[quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“burt”]. . . I [was] quoting Jacob Bronowski. . . .
I won’t risk being called your whipping boy, burt. But for the moment I’ll risk being called your bitch and say that your words are supportive enough to be mistaken for those of famous authors. (Be sure to p.m. me if you in fact are a famous author yourself, so I can be a bit more discreet in the future.)
I have been defending my arguments against unfounded criticisms from yourself and Silenus.
First, in my response to waltercat, I’d like to apologize if you feel I have made an unfounded attack on your person. I must say that I have enjoyed my time in the forum immensely and had no intension of insulting anyone. I have tried to keep all my comments on topic and on the discussion at hand and have tried to keep any sarcasm out of my posts. If you feel I have done otherwise anywhere, I apologize and feel free to point it out.
I didn’t say that the criticism was of a personal nature. You and fletch have been personable. I was referring to your criticisms of my argument, which, I’m afraid, remain unfounded (as in based on an erroneous understanding of my position). So there is no need to apologize.
Now, I ‘m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I have some contentions with your last post. I must say I find a flaw in your argument against C.S. Lewis’ argument for the existence of God. However, Lewis’ argument was one I never put forward. I have been arguing deductively that the existence of God metaphysically necessitates the existence of objective morality and so far you have stated your disagreement with it well, although I wouldn’t say conclusively.
This is not the argument I have taken you to be making. I have understood you to be claiming that the existence of objective morality necessitates the existence of God. This has been, and remains, the focus of my criticism.
I have been arguing that it is perfectly reasonable to believe both of the following two claims:
(1) There are universally valid (i.e., objective) moral rules; they are true for everyone.
(2) God does not exist.
It has appeared to me that you believe that a person cannot believe both (1) and (2). One of the points of my earlier posts is that you have not provided an argument for this conclusion. In other words, you have not provided an argument for the claim that following:
(3) If God does not exist, then there are no universally valid moral rules.
I have seen no argument for (3) from either you or fletch. If I have missed it, please re-state it or direct me to where you made it.
Now, what about this other claim, that the existence of God necessitates the existence of objective morality. I don’t know what to make of this claim, and I must say that I have seen no argument for it either. It seems to be related to my claim that the Divine Command Theory provides a morality that is only arbitrary. Is this what you disagree with? If so, please provide me with an argument that the moral rules derived from the Divine Command Theory are not arbitrary. Again, I have seen no such argument from you.
I still don’t feel that you have distinguished how a morality from an eternal God is different from a platonic ideal. I would say your argument so far has been that the metaphysical existence of God necessitates an arbitrary ethic. I won’t go into that argument yet, again, because I’ll wait for your response to Fletch’s article.
Again, my argument is that The Divine Command Theory yields moral rules that are arbitrary. This is because God’s commands are arbitrary from a moral perspective. God can command anything He wants (since He is all-powerful). So, He could command that we torture babies. On the Divine Command Theory, there is nothing that constrains God’s commands, thus the commands that he chooses are totally arbitrary from a moral perspective.
Again, I have not seen any argument that purports to explain what is wrong with the above reasoning.
However, I must say that I find a part of your last argument far from satisfying. I’m going to start from the beginning of our dialogue. When the question was put forward about the basis for objective ethics in an atheistic system, you said that there is no reason why an atheist can’t . . .
Why can’t an atheist believe in a non-material realm?
Why can’t an atheist believe in an objective morality?
believe, (more on that later) that an objective morality exists.
I said that nobody has a totally complete and compelling account for how objective morality is possible, including theists. This is comapitable with believing that morality is objective. What is the source of your misunderstanding?
Here is my view:
There really are genuine, objective moral claims. Such claims as, “It is wrong to boil babies” and “It is wrong to torture dogs” are examples. However, I do not have a completely compelling account of the ground of objective morality. The argument that since we lack an explanation of how objective morality is possible, thus we must reject objective morality, is a fallacy. Just because we don’t have an explanation for how some thing comes to be, this does NOT mean that we should conclude that it doesn’t exist.
Now I asked what seemed to be the next appropriate question, why do you believe it? Here is your statement.
What is my basis for the assumption that there is a ground? Answer: The fact that it is an objective and non-arbitrary fact that it is wrong to boil babies.
Am I saying that objective morality is observable? Yes. I think that any normal person can see that it is wrong to boil babies.
So, you seem to me to be saying that, since there are some moral principles upon which everyone agrees there; therefore, must be an objective moral system.
NO. I am not saying this. Nowhere in my argument did I appeal to agreement, universal or otherwise. You are committing a STRAW MAN fallacy here. You are re-characterizing my argument so that it sounds weaker than it really is. This is an all too frequent rhetorical ploy used by those whose arguments are themselves weak (fletch tried to use it earlier against one of my arguments).
I never spoke of agreement. Rather I said that it is an objective fact that it is wrong to boil babies. And, of course, it is. If you disagree that it is, go ahead and produce an argument.
That everyone agrees that it is wrong to boil babies is evidence that this is an objective moral fact. But the agreement is NOT the ground of that fact. The reason that everyone agrees is that it is an objective fact, not the other way around.
Problem. Not everyone on this forum agrees that ethics are objective, let alone in the world, so I find agreement to be a tenuous basis for that postulation.
You are changing the issue here. I never said that everyone will consent to claim (1):
(1) There are universally valid moral rules.
Indeed, as you point out, there are people on this forum who deny (1). And, of course I agree that not everyone agrees with (1). But disagreeing with (1) is not the same as disagreeing with (4):
(4) It is wrong to throw a baby into a vat of boiling oil.
And I do think that most people will agree with (4). But perhaps I am wrong. So I’ll issue a challenge to anyone who disagrees with me here: If you think that it is permissible to boil babies, prove it. Show me the argument.
Of course, those who agree with (4) (which, as I say, is pretty much everybody) must also agree with (1). But not everyone realizes that when (1) is denied, (4) is also implicitly denied. So people can have selective awareness of what their commitments imply. And I think that anyone who thinks that there are not universally valid moral rules is most likely unaware that they thereby must also deny (4).
But wait, We can all agree that boiling babies is immoral right, then we can assert that the morals that all men can agree to are objective.
I certainly never said this. I think that one of the criteria for a moral rule being objective is that it applies to everyone whether they agree or not.
I guess, as long as we don’t let the cannibals raise their hands, we are all good. But, what do I do if I encounter a cannibal? As he is chewing on my femur, do I tell him, but everybody believes this is wrong!!!
Cannibalism is not the same thing as baby boiling. And again, if I tell the cannibal that he is wrong to eat me, I am NOT just saying that everyone believes that he is wrong. I am saying that he is wrong, period.
I guess, we also gotta watch the ancient worshippers of religions whose human sacrifice included babies. The Spartans didn’t boil their babies, but they had no problem throwing the weaker ones off cliffs.
So I wonder what they would have thought of boiling innocent babies. I bet they would disapprove. But, once again, nothing rides on the fact that there is universal agreement that baby-torturing is wrong. Even if there was a culture that believed that it is permissible to torture babies, this would in no way affect my argument because I am not using universal agreement as the basis of objective moral rules.
But why don’t you do some research into you claim about Sparta. Undoubtedly there have been cultures that practice infanticide (native Alaskans are often pointed to as an example). But if you do some research I am certain that you will find that, at least in socially sanctioned cases, infanticide was not approved of because the society believed that hurting babies is permissible. Rather, infanticide was, tragically, necessitated by an economic imperative. When there is not enough food to feed the tribe, some members must be sacrificed. And it is worth emphasizing again that committing infanticide is not the same as torturing babies.
Of course, you could play the, “well they lived in a different time period than me and we’ve evolved card,” but then you need a principle outside of this ethics founded on agreement to judge this ethics founded on agreement. Also, you seem to say that, because we can all agree on one ethical rule, that there exists a standard of ethics for everybody. I’m not sure I can follow along on that inductive jump. I could agree that this shows a propensity for ethics proper, but a ground for an actual objective moral law, I think is a stretch. It seems your argument is thus.
If everybody agrees with an ethical law, it is absolute.
Everyone agrees that killing babies is wrong
Therefore, killing babies is absolutely wrong.
All agree that killing babies is wrong.
If everyone can agree on one ethical principle, then there must be an entire ethical system for everyone.
Therefore there is an ethical system for everyone.
No, this is not my argument. See above.
And why not ask before you assume?
Why must I assume that an objective ethics exists because we agree on some moral points?
You need not, and my argument does not depend on it. However, would you not agree that if a moral principle is universally accepted that this is some evidence that it is universally valid. Evidence, mind you, not proof.
Wouldn’t it be easier to say that we agree, therefore our agreement makes the ethics binding like a contract and delve into social contract theory? However, any way you look at it, you have now introduced disagreement as a valid way to discount an ethical premise or system. If ethics is based on agreement and disagreement, one dissenting voice poses a small problem, and many dissenting voices poses a huge problem.
How many times will I say this: Ethics is NOT based on agreement.
And, if majority rules is the way to go with ethics and metaphysics what do we do with the majority of people who are supernaturalists.
At least once more, apparently:
MAJORITY RULE IS NOT THE WAY TO GO WITH ETHICS.
Observing people acting morally only gives me the fact that people have moral standards. It doesn’t give me the rational stuff to jump to objective ethics. Once again, as has already been pointed out, you can’t go from an is to an ought.
Not everyone agrees that you can’t derive an ought from an is. In fact, I would say that there is more philosophical skepticism of this “ought from is” thesis than there is of the validity of the Euthyphro argument against the Divine Command Theory. Rejection of DCT is nearly universal among professional philosophers. Acceptance of Hume’s dictum is not nearly so.
Isn’t it telling that the faithful say that they believe in God? “We believe in one God, the Father and the Almighty . . ” Why not “We Know”?
Do you know that God exists or do you just believe it?
I know that boiling babies is morally wrong. And the rest of the world knows it too. But there is dramatic disagreement about whether God exists. And the fact that even the most ardent believers are known as ‘believers’ rather than ‘knowers’ I think is deeply significant. Even the faithful only believe that God exists, whereas they know that morality exists and is objective.
As far as this is concerned, I don’t find this convincing, especially since you used believe earlier to refer to your own beliefs.
When was this? You quoted questions that I asked: “Why can’t an atheist believe in objective morality?” I certainly wasn’t asserting my own beliefs here. But let me be quite explicit here: I KNOW that there are objective moral rules. Do you KNOW that GOD exists? If so, please provide me an argument.
To say I believe something is to say I believe it to be true, to be fact.
But belief is not the same as knowledge. Knowledge is, at a minimum, belief that is true and justified. Your belief in God is not justified.
To try to argue that, because I use believe instead of fact, I doubt myself isn’t quite a valid statement.
But you do doubt yourself, or else you wouldn’t be here trying to convince yourself that you are right. Furthermore, whether you will admit doubt or not, your belief in God still does not amount to knowledge. Why? Because you have no argument for his existence that is even close to convincing. If I am wrong about this, please provide the argument.
The use of the word believe does tend to indicate disagreement, but people disagree on things, and in this forum, they disagree on the nature of objective ethics.
In the context of religion, saying, “I believe . . .” indicates that you recognize that your religious commitments do not amount to knowledge. That was my point.
You believe it is there although you can’t account for it, and others believe you are wrong. Unless, of course, you are saying that disagreement demonstrates the invalidity of a system, your argument about belief is nothing more than a semantic turn of phrase.
Hardly. My point, again, is that your belief in God does not amount to knowledge. However, you and I both KNOW that it is wrong to boil babies. Thus, the level of certainty you attach to
(4) It is wrong to throw a baby into a vat of boiling oil.
is higher than the level of certainty you attach to
(5) God exists.
You know, nothing you have said denies this. You have been giving your own account of why we use the word ‘believe’ but you have not given any indication that you disagree with my assessment that the truth of (4) is more certain than the truth of (5). So, what is your assessment?
Furthermore, It seems like your main argument is more of an attack on inductive reasoning.
It may seem like it to you, but it is not.
I will quote a small part
Which of the following is more likely to be true:
(a) It is morally permissible to torture babies.
(b) God does not exist.
(b) is more likely to be true, by a long shot.
Why does this matter? Well imagine that you, Silenus, go up to a stranger on the street and say, a la C.S. Lewis, “Do you believe in God? Well, you ought to. After all, morality depends upon God and you believe in morality don’t you. You can’t have objective morality without God, you know. So if you believe in morality, you’ve got to believe in God.”
We are (currently) more certain that morality exists than we are that God exists.
If morality depends upon God, then we can be no more certain that morality exists than that God exists.
Thus, if we accept that morality depends upon God, we must become less certain of the existence of objective morality. (in other words, our level of certainty in the existence of morality must drop to (at most) match our level of confidence in the existence of God)
But this is an absurd consequence.
We are currently more certain that morality exists, we are not more certain that objective morality exists. Not being able to account for something is a big deal logically.
I really don’t understand your point here. We, meaning you and me, are certain that it is objectively wrong to boil babies. What is not accounted for?
I, also, disagree that we have to be more certain of a foundational principle than its resulting effects.
Using the language of cause and effect is unhelpful in this context. Are you saying that you disagree that we must be more certain of a foundational principle than we are of that which follow from the principle? If so, what is the basis for your disagreement?
Maybe I’m confused about your point here, but if you postulated your argument to Lewis, he would agree with you and I don’t think he’d find it abserd at all.
Wouldn’t find what absurd?
If his premise is correct, that you can’t have morality without God, then the existence of morality would prove God’s and this whole certainty aspect is mute.
Sure, IF his premise is correct. But that precisely is the point, isn’t it? Lewis has no argument for this premise. It is a totally undefended premise. Lewis provides no reason for thinking that morality logically depends on God. And, so far as I can tell, neither have you.
But please feel free to do so. State an argument for the thesis that you can’t have morality without God.
My point was that, in the absence of such an argument, there is no reason to accept Lewis’ argument. Lewis is trying to smuggle God in on the back of something we are certain of: namely, objective morality.
If I see a building, I know someone built it and Lewis is saying if I see a law I know there is a lawgiver.
This is the closest you have ever come to providing an argument for the premise that morality depends on God. But it is an extremely bad argument.
The analogy is a false one. Why do we know that the existence of a building implies a builder? Because we know something about buildings, we know that they are not naturally occurring objects, that they take a great deal of effort and planning to create. In other words, we know that a building implies a builder because we know where buildings come from.
But in the case of objective moral laws, we do not know have the same kind of solid understanding of where they come from. Lewis has not proven that objective moral rules come from God. He hasn’t even argued for it. Now, in the absence of an observation that moral laws come into existence only when there is a God, we have no reason to accept that the existence of moral laws implies a God. The situation is very different than in the case of buildings. In that case, there are observations coupled with general knowledge about how buildings come into existence. But there are no such analogous observations nor general knowledge in the case of morality. We cannot point to any observation of a God creating a moral law (as we can point to many observations of builders creating buildings). Nor do we have any general knowledge about how moral laws are created analogous to the general knowledge that we have about how buildings are created (and, more importantly, Lewis certainly never points to such knowledge).
Let me repeat this, loudly, just to be clear:
LEWIS HAS NOT ARGUED FOR THE PREMISE THAT OBJECTIVE MORALITY CAN ONLY COME FROM GOD.
In the absence of such an argument, he is merely begging the question. If you have such an argument, I would love to hear it.
It is a ground and consequence relationship. Apples fall from trees because of gravity. The apple falling is more certain (we knew apples falling before we knew gravity) but the existence of gravity is the cause of the apple’s fall. And so, when we see an apple fall, we now think gravity. Gravity is more fundamental than the fall because it is the ground of the fall, but it was a later discovery and was less certain to the pre-Newtonian mind than the apple’s fall.
This is an even worse analogy than the previous one. First of all, Newton did NOT discover gravity. Prior to Newton, people were well aware that apples fell from trees. What Newton discovered was a theory that explained why unsupported objects fall. His theory was that all massive objects attract one another.
Now, the Newtonian argument analogous to Lewis’ argument would be this: The only way for apples to fall is for massive bodies to attract one another. If you don’t have massive body attraction, you don’t have apples falling. Since you obviously believe that apples fall, you must accept that bodies attract one another.
But Newton never used this argument, and it is a good thing because it is as bad as Lewis’. And it is bad for precisely the reasons I gave. We are more certain that apples fall than we are that bodies attract . . . and so on. What Newton did say is something like this: “Here is a theory that explains, among other things, why unsupported objects fall. Not only does it explain this but it uses a mathematical formula that can predict, given the initial position of a falling body, its position as it nears the surface of the earth. The theory is powerful, it explains a lot, I think it is most likely true.”
Newton DID NOT say that his theory was the only possible way to explain why unsupported objects fall. He DID NOT say, “Massive body attraction is only way to account for falling bodies. If you believe in falling bodies, you must believe in massive body attraction.” And it is a good thing he didn’t argue in this way, because there are other theories that explain why unsupported objects fall (e.g., General Relativity).
But this is precisely the kind of claim that Lewis makes, he says, in essence, “God is the only way to account for objective morality. If you believe in objective morality, you must believe in God.” Again, this is a horrendous argument because Lewis has not explained how God produces morality, and more importantly, he has not argued for that major premise: that God is the only way to account for morality.
Imagine someone of the Newtonian era speculating thus
We are more certain the apple falls than the existence of gravity. If apples depend on Gravity to fall, then we can be no more certain that apples fall than the existence of gravity.
Thus, if we accept the existence of gravity we must become less certain of the fall of apples. This is an abserd consequence.
Again, the issue is not the existence of gravity but the validity of Newton’s theories of motion. And Newton certainly would have admitted that we are more certain that apples fall than that his theories were correct.
Now I want to talk more about this alleged analogy but before I do, I need to provide some context. Remember that my discussion about the relative certainty that we attach to different claims came in the context of criticizing Lewis’ argument. I pointed out that Lewis did not to demonstrate the existence of God and he did nothing to demonstrate that the existence of objective morality depends on the existence of God. All that he did was assert something that he did not argue for: that morality depends on God. In other words, he just asserted claim (3) (from my previous post):
(3) If God does not exist, then there are no universally valid moral rules.
Again, Lewis does not argue for this claim. All that he does is assert it, assert that objective moral rules exist, and concludes that God exists. My point was that, in the absence of further argument or evidence that God exists or that the existence of morality depends on God, we are much more certain that morality exists than we are that God exists. This is certainly relevant when evaluating the truth or premise (3).
Now, Newton never employed an argument analogous to (3). But if he had it would have looked like this:
(3N) If massive bodies do not attract, unsupported objects do not fall.
Newton did not employ premise (3N) for some very important reasons. First, he was not sure if it was true. He knew that it was possible that his theory was false and he knew that the falsity of his theory would not prove that apples did not fall. (And, of course, today we know that his theory is false and we have more complete theories about what causes gravity (General Relativity is one)). Second, Newton knew that the case for his theory was strong. He knew that he didn’t need a ridiculous premise like (3N). His explanation for gravity was compelling, rigorous and was confirmed by evidence. It made testable predictions and, at least at his time, the predictions were accurate. In short, Newton’s case for his theory of gravitation was compelling and he did not need to resort to the pathetic rhetorical device embodies in premise (3N).
But suppose Newton had been such a pathetic scientist that the only support for his theory was the premise (3N). In that case, it would have made perfect sense to reply in the manner you outline above. Newton would have given us no independent reason to think that gravity can only be explained by massive body attraction. And thus, given the lack of certainty for both this and for premise (3N) compared with the absolute certainty that apples fall, we would be right to reject Newton’s argument.
And, in any case, regardless of the actual history, (3N) is false. And we would be right to reject it using the reasoning that I have used to reject (3). That is, we are more certain that apples fall than we are that massive bodies attract, but if (3N) is true, our certainty about falling apples cannot be more than our certainty that massive bodies attract. But this is absurd.
Notice, that this would only be an argument for the rejection of (3N), NOT for the rejection of Newton’s (actual) theory. We couldn’t argue against Newton’s actual theory in this manner because Newton did not use (3N) to support his theory. It just isn’t the case that if Netwon’s theory is true, then our certainty about falling apples cannot exceed our certainty about massive body attraction. In other words, Newton never claimed that his theory was the only way to account for falling bodies. He said it was a good way, a rigorous way and an intellectually satisfying way. And he was correct. Newton knew that our certainty with respect to falling bodies would always be higher, and thus it would be pointless to use a premise like (3N).
Now, I understand my little comparison here has a flaw. In your argument, both things are abstract, while in my example, the apple is concrete while gravity is abstract. But I don’t think that makes my point about the nature of induction moot.
See above. I think I have shown that your attempt to draw this analogy will get you nowhere.
In science, we believe many things that are less obvious, but are more foundational than the particulars they are based on. This is the nature of making inferences. He looks at objective reality and says that the only fundamental that provided for moral objectivity is a lawgiver.
A law implies a lawgiver.
Well, no it doesn’t. This little slogan utilizes our familiarity with legal laws and assumes that we will forget, for the time being about other sorts of laws, such as natural laws. Sure laws in a legal context imply a lawgiver. But there is no reason to extend this to all laws. Indeed there is a positive reason not to, namely the existence of natural laws (such as Newton’s laws of motion). Natural laws do not imply a lawgiver. Conclusion: it is just wrong to assume that a law implies a lawgiver. Some laws do, some don’t; the universal generalization is too hasty.
Let’s take your assertion and put it in the same format
We are more certain that boiling babies is wrong than we are that an objective morality exists.
This is a significant error, for reasons that I explained in my previous post. The two statements here are logically related; i.e., the latter (that objective morality exists) is a logical consequence of the former (that it is objectively wrong to boil babies). Again, it is true that people don’t always recognize the logical connection between the two and so they can, in their ignorance, assign different levels of certainty to each statement. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a logical relationship, that the second is a logical consequence of the first, and that therefore, to be logically consistent, we must assign the same level of certainty to each.
If the incorrectness of boiling babies depends on an objective morality (that’s what being a ground means) then we can be no more certain of the incorrectness of boiling babies than the existence of objective morality. Thus, if we accept that boiling babies is wrong depends upon objective morality, we must become less certain of boiling babies to match our level of confidence in an objective morality.
In other words, if Lewis’ argument falls on this count, so does yours.
No, see above. The logical connections I described make your case very different than Lewis’.
You indicate, correctly, that in this argument God is the end of the following proof chain
A moral law exists
All law needs a lawgiver
Therefore a lawgiver exists
However, science depends on the kind of reasoning you are attacking because it postulates general principles from certain particulars and the particulars are more obvious than the principle. However, if you accept the chain, then you accept the end result. As far as you are concerned, I can’t be certain of the end results of scientific inductions because they reveal foundation principles that are less obvious than the particulars they are based on, and its abserd to believe that a fundamental is less certain than a particular? I either don’t buy it or am misinterpreting what you are saying.
You do misunderstand. My argument about certainty was directed against premise (3) above. When the only argument we have is one that employs a premise like (3), then we must reject it for the reasons I have discussed. (and these reasons have to do with the relative certainty we attach to the different claims). Luckily science does not employ premises like (3).
However, Lewis DOES employ an argument with only premise (3) and he gives us no reason to accept premise (3). This is supposed to be an argument in favor of the claim that God exists. He offers no other compelling evidence that God exists. Just premise (3), and the observation that objective moral rules do exist. In response to such an argument, it is perfectly reasonable to mention the level of certainty we attach to the various claims and to point out the absurd consequence that an acceptance of Lewis’ argument implies that our level of confidence in the existence of morality will decrease. If any scientist put forth an argument analogous to Lewis’, it would be reasonable to respond in an analogous manner.
Your problem is with the validity of the middle premise and that is why you reject C.S. Lewis. Your whole 69% less sure thing is nothing but rhetorical flourish. If you agreed with the middle premise, you would be not speaking of percentages of certainty.
The middle premise is indeed bad. There is no argument provided on its favor, and, as I indicated, it is clearly false (since natural laws do not need a lawgiver).
There are no moral laws. There are moral principles.
Law replaces moral considerations with legal considerations.
The principle behind a law may be moral, but the law itself is amoral.
“One should consider the effects of harming others” is a moral principle. It addresses the implications and consequences of harming others.
“Do not Kill” is simply a law. It completely ignores whether killing is harmful or beneficial.
DCT is amoral. If we could find an absolute morality, then it would make DCT irrelevant.
Suppose everyone agrees that boiling babies is wrong. You agree, I agree, and God agrees. In that case, no one can claim to be the source. It cannot be the result of DCT since it arises naturally in everyone.
Claiming that God is the source is just randomly picking a source.
IE: All apples fall to the ground. A specific apple is the source of gravity.
In order to assign morality to God, we must remove it from humans. We have to make God the only source.
But if that is true, we have an even worse problem. If God is the source of morality, then morality only applies to gods. If humans lack morality, then it cannot be imposed upon them.
IE: A Bird God can command us to flap our wings. But that would be an exercise in futility.
I think the issue is fairly simple.
Atheists view morality as making the best choice.
Theists view morality as a form of obedience.
People who subscribe to organized religion believe due to obedience maybe. Why get this technical? Either you believe all the unexplainables in life are related to science or we say they are God. Either way you are all arguing about the unknown. There is no right or wrong answer. Christianity is a philosophy like you guys use science.
[quote author=“MDBeach”]People who subscribe to organized religion believe due to obedience maybe. Why get this technical? Either you believe all the unexplainables in life are related to science or we say they are God. Either way you are all arguing about the unknown. There is no right or wrong answer. Christianity is a philosophy like you guys use science.
That’s why I prefer simple suspension of judgment in the face of the currently unexplained.
Now maybe you’ve got an argument for why we ought to believe that only God can be the source of morality. If so, I’d like to hear it. But to really establish this claim, you’d have to rule out, as impossible, any attempt to ground morality without God. But, it is hard to see this task as anything but impossible.
Again, (I posted on this earlier) here’s the post . . .
This brings me to Michael Martin. He has made the following argument many times. Here’s the reduced version.
For theism to claim the lack of atheist morality, theism must refute all atheist arguments to the contrary.
Theism has not refuted all atheist premises
Therefore, atheism has a basis for objective morality.
However, Martin needs to present an unrefuted premise to finish his argument. I think I read through his paper a few times, and I never read him put forward his metaphysical basis for ethics.
This is where you assert Martin’s argument again (I don’t know if you’ve read Martin, I’m not saying you got it from him, I’m just saying that your statement and his unite and I am familiar with his) Martin’s second premise asserts that, for this argument to be true, a theist must destroy all atheist premises for objective morality.
Well, no; Martin is talking about arguments, not premises. What Martin is saying is that the Theist must demonstrate the invalidity of all arguments
that purport to demonstrate that objective morality is possible without God. So, the second premise out to read:
(A)Theism has not refuted all atheist arguments for the conclusion that morality is possible without God.
For his second premise to hold, he must show an undefeated metaphysical premise.
I have no idea what undefeated metaphysical premise you are talking about here. This is a very confusing part of your argument because earlier you were using the word ‘premise’ when you should have been using the word ‘argument.’ So are you saying that Martin needs to point to an undefeated argument? I’ll assume that this is what you mean.
So what you are saying is that, in order to demonstrate that the above premise (A) is true, Martin must show that there are arguments that demonstrate that morality is possible without God.
Now, given some things that you have said in the past (in addition to what you say next here (more on that later)), I think that you take this to mean that Martin must provide a TRUE atheistic theory that explains where morality comes from. But this is just wrong. Martin does not have to provide a true atheistic theory of morality; he doesn’t even have to show that there are present theories that haven’t be defeated. So, there are a couple of significant errors in your argument here (or at least in what I am taking your argument to be):
First: The premise states that Theism has not refuted all arguments for atheistic morality. I interpret this as follows:
The theist has not proven that all such theories (both those that have been formulated and those yet to be formulated) are false.
Why do I mention both theories that have been formulated and those that will be formulated in the future? Well, it is obvious that human knowledge progresses through time. In the future, we should expect that people will formulate new theories about the source of morality. So, it is possible that even if all of the atheistic theories of morality that have been formulated as of this date are false, there is, nonetheless, a true atheistic theory that has not yet been formulated. In other words, the fact (if it is one; I don’t think it is) that all atheistic theories of morality currently on offer are false, does not imply that we have to resort to Theistic theories. Why? Because perhaps the correct atheistic theory has not yet been formulated.
Given this, it is unfair to expect the atheist to have to provide an undefeated atheistic moral theory. It is not the case that Premise (A) falls unless the atheist does so. The atheist can appropriately respond that just because all current theories are false (again, a position I don’t endorse; I am just being hypothetical here), that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a true theory.
So you see that the Theist task is really quite difficult. The Theist must demonstrate that any possible argument (in other words, all current and future theories) for atheistic morality will fail. It is not enough just to defeat the theories currently on offer. The theist who wants to demonstrate the impossibility of atheistic morality has a much harder task.
Second: It is not the case that all atheistic theories of morality currently on offer have been defeated. Of course this doesn’t mean that any of them are true. There is a difference between saying that a theory is undefeated (meaning it hasn’t been proven false), and saying that it is true. And there are some atheistic theories of morality that have not yet been defeated. I would count Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism among them. Martin’s own preferred theory is known as “Ideal Observer Theory.” Now this doesn’t mean that I think that any of these theories is true. I think that most have flaws. But having flaws is not the same as being false. And I would not go so far to say that any of these theories has been proven false.
By the way, this is obviously a very difficult task. The theist needs to demonstrate that all atheistic theories of morality are false. That would be a full-time job.
Now back to your argument:
In the next sentence, you are claiming (I take it), that Martin never has demonstrated that there are undefeated atheistic theories of morality:
He never has, I read his argument many times.
This is both false and confused. Confused for the reasons I gave above: Martin does not have to provide a true theory of atheistic morality in order for Premise (A) to be true. All that needs to be shown is that Theism has not defeated all possible arguments for the existence of atheistic morality. And clearly Theists have not succeeded in this task. But once again, I challenge you to provide the argument. If you think it can be shown that atheistic morality is IMPOSSIBLE, let’s hear the argument. So far, you have not provided one.
What you say about Martin is also false. He has, in fact, defended a version of atheistic morality known as “Ideal Observer Theory.” So it is unfair of you to criticize him in this way. I suggest you read his book, Atheism, Morality, and Meaning. And stop asserting things that you don’t know to be true.
And again, you still have not given us your metaphysics.
I have explained before why I don’t need to. But I will tackle this misconception of yours again in a future post.
You’re argument has been that since everyone agrees with one moral principle, there must be objective moral laws.
NO. My argument has been that since it is wrong to boil babies, there must be objective moral rules.
I’m not convinced.
Maybe you should try reading more atheist literature. Michael Martin’s book is very good.
My assertion is that Theism does give an account for an objective moral law. I have more responses on this, but, again, I will wait until after you respond to the article. My belief that absolute values exists does bolster my belief in God, but its far from the rack where I hang my hat. I am saying that I have yet to encounter an atheist metaphysic that explains or accounts for the existence of absolute morality.
And I have yet to encounter a Theistic theory that accounts for the existence of absolute morality. Again, if you have an argument, let’s hear it.
I thought you believed the same thing. I have been arguing that theism necessitates absolute morality and have been asking for an atheistic metaphysic that does the same. At this point, I am saying that I don’t see how an atheistic metaphysic provides any basis for objective morality
And I am saying that I don’t see how the supposition that God exists helps matters. Please, explain how it does.
And while your at it, give as an argument that demonstrates that morality without God is impossible.
I want to talk about why I believe that there are objectively valid moral principles.
Here is an argument for this conclusion (I’ll call it argument OM):
Premise (I): If boiling babies is wrong, then there are objectively valid moral standards.
Premise (II): Boiling babies is wrong.
Conclusion (C): There are objectively valid moral standards.
As you can see, this argument is very simple and is readily comprehended by almost everyone.
Now let’s evaluate it. We need to ask two questions: Is the argument valid and is it sound?
The argument is valid. In other words, the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. The argument is an instance of the rule known as modus ponens, which is an inference rule that preserves truth. Thus, if all of the premises are true, the conclusion has to be true. Argument (OM) is valid.
The argument is also sound. An argument is sound just in case it is valid and all of the premises are true. Let’s evaluate the truth of the premises:
Premise (I) claims that so long as it is wrong to boil babies, then there is at least one objective moral standard. An objective moral standard is a claim about the rightness or wrongness of some behavior. “Boiling babies is wrong” is such a claim; it is a claim that a particular behavior is immoral. Thus, if “boiling babies is wrong” is true, then there is at least one objective moral standard.
Premise (I) is TRUE.
Premise (II) is also true. Here is an argument for premise (II):
(a) Boiling a baby causes the baby severe pain.
(b) No baby has ever committed a crime that would make him deserve to be punished through the infliction of severe pain.
(c) Absent unusual mitigating circumstances, it is unjust to inflict pain upon a baby that he does not deserve.
(d) It is wrong to commit an injustice (absent the highly unlikely and unusual mitigating circumstances).
(e) Boiling babies is wrong.
This is a very good argument. But perhaps you can find some flaw in it. If so, I challenge you to provide an argument that demonstrates the flaw in the above argument. Perhaps you believe that babies do not feel pain. If so, prove it. Perhaps you believe that babies deserve to be punished through the infliction of great pain. If so, please explain the crime that babies have committed and why it would justify such an extreme punishment. Perhaps you believe that it is permissible to commit an injustice (absent any mitigating circumstances). If so, provide an argument for this conclusion. I doubt that many would find such arguments at all convincing.
Thus, Premise (II) is true.
Therefore, since both of the premises are true and since the argument is valid, we know that it is also sound. A sound argument has a true conclusion. Therefore, we know that Conclusion (C) is true:
THERE ARE OBJECTIVELY VALID MORAL STANDARDS
Now let’s ask two questions about this conclusion:
Question 1: Do we need to appeal to God in order to demonstrate that the conclusion is true?
Question 2: Do we need an elaborate metaphysical theory that explains how objective moral standards are possible in order to believe that the conclusion is true?
How should we respond to these question?:
No, we did not need to appeal to God in our argument in support of conclusion (C). None of the premises of the argument mentioned God and none of the arguments in support of the premises mentioned God. It is unclear how it would be necessary to appeal to God.
Furthermore, it is unclear how an appeal to God would have been helpful in establishing the truth of the conclusion. How would appealing to God have made it more likely that either premise was true? How would appealing to God have made it more likely that the argument is valid?
Let’s take the second part first. What information about God could we have appealed to in order to support our assessment that the argument is valid? Well, I suppose we could have said that God approves of the argument, or that He commends it, or that He commands that we find the argument valid. But all of this would be irrelevant to the validity of the argument. If God did not approve of the argument, or if He did not commend it, or if He commanded that we find it invalid, this would only prove that God has intellectual problems. An argument is valid just in case the premises imply the conclusion. And this is the case for argument (OM). The argument is valid regardless of what God thinks (and even if He does not exist).
Now the first part. What information about God could we have appealed to that would have made it more likely that it is wrong to boil babies? Well, I suppose we could have said that God disapproves of boiling babies, or that He condemns it, or that He commands that we not boil babies, or that boiling babies violates His character. But all of this would be irrelevant to the wrongness of boiling babies. If God approved of boiling babies, or if He commanded that we boil babies, or if boiling babies did not violate His character, this would only show that God is morally deranged and that He has an immoral character. Boiling babies is wrong because it unjustly causes severe pain. And this is so regardless of what God thinks. Boiling babies is wrong no matter what God’s feelings are about it (and even if He does not exist).
We should conclude, therefore, that appealing to God is neither necessary nor helpful in establishing the conclusion that there are objective moral standards. Perhaps you disagree with this. If so, please provide an argument that demonstrates how appealing to God would be either necessary or helpful in proving that it is wrong to boil babies.
We do not need to provide a true metaphysical account of how objective moral standards are possible in order to believe that they are. We don’t need such an account to observe that boiling babies is wrong. The observation is correct. That is enough. Thus, the gap in our understanding is just that: a gap in knowledge. It is not a reason to doubt the soundness of argument (OM). It is not a reason to doubt that it is wrong to boil babies.
This kind of gap is actually quite common. For example, scientists are currently puzzled by the existence of a hexagonal formation at the north pole of Saturn. Scientists do not understand how it formed; they do not know how such a shape is possible. But this gap in knowledge is not a reason to believe that the hexagon does not exist. It obviously does exist, I have seen a picture of it.
Another example: Scientists currently do not understand the metaphysical basis of consciousness. Some are very puzzled about how consciousness is possible. But this gap in our knowledge is not a reason to conclude that consciousness does not exist. And it most certainly is not a reason to conclude that God must have something to do with it.
In general, we do not need to provide a solid metaphysical theory that explains how X is possible in order to believe that X exists.
I conclude, therefore, that we do not need a solid metaphysical theory that demonstrates how objective ethics is possible in order to be certain that it is wrong to boil babies. I further conclude that appealing to God is neither necessary nor helpful in establishing that objective morality exists. In addition, I observe that no one on this forum has ever posted an argument that demonstrates that objective morality is impossible without God.
Premise (I): If boiling Human babies is wrong When Humans do it, then there are Subjectively valid moral standards, for Humans.
Premise (II): Boiling Human babies is wrong, when humans do it.
Conclusion (C): There are Subjectively valid moral standards, for Humans.
It cannot be an Objective or universal wrong because Humans do not think it is wrong to boil non-human babies.
If Extra-terrestrial beings found Human babies tasty, then it would not be wrong to boil them. It might be kinder than roasting them.
There cannot be any valid objective or universal morality. Every child knows that what is moral for the lion is not moral for the gazelle.
Any morality that comes from God cannot be applied to humans. On the most basic level, God is immortal and we are mortal. That is a moral chasm that cannot be bridged.
It is the height of absurdity for an immortal to say “Thou shalt not kill”. What could he possibly know about death?
Asking God about morality is like asking a Vegetarian for meat loaf recipes.
[quote author=“Joad”]Premise (I): If boiling Human babies is wrong When Humans do it, then there are Subjectively valid moral standards, for Humans.
Premise (II): Boiling Human babies is wrong, when humans do it.
Conclusion (C): There are Subjectively valid moral standards, for Humans.
My argument said nothing about the existence of subjectively valid moral principles (whatever these might be). So, as far as I can tell, this argument is perfectly consistent with my conclusion that objective moral standards exist.
It cannot be an Objective or universal wrong because Humans do not think it is wrong to boil non-human babies.
What humans think has got nothing to do with it. It is wrong to boil babies regardless of what humans think. And, in any event, I think any human could be convinced that it is wrong to boil any sentient baby (human or otherwise).
If Extra-terrestrial beings found Human babies tasty, then it would not be wrong to boil them.
Why would you say this? Why would it not be wrong for them? Please provide an argument.
There cannot be any valid objective or universal morality. Every child knows that what is moral for the lion is not moral for the gazelle.
I don’t see the point of this either. Lions do not boil babies, nor do gazelles. Unfortunately for the lions and gazelles, there is a pretty strong biological imperative for survival that overrides any concerns they may have with acting morally.
Please, I asked those who want to respond to explain what is flawed with my argument that it is wrong to boil babies. Do you think that babies don’t feel pain; do you think that it is permissible to cause severe pain for no reason? Please address theses questions if you disagree with me. Otherwise it will be difficult to evaluate your position with respect to the morality of boiling babies.
I think I understand what you guys are debating, but I have to ask about this boiling babies stuff.
I think it may be easier to debate this if you wouldn’t put the situation in such dramatic terms.
Assuming boiling babies kills, what is significant about the instrumentality?
What is the difference between boiling and shooting in the head? From the standpoint of the actor, nothing.
Couldn’t this just be a debate whether the end result justifies the means? It appears that an individual makes his own absolute morality, but morality for society is always relative.
We boil babies all the time. We boil fish babies, chicken babies, etc.
Two things: Usually we don’t boil animal babies alive. (Though, of course, we sometimes do.) But, more importantly, I don’t see how the fact that humans sometimes do something is connected to the morality of the activity. Sure, some humans sometimes boil non-human babies alive. Does that fact make the action morally permissible? I don’t see that it does.
You can claim that it is objectively or univerally wrong to boil babies. But then you have the daunting task of listing every possible condition under which a baby might be boiled.
In fact, as I think was fairly clear, I was talking about boiling human babies (and doing so while the babies are conscious). I think that there are no circumstances in which this would be permissible (or, if there are, the probability or their arising are so vanishingly small that we might as well conclude that they don’t exist). So boiling human babies is wrong. Now, if you think I am wrong about that, if you think that there are conditions in which it might be acceptable to boil a human baby, go ahead and describe those conditions. Again, I doubt many people would find the argument at all convincing.
Why is it ok for humans to eat ‘lesser’ animals and not OK for ET’s to eat humans as ‘lesser’ animals?
I was never talking about eating anything or anybody. It is wrong to boil babies. It is wrong for us, and wrong for any any ETs that may exist.
But what about eating? Well, I won’t argue for this here, but this is what I think: We need to eat. We DON’T need to eat meat. If we find ourselves in a situation in which we must kill an animal to survive, it is permissible to do so. However, we should do what we can to minimize that pain that the animal will feel. There is no reason to think that the above reasoning would not equally apply to aliens.
BTW, humans have a biological imperative for survival also.
True. But we have evolved to a point that we can obey the imperative and live in a manner that does not yield horrendous amounts of severe suffering. Unfortunately, few of us choose to do so.
Perhaps you meant to argue that boiling babies is wrong if it is done in the absence of all other considerations.
I certainly think that it is wrong to boil human babies just for fun. Don’t you agree?