Some of Simon’s Essays on Humanist Ethics

This post contains a sort of ‘annotated bibliography’ for some of the essays I’ve written on Humanist ethics, both meta and applied. I’m not a particularly well trained philosopher, nor have I in every essay presented the most nuanced or least contentious position. In fact, I can think of a few areas where I’ve changed my mind and would no longer support what I argue here. All this aside, though, I do think these can serve as starting points for further discussion.


  1. The Moral Neutrality of Killing – in which I argue that Humanists should focus not on some kind of intrinsic right-to-life held by human beings but on the consequences brought on death, when considering whether it’s acceptable or justifiable to kill
  2. Discourse, Insult, and the Doctrine of Double Effect in which I apply a common principle for determining the moral status of the use of force in war to the question of when we can feel justified in using expressions or speech that some find offensive or demeaning
  3. Enlightenment Values, Discourse Ethics, and Oppression – where I argue we should seek conditions for discourse that follow Enlightenment values, because doing so will provide the greatest emancipation from oppression
  4. Two essays on capital punishment, the first arguing that  the notion that anyone deserves to die cannot be valid, and the second continuing that theme by addressing one criticism of my initial position
  5. We are what we believe, but let’s pretend otherwise – in which I suggest that it may be unsustainable to say that we can hate a belief without, at least to some extent, hating those who hold it, but we should nevertheless maintain this distinction even if it is specious
  6. Utilitarianism and Disclosure – in which I discuss the obligation to disclose facts about ourselves which we may want to keep secret, by addressing the VERY difficult and contentious case of transgendered people
  7. Compassion and Violence – in which I talk about the difficulties of waging war while still remaining compassionate, and the conventions of Just War Theory (***Note that I gave a long talk on this subject as well)
  8. Discourse and Legitimate Outrage – in which I talk about the effects, both good and bad, that expressions of outrage can have upon discourse
  9. On getting others to torture for us – in which I talk about the dilemma of using information gained through torture

Finally, I want to provide a link to my article on Islamic norms and democratic accountability, since while it contains no normative arguments, it might be very interesting to those of us interested in how religions might serve as vehicles for good social transformation, or otherwise embody Humanist-seeming ethical arguments. You may also want to read this post summarising some key terms and concepts in Islam, in plain language, and designed for a secularist or Humanist reader.

Naturally my blog contains other sorts of things as well, mostly related to my study of war, strategy, repression and resistance (particularly terrorism).


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