with examples of thought experiments known as trolleyology. If you would like to read more about how intuition can lead us astray – try Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. For an entertaining account of trolley-ology and a simple review of normative ethics, try Would you Kill the Fat Man by David Edmonds.

Listen between 1:19:15 and 1:25:30 on the time-line. It is available to listen to for the next 29 days.

Everyday humanism: How should we live?

One reason people leave religions behind is to escape the rules they impose on daily life. But does humanism have its own codes?

How should a humanist live? Wary of religious dogma, humanists are often reluctant to talk about how one “ought” to live. Secularism, a reaction to the political dominance of this dogma, is focused on what the state shouldn’t do, on what people should be free to decide for themselves. This is surely good. Yet while it should be no business of the state, the question remains: how should a humanist live?

This is the challenge set to 12 humanist writers whose essays fill Everyday Humanism, a book that aims to go beyond the discussions of Meaning, the State and the Good (what the editors call “macro-ethics”) to more regular, down-to-earth and, well, everyday issues faced by humanists. The book’s contributors hail from a variety of backgrounds, from professors to chaplains to campaigners, and between them they try to paint a picture of how the everyday humanist should live.

Read the article here.

Ludlow and Marches Humanists meeting for October

Ludlow and Marches Humanists invite you to an exploration and discussion on “How to be Good without God! How do Humanists handle moral dilemmas?” Tuesday 21 October, 7.30pm, at The Friends Meeting House, St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ
All welcome. For more information email:

September meeting: Should we judge the past by the standards of today?

There is no meeting of the group in August.

For 18 September at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG,  we are proposing a member-led discussion on the subject of whether we should or can judge the past by the moral and ethical standards of today. Should we, for example, condemn slavery and the oppression of women? This was topical recently as a result of Richard Dawkins’s comments on the sexual molestation that he and others received when he was at school.

We would be delighted to hear from anyone outside the committee who would be willing to introduce and moderate the discussion. Please contact us for reference materials to stimulate discussion.

May meeting report: Morals without a god

aquinasHow do we formulate a moral system when we do not have a god to tell us what to do? Are any truths self evident?. How do our ideas on morality have any authority?

Dr James Wakefield tackled these and other questions in a wide ranging and informative talk. He explained three main ways of thinking about moral systems.

The first, ‘Natural Law’ is based on the idea that objective and unchanging facts are out there for us to discover, and that these laws would exist even when they are unrecognised. This way of thinking presupposes the goodness of human nature.bentham

Another way of approaching morality is ‘Utilitarianism’, which supposes that an ideal morality is one which produces the greatest amount of happiness. There must be a reason for us to do what morality requires, and possibly not everyone wants to be happy. Why ought we to promote happiness? Maybe this is not a moral system at all, but merely a theory about happiness.

korsgaardFinally ‘Constructivism’, where our moral rules are not objective but are constructed. This system draws its reasons from the desires, interests, beliefs and values we already have. We should act according to the best reasons we can come up with. This could collapse into moral relativism where truth becomes a matter of opinion.

There are defenders of all three theories today. Dr Wakefield claims it is uniquely human to stand back and look at moral considerations. He would put himself into the constructivist camp.

This talk stimulated much interest and a lot of questions amongst the capacity audience. We shall take up a related topic in September, and no doubt these views will inform our discussion.

15 May meeting: James Wakefield on ethics without a god

AIbEiAIAAABECPq_87rl2uPT5wEiC3ZjYXJkX3Bob3RvKig3NmEyYWMyMDc1MjM5MDZhMjljMjlmODlkMWQ0MDRlZGUyMzlhMzBmMAGAKlqoK5HDwgafmPmrh-abjBpEbwOur May meeting will be on Thursday 15 May at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. All are welcome. Please see the Meetings and Events page for more details about our programme and attending.

Dr James Wakefield will talk about Ethics from the Inside Out: Moral Philosophy since the Death of God.

“How can there be any moral authority in the absence of a divine legislator? If there are no moral rules “written on the sky,” as it were, is morality just a matter of opinion? Of course, I think — and this is probably in line with the Humanist view — that we can still make morally authoritative claims, but the source of this authority is within humanity, not some external, mysterious legislator.”

James Wakefield recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University. His thesis examined the moral theory of the Sicilian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, and is due to be published in 2015 by Imprint Academic. Dr Wakefield is now an Honorary Research Fellow at that same university, and is working with Prof. Bruce Haddock on another book about moral and political philosophy.

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