| In many fairy tales, there lives a terrible beast of stupendous power, a dragon or a basilisk, which tyrannizes the surrounding lands. The local villagers tremble before this monster; they sacrifice their animals, pay money and blood in the hopes of appeasing its murderous impulses.

Most people cower under the shadow of this beast, calling their fear “prudence,” but a few – drunk perhaps on courage or foolhardiness – decide to fight. Year after year, decade after decade, wave after wave of hopeful champions try to match their strength, virtue and cunning against this terrible tyrant.

Try – and fail.

The beast is always immortal, so the villagers cannot hope for time to rid them of their despot. The beast is never rational, and has no desire to trade, and so no negotiations are possible. The desperate villagers’ only hope is for a man to appear who can defeat the beast.

Inevitably, a man steps forward who strikes everyone as utterly incongruous. He is a stable boy, a shoemaker’s son, a baker’s apprentice – or sometimes, just a vagabond.

This book is the story of my personal assault on just such a beast.

This “beast” is the belief that it is impossible to define an objective, rational, secular and scientific ethical system. This “beast” is the illusion that morality must forever be lost in the irrational swamps of gods and governments, enforced for merely pragmatic reasons, but forever lacking logical justification and clear definition. This “beast” is the fantasy that virtue, our greatest joy, our deepest happiness, must be cast aside by secular grown-ups, and left in the dust to be pawed at, paraded and exploited by politicians and priests – and parents. This “beast” is the superstition that, without the tirades of parents, the bullying of gods or the guns of governments, we cannot be both rational and good…

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Universally Preferable Behaviour: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics
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