God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

On Ethics

Thanks to Dr. Jim West for bringing an essay by Professor Philip Davies to my attention. In it, Davies claims:

Ethics develop in a society where individuals have to make their own moral judgments about intrinsic goodness. […]

[T]he Bible cannot serve a modern democracy as a moral guide — unless of course we decide ourselves, on or own ethical principles, which bits of it we will follow and which ones we will not.

In other words, according to Davies, “ethics” is when we decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. I’m curious how many people belive this.

Of these two options:

1. “Ethics” means I have to choose what’s right and wrong.

2. “Ethics” means I have to discover what’s right and wrong.

what do you believe?


September 8, 2009 - Posted by | Off Topic | , ,


  1. Does it have to be one or the other?

    Comment by Will Fitzgerald | September 8, 2009

  2. Does it have to be one or the other?

    In one sense, I think so. Either morality is out there, waiting to be discovered (like science), or it’s a matter of my opinion (like art).

    But I suppose that even once discovered, ethical behavior has to be chosen, so perhaps I should have phrased (1) as “I get to decide what’s right and wrong.”

    Comment by Joel | September 8, 2009

  3. Hi Joel,

    A bit of both, I suppose. In any case, I think Davies is all wet, though I admire his style. I’ve replied in kind here:


    Comment by John Hobbins | September 9, 2009

  4. […] Joel Hoffman takes up this quote and rightly questioned Davies’ suggestion that ethics are developed simply when a society decides upon a set of moral principles is a rather dim and limiting view of ethics, and certainly very relativistic. […]

    Pingback by Oscar Wilde, Philip Davies, morals, ethics and how we read the Bible – Targuman | October 23, 2017

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