The Personal Morality of Philosophers

There’s a lot to chew over in this survey of faculty and grad student in philosophy, but one thing I find particularly interesting is the juxtaposition of these two stats:

To start, it’s not a surprise that with 931 responses from target faculty, 72.8% are atheists, and only 14.6% theists. (That correlates nicely, one suspects, with the 13.7% who are libertarians about free will!) On the other hand, when the survey includes another 900 or so philosophers who weren’t among the target faculty, the percentage of atheists drops slightly to 69.7% and the number of theists increases to 16.3%. With 829 graduate students responding, a full 20.8% are theists, while 63.5% are atheists. (And, perhaps unsurprisingly, among graduate students, 19.3% are libertarians about free will!)


Journalists take note: more than half of philosophers at PhD-granting programs believe there are objective moral truths!

So clearly there’s got to be some overlap between the “objective morality” camp and the “atheism” camp. Which undermines the widespread, if tiresome, argument that belief in moral relativism is a natural, even inevitable, endpoint of lack of belief in God. Clearly, there are very intelligent people out there who think very hard about these things–do so for a career, in fact–and conclude the opposite.

Not to say that I’m totally closed to the idea that moral absolutes are inconsistent with a lack of belief in the divine. But anyone who wants to argue that is going to have to show their work instead of just taking it for granted.


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