Saturday, January 29, 2011

Omitted by The Chronicle

The Chronicle of Higher Education failed to publish the following response to David Marsh's article, "Two Cheers for Nature" (Dec. 17, 2010). However, they did publish many unsigned comments from their web page. None of the letters or web page comments raised the kind of criticism that I raise in the following letter.

Dear Editor:

In “Two Cheers for Nature,” David Marsh paints himself into nature’s corner by arguing that, while nature is all there is, nature is often cruel; yet it should, nevertheless, be opposed by us (who are nothing but wholly natural, material beings). Having dispensed with God and, consequently, a moral order that transcends a fallen nature, Marsh is left with the mere baseless affirmation that there are “things [that] must be struggled against with all the strength and determination, natural or not, that we possess.” Yet if we are nothing but nodes in the vast non-personal system of nature (having been “selected” by an amoral and purely material process), then the kind of objective values that Marsh needs for moral discrimination are eliminated. Neither can such a materialist worldview philosophically justify the moral agency requisite to revolt against our omnipotent “but unthinking mother” (as Bertrand Russell put it), since we are mere subsets of a larger and more fundamental universe, which is (Russell again) “just there.” In light of this conundrum, perhaps Marsh should reconsider his “atheist self” that declines to praise anything above nature itself.


Douglas Groothuis

Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

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