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Does at least one moral truth — M0 — necessarily exist? (Thence, justice, truth & beauty)

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Let’s see, courtesy comment 469 in the WJM subjectivism thread:

>>It seems we need to address as MSET 0, that there are moral truths.

In steps of thought:

1 –> Let’s call this proposition, M0. M0 = there is at least one moral truth.

2–> Understand, truths are assertions that accurately describe aspects of reality. As Ari put it, truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.

3 –> Further understand, morality, of course deals with OUGHT, whether ought-to or ought-not.

4 –> Thus, understand that M0 means:

a: there is at least one assertion (say, X) 

b: that accurately describes an actual state of affairs that obtains

c: on which some responsibly free and rational agent A ought-to or ought-not [–> relative to some Y].

5 –> Where, this is not at all yet, we know that X or we know that ~X. Nor for that matter, that there exists some A or there does not exist some A.

6 –> For argument, assert ~ M0. That is, we imply ~X and/or ~A.

7 –> But the assertion, ~ M0, is an assertion about the state of affairs of the world, W, in respect of moral truths.

8 –> That is, the denial attempt ~M0 inadvertently is an instance of M0. For if there is in fact no ought-not, that too would be a moral truth. The moral truth that

(a) all agents A are free to do as they please [and can get away with in a world of might and manipulation],

. . . or else:

(b) that there is no such thing as responsible rational freedom so there is no agent A, implying that there is only blind mechanism and/or blind chance.

9 –> On case (b), however, rationality and responsibility towards truth vanish, argument collapses into manipulation or intimidation, and the life of mindedness is dead. This is absurd, as evidenced by a world of such argument, which implies that A’s exist.

10 –> On case (a), A would be free to do as s/he/it pleases, and can get away with. Which would be a momentous moral truth indeed.

11 –> So, ~M0 if it were so would end in the absurdity of destroying responsible reasoned discourse or else in inadvertently being a major moral truth. Thus, ~[~M0], or, M0.

12 –> Therefore, M0 is so, and in fact self evidently so, as this elaboration could be put far more simply and directly i.e. it is patent.

13 –> In effect, at least one moral truth must exist as the denial of existence of moral truth either exemplifies a moral truth or else it implies an end to responsible rational discourse.

We may then move beyond the bare existence of manifestly evident moral truths to examination of specific cases. As has been done up to this morning here at UD.

The upshot of such is, that there are many highly important and relevant moral truths that are self evidently so on pain of implying undermining responsible rational discourse and even the credibility of mind.>>

That is, we have warrant for holding (in a world in which we must be responsibly, rationally free in order to be able to have genuine argument) that moral truths exist.

This, we may discuss, in the context that there are many specific and pivotal moral truths. END

PS: Let us refresh our memories on a cluster of specific MSETs, where:

>> . . . normally responsive people will at least grudgingly respect the following summary of core, conscience attested morality from the pen of Paul:

Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . .

Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [NIV, “harm”] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [ESV]

Where, John Locke, in grounding modern liberty and what would become democratic self-government of a free people premised on upholding the civil peace of justice, in Ch 2 Sec. 5 of his second treatise on civil Government [c. 1690] cites “the judicious [Anglican canon, Richard] Hooker” from his classic Ecclesiastical Polity of 1594 on, as he explains how the principles of neighbour-love are inscribed in our hearts, becoming evident to the eye of common good sense and reasonableness:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8 and alluding to Justinian’s synthesis of Roman Law in Corpus Juris Civilis that also brings these same thoughts to bear:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

We may elaborate on Paul, Locke, Hooker and Aristotle, laying out several manifestly evident and historically widely acknowledged core moral principles for which the attempted denial is instantly and patently absurd for most people — that is, they are arguably self-evident (thus, warranted and objective) moral truths; not just optional opinions.

So also, it is not only possible to

(a) be in demonstrable moral error, but also

(b) there is hope that such moral errors can be corrected by appealing to manifestly sound core principles of the natural moral law.

For instance:

1] The first self evident moral truth is that we are inescapably under the government of ought.

(This is manifest in even an objector’s implication in the questions, challenges and arguments that s/he would advance, that we are in the wrong and there is something to be avoided about that. That is, even the objector inadvertently implies that we OUGHT to do, think, aim for and say the right. Not even the hyperskeptical objector can escape this truth. Patent absurdity on attempted denial.)

2] Second self evident truth, we discern that some things are right and others are wrong by a compass-sense we term conscience which guides our thought. (Again, objectors depend on a sense of guilt/ urgency to be right not wrong on our part to give their points persuasive force. See what would be undermined should conscience be deadened or dismissed universally? Sawing off the branch on which we all must sit.)

3] Third, were this sense of conscience and linked sense that we can make responsibly free, rational decisions to be a delusion, we would at once descend into a status of grand delusion in which there is no good ground for confidence in our self-understanding. That is, we look at an infinite regress of Plato’s cave worlds: once such a principle of grand global delusion is injected, there is no firewall so the perception of level one delusion is subject to the same issue, and this level two perception too, ad infinitum; landing in patent absurdity.

4] Fourth, we are objectively under obligation of OUGHT. That is, despite any particular person’s (or group’s or august council’s or majority’s) wishes or claims to the contrary, such obligation credibly holds to moral certainty. That is, it would be irresponsible, foolish and unwise for us to act and try to live otherwise.

5] Fifth, this cumulative framework of moral government under OUGHT is the basis for the manifest core principles of the natural moral law under which we find ourselves obligated to the right the good, the true etc. Where also, patently, we struggle to live up to what we acknowledge or imply we ought to do.

6] Sixth, this means we live in a world in which being under core, generally understood principles of natural moral law is coherent and factually adequate, thus calling for a world-understanding in which OUGHT is properly grounded at root level. (Thus worldviews that can soundly meet this test are the only truly viable ones. if a worldview does not have in it a world-root level IS that can simultaneously ground OUGHT, it fails decisively.*)

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way

7] Seventh, in light of the above, even the weakest and most voiceless of us thus has a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of fulfillment of one’s sense of what s/he ought to be (“happiness”). This includes the young child, the unborn and more. (We see here the concept that rights are binding moral expectations of others to provide respect in regards to us because of our inherent status as human beings, members of the community of valuable neighbours. Where also who is my neighbour was forever answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Likewise, there can be no right to demand of or compel my neighbour that s/he upholds me and enables me in the wrong — including under false colour of law through lawfare. To justly claim a right, one must first be in the right.)

8] Eighth, like unto the seventh, such may only be circumscribed or limited for good cause. Such as, reciprocal obligation to cherish and not harm neighbour of equal, equally valuable nature in community and in the wider world of the common brotherhood of humanity.

9] Ninth, this is the context in which it becomes self evidently wrong, wicked and evil to kidnap, sexually torture and murder a young child or the like as concrete cases in point that show that might and/or manipulation do not make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘justice,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘law’ etc. That is, anything that expresses or implies the nihilist’s credo is morally absurd.

10] Tenth, this entails that in civil society with government, justice is a principal task of legitimate government. In short, nihilistic will to power untempered by the primacy of justice is its own refutation in any type of state. Thus also,

11] Eleventh, that government is and ought to be subject to audit, reformation and if necessary replacement should it fail sufficiently badly and incorrigibly.

(NB: This is a requisite of accountability for justice, and the suggestion or implication of some views across time, that government can reasonably be unaccountable to the governed, is its own refutation, reflecting — again — nihilistic will to power; which is automatically absurd. This truth involves the issue that finite, fallible, morally struggling men acting as civil authorities in the face of changing times and situations as well as in the face of the tendency of power to corrupt, need to be open to remonstrance and reformation — or if they become resistant to reasonable appeal, there must be effective means of replacement. Hence, the principle that the general election is an institutionalised regular solemn assembly of the people for audit and reform or if needs be replacement of government gone bad. But this is by no means an endorsement of the notion that a manipulated mob bent on a march of folly has a right to do as it pleases.)

12] Twelfth, the attempt to deny or dismiss such a general framework of moral governance invariably lands in shipwreck of incoherence and absurdity. As, has been seen in outline. But that does not mean that the attempt is not going to be made, so there is a mutual obligation of frank and fair correction and restraint of evil.
_________________

* F/N: After centuries of debates and assessment of alternatives per comparative difficulties, there is in fact just one serious candidate to be such a grounding IS: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (And instantly, such generic ethical theism answers also to the accusation oh this is “religion”; that term being used as a dirty word — no, this is philosophy. If you doubt this, simply put forth a different candidate that meets the required criteria and passes the comparative difficulties test: _________ . Likewise, an inherently good, maximally great being will not be arbitrary or deceitful etc, that is why such is fully worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. As a serious candidate necessary being, such would be eternal and embedded in the frame for a world to exist at all. Thus such a candidate is either impossible as a square circle is impossible due to mutual ruin of core characteristics, or else it is actual. For simple instance no world is possible without two-ness in it, a necessary basis for distinct identity inter alia.>>

PPS: From earlier this morning (at 141 in the arguing with subjectivists thread), let us also bring into the picture the third member of the triad, justice, truth and beauty:

>>Regarding beauty and principles.

Of course, the world of music is pivotal historically, as the Pythagorean identification of numerical ratios of frequency as a root of harmonious tones and by extension chords etc, was momentous. Indeed, we can see the reasoning from the harmony of music to the harmony of the heavens and thence the earth, thus the rise of the vision of that severe beauty, mathematical elegance. With all sorts of implications for the rise of Science also.

{Let me clip from The Story of Mathematics (an interesting site):

pythagoras_music>>Pythagoras is also credited with the discovery that the intervals between harmonious musical notes always have whole number ratios. For instance, playing half a length of a guitar string gives the same note as the open string, but an octave higher; a third of a length gives a different but harmonious note; etc. Non-whole number ratios, on the other hand, tend to give dissonant sounds. In this way, Pythagoras described the first four overtones which create the common intervals which have become the primary building blocks of musical harmony: the octave (1:1), the perfect fifth (3:2), the perfect fourth (4:3) and the major third (5:4). The oldest way of tuning the 12-note chromatic scale is known as Pythagorean tuning, and it is based on a stack of perfect fifths, each tuned in the ratio 3:2.

The mystical Pythagoras was so excited by this discovery that he became convinced that the whole universe was based on numbers, and that the planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, which corresponded to musical notes, and thus produced a kind of symphony, the “Musical Universalis” or “Music of the Spheres”.>>}

It is not for nothing that the trivium: Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic, went on to the quadrivium: Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy.

And how can I speak of beauty without highlighting that most beautiful expression, by Euler:

0 = 1 + e^(i * pi)

Never underestimate the powerful and pleasing impact of elegant, powerfully unifying simplicity in the midst of vast diversity.

In literature, there has long been a classical tradition on unifying structures and patterns, pivoting on the premise of a deep structure to narrative.

For instance, Northrop Frye (summing up and building on long traditions [cf here]) has spoken of a one story/ monomyth of literature, keyed to the classic seasons. One may group as comedy — spring, romance — summer, tragedy — fall, winter — anti-romances (irony and satire). And yes, the story types move along the cycle of varieties, showing repeating themes and progress, with character, circumstances, conflict and resolution as drivers of plot development.

WILLIAM HOGARTH: The Analysis of Beauty is a classic work on underlying principles of axiology, with particular reference to the visual, and the highlighting of unifying lines in composition, especially the classic elegant S-shape. He speaks of fitness, variety, regularity, [elegant] simplicity [–> recall, less is more?], intricacy, quantity [greatness of magnitude].

So, despite the tendencies of a cynical and too often dismissive era to deride principles and guidelines (and to almost worship the politically correct bizarre, merely novel and ugly . . .), it is patently not so that beauty is simply in the eye of the beholder.

This becomes particularly so in the widespread agreement on facial beauty, especially female facial beauty: http://www.beautyanalysis.com/

Nor should we forget the golden ratio, phi: 1.618 etc, cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

There is a reason why justice, truth and beauty have long been tightly coupled.

Where, yes, there is morally connected beauty in thought, word and character too.

Where, that beauty may well be a gateway to call us back to sanity as a civilisation.>>

30 Replies to “Does at least one moral truth — M0 — necessarily exist? (Thence, justice, truth & beauty)

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Does at least one moral, self-evident truth exist?

    And, what then about justice, truth and beauty?

    Did the Pythagoreans have a point?

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Is this argument your own creation? Have others used a version of this argument?

    Here’s one question that occurs to me. Based on this:

    4 –> Thus, understand that M0 means:

    a: there is at least one assertion (say, X)

    b: that accurately describes an actual state of affairs that obtains

    c: on which some responsibly free and rational agent A ought-to or ought-not.

    I take moral truths to have the form “A ought/ought not to _____.”

    But (a) and (b) do not have this form:

    8 –> That is, the denial attempt ~M0 inadvertently is an instance of M0. For if there is in fact no ought-not, that too would be a moral truth. The moral truth that

    (a) all agents A are free to do as they please [and can get away with in a world of might and manipulation],

    . . . or else:

    (b) that there is no such thing as responsible rational freedom so there is no agent A, implying that there is only blind mechanism and/or blind chance.

    It appears both (a) and (b) are “is/is not” statements rather than “ought/ought not to” statements.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, form and assertion are different, a commonplace about propositions. And the issue is whether it is the case that some agent A ought to or ought not to in respect to some Y. For instance, stealing or lying. So also, the attempt to push too great a wedge between is assertions and ought assertions ends in outright grammatical folly. The real IS-OUGHT gap is between what ought to be and what is, and on what basis such a decision is made. You know the import that the grounding can only happen at world root level. KF

    PS: Re 4:

    >> 4 –> Thus, understand that M0 means:

    a: there is at least one assertion (say, X) [–> there is a proposition]

    b: that accurately describes an actual state of affairs that obtains [–> which meets the test of truth about our world]

    c: on which some responsibly free and rational agent A ought-to or ought-not. [–> that is a moral proposition, one of ought and/or is inextricably entangled with it]>>

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Re 8:

    >>8 –> That is, the denial attempt ~M0 inadvertently is an instance of M0. For if there is in fact no ought-not [–> ought to refrain from fails], that too would be a moral truth . The moral truth that

    (a) all agents A [–> in case such agents able to actually choose exist] are free to do as they please [and can get away with in a world of might and manipulation] [–> that is the set of ought-nots is empty, which would be WLOG in implying that ought is dead],

    . . . or else:

    (b) that there is no such thing as responsible rational freedom so there is no agent A [–> oughtness is only relevant in a world of significantly free agents], implying that there is only blind mechanism and/or blind chance [–> absent agency, only mechanism and/or chance act, as is a commonplace evo mat thesis, often cast in terms of there being no objective basis for ought in such a wholly material world in which the [quasi-]physical facts fix all the facts]>>

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Well, for the sake of clarification, would you post a definition which will allow us to distinguish moral propositions from non-moral propositions?

    A side note: it also seems reasonable to me to distinguish between first-order moral propositions and second-order moral propositions. Your M0 above appears to be a second-order moral proposition, stating that some first-order moral proposition exists. In that case, ¬M0 would simply say that no first-order moral propositions exist, which would not lead to any contradiction.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, that was already done in the OP. KF

    PS: ~ M0 necessarily entails that {moral truths} is empty; M0, that there is at least one case, X, in the set. Trying to separate different orders fails, they are inextricably entangled. In this case, ~ M0 entails that

    a: no relevant agents A exist and/or

    b: that if entities capable of real choice have somehow emerged from the chaos we imagine is a cosmos, then

    c: they in fact have no overarching binding obligation, that is

    d: there is no OUGHT-Y or OUGHT-NOT-Y (try, lying, slandering, cheating, stealing, raping, murdering, etc) beyond “personal” whim or social prudence i/l/o preferences and balance of power.

    –> d says, conscience is a delusion, there is no case on which the testimony of conscience speaks truly of reality as an objective whole not just some internal state or mirror of social prudence only

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    KF,

    PS: ~ M0 necessarily entails that {moral truths} is empty.

    True.

    Trying to separate different orders fails, they are inextricably entangled.

    Eh? People practice second-order logic all the time. Your M0 is clearly (I would say) a second-order statement since you are quantifying over propositions.

    What problem arises in asserting there are true second-order propositions but no true first-order propositions? Maybe there are problems; I don’t know.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, in this case, the entanglement is real. ~ M0, as I amplified, means there are no moral truths. So, either there are no morally capable agents, or else entities capable of true decisions (not just blind chance and/or blind mechanical necessity) face no obligations only prudence in face of balance of power [= nihilism] and/or essentially delusional inner voices [= conscience is a delusion]. No morally capable agents destroys reasoned discussion and is set aside as instantly absurd. The import of decision entities with no ought would be a sobering moral truth: amorality obtains. Which means we are free to do as we will, utterly — there is no OUGHT-NOT-Y. Were that so, that would be a powerful moral truth indeed; thankfully, it is patently false. KF

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, in this case, the entanglement is real. ~ M0, as I amplified, means there are no moral truths. So, either there are no morally capable agents, or else entities capable of true decisions (not just blind chance and/or blind mechanical necessity) face no obligations only prudence in face of balance of power [= nihilism] and/or essentially delusional inner voices [= conscience is a delusion]. KF

    Yes, I agree with your logic here. [Although I might have some reservations about the two options that follow from ¬M0]

    Is this supposed to lead to a contradiction? I thought that you were saying in the OP that ¬M0 implies M0.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Will Hawthorne from Atheism is Dead:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    This brings out much the same point. KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    it does.

    ~ M0 leads to:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism, where on God existing obviously there would instantly be moral truths] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    If ~M0 then X = ‘all things are permitted’ which would be a moral truth. So, on ~M0, the set of moral truths would not be empty. Which is the exact opposite of the import of ~ M0, that it is empty.

    So, ~ M0 cannot be fulfilled, ~[~M0] = M0.

    KF

  12. 12
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Thanks. I’ll look at this in more detail later, but isn’t what you’re saying consistent with the following?

    There do exist moral truths. One such moral truth is that there do not exist any moral truths that can be expressed as “people ought/ought not to do X”.

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    PS: Obviously you don’t agree with the quoted statement above, but isn’t it consistent with your proof?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, any moral truth is equivalent to an explicit ought expression, it is the case that ought/ought not y as relevant. If decisional entities exist with no binding ought-nots, then they ought to do as they please. KF

  15. 15
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, any moral truth is equivalent to an explicit ought expression, it is the case that ought/ought not y as relevant. If decisional entities exist with no binding ought-nots, then they ought to do as they please. KF

    I disagree. In fact, it appears to me your last sentence is contradictory: If there are no ought/ought-nots then people ought to do as they please.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, that is my point, the for argument assertion of ~M0 entails at least one consequential moral truth-claim [you may do as you will], contradicting its own sense that the set of moral truths would be empty. Thus we can reject it. KF

  17. 17
    daveS says:

    KF,

    But “you may do as you will” is different from “you ought to do as you will”.

    As I mentioned above, I think the statement

    There do exist moral truths. One such moral truth is that there do not exist any moral truths that can be expressed as “people ought/ought not to do X”.

    is consistent with your argument. Do you agree?

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Really? How so?

  19. 19
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Really? How so?

    Are you asking about the distinction between “you may do as you will” and “you ought to do as you will”?

  20. 20
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 10

    F/N: Will Hawthorne from Atheism is Dead:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    I would suggest Hawthorne needs to brush up on his logic.

    Allowing that the natural world is all that there is and that it is the ‘is’ from which no ‘ought’ can be logically derived, it most certainly does not follow that anything is permissible. It means that the natural world is silent on any question of ‘ought’. You are not entitled to infer permission or prohibition from any naturalistic observation.

    Also, by using the word “permissible”, Hawthorne is smuggling in the assumption of a ‘permitter’ since that is the only source of permission. If he tries to argue that what Hitler did was permissible, the obvious question is “According to who?”. It can hardly be the natural world since, unless you are assuming it is an intelligent entity, it is not capable of granting permission for anything.

    By the same token, atheists are not bound to admit that their lack of belief in a god and their implied commitment to naturalism/materialism means that anything goes. It simply does not follow for the reasons given above. And it is almost certain that the overwhelming majority of atheists, had they been asked, would not have given Hitler permission to do what he did for reasons that have nothing to do with naturalism or materialism.

    Finally, on the correspondence theory of truth no moral claim can be true or false since they are not about what ‘is’. They are not capable of verification or falsification, so you are wasting your time looking for one unless you define truth in some other way.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky

    Allowing that the natural world is all that there is and that it is the ‘is’ from which no ‘ought’ can be logically derived, it most certainly does not follow that anything is permissible. It means that the natural world is silent on any question of ‘ought’. You are not entitled to infer permission or prohibition from any naturalistic observation.

    Six of one, half dozen of the other.

    If the natural, biophysical world can provide no moral framework foundations, then ability is all the permission needed; subject to what one can get away with.

    Do what you will, as seems prudent/advisable i/l/o balances of power becomes the ruling ought.

    Nihilism and nominalist relativism or subjectivism, driven by amorality and by might and manipulation make ‘right’ in short.

    KF

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, kindly cf the just above. KF

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: At risk of opening up much wider themes, I note on how ought is tied to rights, freedoms and responsibilities/ duties.

    1 –> First, we acknowledge that oughtness is at the core of moral obligation, as testified to by our built-in compasses, conscience; where we find ourselves to be morally governed responsibly free and rational.

    (And if we are not, rational discourse collapses so by simply participating in a discussion that is ostensibly reasoned, one expresses consent to this as our status.)

    2 –> Second, we see that as a quasi-infinite, valuable being, we live in a world of equally valuable others.

    3 –> We thus find a reciprocity, wherein if I am owed a duty, I owe the like to others of like nature, in respect of life, freedom, reputation, property, legitimate fulfillment of sense of purpose [= pursuit of happiness] informed by evident nature, etc.

    4 –> We find a premise of fairness or justice, which can be understood in terms of the due and equitable balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities in the community, yielding the civil peace.

    5 –> Wherein, rights are binding expectations that others will respect one in regards to core matters, as an integral part of the civil peace of justice under and informed by manifestly evident principles of the natural moral law.

    6 –> Wherein, rights include freedom to act while respecting the properly grounded rights of others. (That is, rights may not simply be asserted and imposed, they must be grounded.)

    7 –> Likewise, rights are the mirror image of duties among morally governed equals. My right implies your duty and your right, my duty.

    8 –> this includes that rights are not proportionate to eloquence, power, cleverness etc, they are innate to morally responsible, rational individuality.

    9 –> In this context, anything that reduces to might and/or manipulation make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘meaning’ etc is instantly absurd and destructive. Such nihilism is enmity to the civil peace of justice.

    10 –> Further to this, without genuine duties, rights collapse into (disguised, perhaps) balances of power, manipulation and prudence backed up by state power or the like. Nihilism.

    11 –> Likewise, ability to act by dint of natural endowment [ = the bio-physical world as the only “superior” moral legislator], might, manipulation and balance of power obtaining becomes the only effective ought: can I get away with it.

    (Which last is ruinous. Hence, divide, polarise and ruin.)

    KF

  24. 24
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, kindly cf the just above. KF

    Eh? I thought that everyone would agree that “you may do as you will” and “you ought to do as you will” have different meanings. I do, anyway. That’s obvious after consulting a dictionary.

    Even a hardcore subjectivist who believes that no “oughts” exist in our world would understand that.

  25. 25
    Eugen says:

    Kairos

    This is of topic but somewhat related because there were discussions on previous threads.

    Known feminist and professor Camille Paglia (at 5m40s) says:

    “My study of history of sexual personae always talk about late phases of culture. I was always drawn to a late or decadent phase of culture. Oscar Wilde is one of great exponents of that in late 19th century. He was my strongest influence in my earliest years.

    I found in my studies that history is cyclic and everywhere in the world you find this pattern in ancient times. As culture begins to decline you have an effervescence of transgender phenomena. That is a symptom of cultural collapse. ”

    I watched several of her talks and interviews. This gives a hope that there may be a small number of reasonable liberals.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-i6YifXLNw

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Ponder this as defining moral truth — MTs are assertions involving or implying ought/ought not, thence freedoms, rights & responsibilities (so also, justice) etc that accurately describe facets of reality. KF

  27. 27
    mw says:

    Kairosfocus (moral truths)
    ——————-
    “Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [NIV, “harm”] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [ESV]”

    “and any other Commandment”
    ——————–

    If we believe God is love, morally, by any stretch of the imagination, He does exceedingly bad if by objectively and clearly stating He created in six days means nothing like He said and wrote, when Romans is referring to all of the same batch of divine laws.

    It is believed Jesus was under obedience to the Father’s laws because we could not, from Adam. If God is disobedient to His own clear law, it is bad advertisement for even loving Himself.

    If one aspect of divine law has subjective truth, or at worst, contains gross error; as Darwin said “erroneous” everything else becomes meaningless or subjective and such a God is not morally just.

    God ‘owes’ us the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as He is truth (Jn 17:17).

  28. 28
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I think you could simplify your argument a bit, but the issue I pointed out would remain:

    M0 is a moral proposition

    ¬M0 is a moral proposition

    M0 ∨ ¬M0
    ________________

    There exists at least one true moral proposition

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I hear your point. The issue though is undeniability. Were ~M0 assumed,it would still not get us to the set of moral truths is empty as it leads to a claim that would then be a moral truth, i.e. a truth of moral character — it cannot empty the set. So, truths of moral character undeniably exist, the attempted denial fails. Note, as clarification: “MTs are assertions involving or implying ought/ought not, thence freedoms, rights & responsibilities (so also, justice) etc that accurately describe facets of reality.” KF

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    MW, All I can suggest is that there is a diversity of responsible and informed, theological views on understanding the underlying texts you seem to refer to. KF

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