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HGP responds to “society consensus morality,” i.e. cultural relativism

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Over the years, I have noticed a tendency at UD and elsewhere to ignore and bury quite significant and substantial comments when discussion threads reflect interactions with those more concerned to make points rather than to have serious dialogue. Ironically, serious dialogue is what is necessary if a genuine consensus is ever to be built.

In one of the current threads, HGP (welcome aboard) has made a substantial comment in reply to Seversky, apparently based on an earlier discussion.  He highlights some of the main challenges of cultural relativism in an outstanding comment. One that is well worth headlining. (And yes, headlining of exceptional comments is a way to recognise and encourage those who make thoughtful contributions to genuine dialogue.)

Let us clip the comment from the current JS thread:

HGP, 153: >>seversky @10

Before anything else: I wish you a good time in this year 2018.

The Nazi ideology extolled the virtues of an Aryan super-race which regarded all others as inferior, subordinate and ultimately disposable. When they settled on the “final solution” to the Jewish – and gypsy and homosexual and mentally ill – problem did they consult the victims to see of they agreed that it was a good idea? No, of course they didn’t. Neither did the various flavors of communism before they killed even more.

We went over this question in the following thread where you put forth a society consensus model of establishing morality:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/can-science-ground-morality/

Note my posts 97,116,132,150,152 and your posts 107,127,144.

To my understanding you didn’t give a sensible answer to some pressing problems of your society consensus morality:

-You didn’t give a coherent account of how anyone’s agreement to the society consensus is established or whether such an agreement is necessary.

-You didn’t establish a rational way how society can establish whether any given individual should count as moral agent whose views should be taken into account or whether the views of the individual can be discarded by the society. This question is relevant to the examples you gave above.

-You didn’t explain why you appealed again and again to your own moral intuitions (even against established society consensus) when trying to argue for some moral rules, when you stated that society consensus was the only source of morality.

-Given that the outcome of a society consensus is to a considerable degree dependent on the consensus making process, you have a chicken and egg problem of how a society can establish the rules for establishing consensus without appeal to their own consensus (which can’t be established at this point). So your consensus morality is either dependent on an arbitrary (and so necessarily on an amoral) process or there exists another source of morality which must be appealed to in order to get the process going.

-A society must be either open to its consensus being the result of manipulation and/or force OR it must screen its own consensus making process according to moral rules established in a different way from its own consensus.

-Either one accepts that any society consensus IS moral no matter what (to which you agreed that this idea is stupid) or even your society consensus is in dire need of an arbiter that can be appealed to if one thinks that society is wrong on some issue. If such an arbiter is bound by society consensus then it’s superfluous since it can’t correct the same consensus it is bound by, OTOH if it’s not bound by consensus, then it becomes itself a source of morality independent of society consensus.

-While you agreed to the general idea that an individual is justified in resisting a wrong consensus you could not give any argument on how to distinguish this case from the case where society is right in forcing its consensus on some individual.

I would appreciate any sensible argument addressing those problems. Or a friendly reminder to where I overlooked your answer.

Neither did various religions throughout recorded history, including events recounted in the Old Testament. The is no record of God conducting referenda of the populations of Sodom and Gomorrah or the other cities obliterated by Him or His proxies. There was no worldwide survey before almost all life on the surface of the Earth was exterminated in the Great Flood.

You are making a category error here. If the Bible God exists, then he is not just another pawn on the board of morality. He is the one who made the board and all pawns on it and who established the “rules of the game”. To demand that God should behave according to the moral rules that (according to your views) are binding upon humans is like demanding that the inventor of a game is bound by the same rules as the pawns on the board he made. Before any sensible discussion of this subject can take place, this point must be acknowledged.

And after acknowledging that point we see, that the God described in the Bible made the universe, life in it and the moral rules binding on us. So God is the judge in the moral court not just another potential defendant. A judge just simply doesn’t ask the defendants whether they would submit to a judgement. He just renders judgement.

Now I can understand the question whether such a God really exists. But if He exists there is no question that He can judge Sodom Gomorrah and the people before the flood. If he exists we are the pawns on his moral board; and as pawns we can’t questions his rules. So only if this God doesn’t exist the question whether His judgements are morally sound does even make sense. So in asking the question you implicitly deny His existence.

There is quite an enlightening discussion of quite a lot of similar questions in the following article:

https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=2724&context=dlj;

I recommend reading this piece. [NB: This is the famous Arthur Leff “grand sez who” paper.]

When WJM and others trot out that tired old canard about there being no way to choose between the ‘morality’ of the psychopath and that of the rest of us,…

When I asked you how you establish this difference in your moral system, I didn’t receive an answer that made sense, since it left important points without answer (see reference above).

… , be aware that what they are actually arguing for is some form of divine or other command morality. It’s designed by some supreme authority or an elite few supposedly for our benefit but the rest of us who are supposed to be subject to it don’t get a say. Apparently, we’re not good enough.

This is the same category error as explained above. God is unlike any human elite when it comes to establishing morality. I agree with you that a human elite establishing morality for the rest of us isn’t really a good idea and fraught with problems.

Of course, it’s dressed up as “objective” and/or “natural moral law” but it’s funny how that “objective” and “natural law” morality turns out to by synonymous with the advocates own version of Christianity. It’s never Buddhist or Sikh or Muslim or pagan. I wonder why that is?

This is another category error: You mix up an ontological question (Do moral standards exist in an objective manner?) with an epistemological question (Which exactly are those objective moral standards?). Just because some people can’t agree on the right answer to the second question doesn’t (necessarily) mean, that they are wrong with their answer to the first question.

And you are wrong when it comes to paganism. Pagans who believe in gods like Zeus, Ishtar, Thor or Isis, have gods that are on the same ontological plane as we are (albeit more powerful): Those pagan Gods came into existence as parts of the cosmos, they can be destroyed and so they can’t explain the existence of the universe nor can they establish objective morality (even if those gods existed) since they are on the same board like we are, albeit they might be more powerful. So throwing them into this argument shows a lack of understanding the problem.

As for the psychopath problem, the simple answer is that, while the psycho might take perverted pleasure in the rape, torture and murder of others, the rest of us potential victims do not. And we are in the overwhelming majority, which isn’t “might makes right” but democracy does, with some obvious caveats.

This is another formulation of the problem: When is the society consensus wrong and I can ignore it? In our former discussion I didn’t really receive an answer that was without self contradictions. So: Is the community consensus always morally correct? If not, then labelling the dissenter as “perverted psycho” doesn’t establish any moral fact, it just establishes that there is deviation from the consensus. I gave you real world examples where democratic societies established wrong doing, that wasn’t really wrong. Some of them remain uncorrected even today.

And again you assume that society consensus equates democracy. This is obviously wrong for great parts of the world. Given another process for society consensus you get societies like you see in China, North Korea or Saudi Arabia. And BTW Hitler came to power by way of democratic elections in a society where everyone knew (could know) what he intended to do.

So when is an individual justified in resisting society consensus and when not? As long as you don’t have an an rational answer to this question, you can’t proceed to make any of your points about perverted psychos.>>

These are sobering considerations, well worth pondering as food for thought. END

44 Replies to “HGP responds to “society consensus morality,” i.e. cultural relativism

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    HGP responds to “society consensus morality,” i.e. cultural relativism

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: one of the keys to understanding the game that is afoot, is that there is a progressivist, cultural marxism-driven critical theory narrative coming from the power and influence centres that sets up a worldview that “guides” the cultural agenda; which has now reached to transgenderism as a way to “deconstruct” individual identity, marriage, family and the social order outside the ideological control of these hell-bent elites. Of course, that then begs the question of how this domineering narrative holds any credibility. But rest assured, if one does not signal that one hews to the party-line, one is the enemy, and the only question is whether one is ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. The dehumanising and demonising stereotypes practically write themselves under the narrative. We saw all of this a generation ago with Communism and its fellow travellers, but this is a generation that knew not the USSR. Ironically, it is this particular shadow show game that is perhaps the most ruinous to genuine progress towards a sound civil society. KF

  3. 3
    Fnarb says:

    Either God can make the rules, or the rules apply to Him also. Assuming that God made logic and ethics leads to no coherent God. I believe the opposite: that thing, of which logic (pure reason) and ethics (practical reason) are abstractions, made/implies God, who is under the same ethical and logical rules as ourselves: God has *necessary* existence. Theological ideas have consequences! E.g.: if Godel is right, there are infinitely many true mathematical propositions which cannot be proven in any finite axiom system. Infinitely many axioms implies real infinities. No real infinities, whether axioms or propositions, implies God is ignorant of some of mathematics. CHOOSE!

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    Fnarb,

    Either God can make the rules, or the rules apply to Him also. Assuming that God made logic and ethics leads to no coherent God. I believe the opposite: that thing, of which logic (pure reason) and ethics (practical reason) are abstractions, made/implies God, who is under the same ethical and logical rules as ourselves: God has *necessary* existence.

    I agree with this. The notion that God “makes” the rules of mathematics or morality doesn’t hold up. These rules, being necessary beings, do not depend on God for their existence.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Fnarb, the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called, has long since been cogently answered by ethical theism. Is and ought can indeed only be bridged at the root of reality. The answer of ethical theism is — and we can discuss how we get there — that that root is the inherently good and wise creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the responsible, rational service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature. In that context, rules of reason and of moral government are not arbitrary impositions but reflect the roots of reality. The premise of distinct identity is necessary just for a world to be (it is part of the framework of any possible world) and LOI, LNC, LEM are immediately present as facets of distinct identity. Such first principles are not separate from God, they are bound up in being with identity. There is no possible world where such does not obtain, and with them, the natural numbers which flow from multiple distinct identities, abstract or concrete. On moral government, principles and rules are inherent to the nature of God as good, they are not independent of his existence. But, as Lord and Judge, God plays a different role than we do. KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, God, by core conception is a necessary being, so a candidate Y to be God is a candidate Necessary Being. A serious one, so the issue is, is Y impossible as a square circle is — contradictory core characteristics to have that identity — or not? If impossible, not actual in any possible world. If possible, framework to any world existing, and actual in this one. As for necessary things like the naturals, I suggest, they do not exist independent of the infinite mind at world root. Such principles of morality as are necessary, likewise would not be independent of the inherent goodness of God. There is a tendency to confuse God with mere superhuman gods. There is none like unto God! Gotta go now. KF

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    KF,

    It appears we agree that the numbers represented by the numerals “2” and “3” are distinct necessary beings. God of course is a necessary being.

    This raises a few questions:

    1) Does the existence of 3 depend on the existence of 2? I don’t think that is consistent with the definition of “necessary being”.

    2) Does the existence of 3 depend on the existence of God? I’m arguing the answer is “no” above.

    3) Does the existence of God depend on the existence of 3? 😮

    4) Is there any way to answer these questions consistently, without literally just making stuff up?

  8. 8
    jdk says:

    4 is a great question. In fact it is the critical question. The answer to 4 is no.

  9. 9
    asauber says:

    Assuming that God made logic and ethics leads to no coherent God.

    How does that follow?

    Andrew

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Andrew, the God of relevance is communicative reason himself, i.e. reason and its core principles are part of his nature. KF

  11. 11
    asauber says:

    KF,

    Indeed. I’d kinda appreciate it if Fnarb explained how he arrives at his conclusion.

    Andrew

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    We often use the von neumann construction to display the structure and relationships of the natural numbers. For example:

    {} –> 0
    {0} –> 1
    {0,1} –> 2

    etc.

    However this is not a causal succession, it is — strictly speaking — a relational one. All of the naturals are necessary and exist simultaneously.

    I would suggest that for a world to exist, there are framework, necessary beings of various types connected to that existence. Distinct identity is a way in, as a particular world obviously has a particular identity. That immediately has as corollaries that the first principles of right reason exist in any possible world and that the set of naturals exists. In this case these are abstract principles that apply to the structure of any possible world.

    As for God’s existence, the answer of ethical theism is that he is the necessary being at the root of a domain of reality such as we inhabit. One, in which we are morally governed; requiring the bridging of IS and OUGHT at the root level.

    Theists will also note that things like these laws, principles, numbers, structures etc will be eternally contemplated by God, they are not independent of him, nor is any reality such that such ordering principles do not obtain. God cannot create a world in which there is no such thing as the number 39, as that number is part of the structure for any world to exist. Nor can he create a world in which distinct identity does not obtain, that too is part of the structure of any possible world.

    That’s like saying, God cannot create a square circle. Such an entity cannot exist in any possible world. It is an example of non-being, as would be a world without 39 or one without distinct identity.

    God’s maximally great powers to create cannot include to create what is inherently non-being. Non being as required core characteristics are not possible at all or are not simultaneously possible.

    And so forth.

    Where, no, this is not just “made up” stuff. the logic involved should be clear enough to someone with your background.

    KF

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Can you boil that down to three yes or no answers to my questions 1–3 above?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, you asked questions of enormous complexity, hinging on the logic of being, cause, ontology, ethics and more. No, I do not think I can safely give simplistic Y/N answers without at least a sketch of the associated context. KF

  15. 15
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Thanks, I don’t have yes/no answers to those questions either.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    I can give a Y/N (in most cases), but then each has to be taken i/l/o explanation. Note, the context was already given in outline. The naked Y/N is inadequate.

    I assume, you have read the above.

    Let me note, i/l/o the context above:

    >>1) Does the existence of 3 depend on the existence of 2?>>

    No, save that the naturals stand in a matrix of relationships which are implicit in their values. You cannot turn off 2, you cannot prevent 3 in any actual world. 2 is not a cause of 3, it may logically constrain the meaning of 3-ness, but it does not bring it into existence.

    >> I don’t think that is consistent with the definition of “necessary being”.>>

    2 is not a cause of 3. As was just noted.

    >>2) Does the existence of 3 depend on the existence of God?>>

    2 is a necessary framework being for any world that exists, God is the cause for any world to exist. (Unless you can show God is impossible. Which, if you could you would have long since.)

    >> I’m arguing the answer is “no” above.>>

    2 is not a cause of the (suggested, contingent) existence of 3, as was noted.

    >>3) Does the existence of God depend on the existence of 3? ????>>

    No, 3 is a necessary framework entity for any world that exists, it is not a cause of the existence of God. God would create any world that is, and such a world will necessarily include 3.

    >>4) Is there any way to answer these questions consistently, without literally just making stuff up?>>

    Yes, despite JDK’s talking point to the contrary. See the discussion above and the just above answers.

    But note, how complex each question is, loaded with prior issues that will require much careful thought. Starting with the logic of being.

    KF

  17. 17
    daveS says:

    KF,

    “No” for all three is also what I would lean toward.

    And to get back to Fnarb’s point, likewise, rules of objective morality, such as “the death penalty is/is not sometimes appropriate” (whichever is true), do not depend on the existence of God for their own existence.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Oughtness can be discerned by a rational, morally governed, enconscienced being; even, to self-evidence. That does not explain how such a world is, in which ought governs and is not delusional, and in which IS and OUGHT are reconciled. In short, a world with morally governed creatures, where oughtness is non-arbitrary, will be one created by the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. KF

  19. 19
    Molson Bleu says:

    “That does not explain how such a world is, in which ought governs and is not delusional, and in which IS and OUGHT are reconciled.”
    Is God or delusion the only options? Could OUGHT not govern if it simply happened to be adaptive?

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, mere survival of the fittest is at best amoral; at worst, outright nihilistic — a lesson laid out in stark terms when Herr Schicklegruber argued in a notorious book that cats have no sympathy for mice. The fact is, just this exchange shows the implicit principle that in thought etc we are under duties of care to truth, sound logic, fairness and prudence etc. We experience this through an aspect of consciousness, conscience. So, we have a major case of self-referentiality affecting all of our interior life of the mind and extending to actions in community. Already, a warning sign. The issue is, is that sense of being under obligation of law of our nature, of being under moral government, true? Linked, how can we bridge belief and truth, is and ought? After the Hume guillotine on ungrounded ought: arguing is, is then suddenly poof ought ought, and after the Euthyphro dilemma so-called, this has to be resolved at world-root level. If there is no basis for objective moral law, then, grand delusion brings down rationality in an infinitely regressive self-referentially incoherent cascade. Reductio ad absurdum. We must therefore seek a world root level entity that is responsible, causally, for our existence as rational, responsibly significantly free, morally governed creatures. One that must answer the three issues. After centuries of debate, there is exactly one serious candidate. If you doubt, just put up a sound, coherent alternative: _____ The candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature. And yes, that is a densely packed summary. KF

  21. 21
    Fnarb says:

    asauber 9,11: If God makes all the rules, then He can presumably change them whenever He wants. We have no basis then for believing that He cannot or will not. There may be a way for this to be coherent to Him, but not to us. E.g., what sense could we make of it if tomorrow, God decides that 2+2=5 or that we ought to torture infants? Hence, if God makes all the rules on no basis other than His own choices, we have no basis for any coherent ethics or logic, and hence no coherent conception of a Good God is possible. (I don’t know whether this carries any weight with you, but the Bible seems to me to be dead set against a God of arbitrary rules.)

  22. 22
    Fnarb says:

    kairosfocus 5: It seems to me that ethical theism “replies” to the Euthyphro dilemma, a variant of the choice I present, by *making* a choice in favor of its own tenets. There is no actual distinction between the (real) logical/ethical ‘ylem’ and God Himself, in my view. If it exists, so does He. It is an aspect of Him, and He is an aspect of it. In other words, what I believe is a rather modest gloss on ethical theism itself, rather than an alternative to it.

  23. 23
    Molson Bleu says:

    “MB, mere survival of the fittest is at best amoral; at worst, outright nihilistic ”

    But I was referring to it being adaptive, not merely survival of the fittest. There are many of our faculties that are, effectively, delusional, but contribute significantly to our ability to thrive and be happy. We perceive color and pitch, which can be extremely helpful, but our perception of it is a delusion. Why can’t OUGHT function in the same way? It seems to me that a universal feeling of OUGHT could be highly beneficial to our ability to thrive and be happy in a group without a root level IS, as long as the OUGHTS are such that they are adaptive. That they help us all get along with a minimum of friction. OUGHTS that do not do so are not going to survive multi-generationally.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Fnarb, no. The good will be reasonable not arbitrary. There are intelligible principles at work. The Euthyphro dilemma is long since dead. KF

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, “adaptive” in context means promoting differential reproductive success. By that yardstick, Genghis Khan is the most moral person in recent history because of impregnating a vast number of women [it seems he must have spent his time fighting or raping or in the harem . . . ], leaving a very large number of descendants. The suggestion fails to bridge IS and OUGHT. Also, the sense of duty pervades our life of reason, and there are no firewalls, if we are subject to so pervasive a delusion, rationality collapses. KF

  26. 26
    Molson Bleu says:

    “MB, “adaptive” in context means promoting differential reproductive success. ”

    True, in an overly simplified context.

    “The suggestion fails to bridge IS and OUGHT. ”

    But that only matters if IS and OUGHT need to be bridged. Are you suggesting that OUGHTS that tend to be beneficial to most people in a social group for generations will not be passed on to their children through teaching as if they were objectively true? If that is the case, there is no need for any objective IS to bridge OUGHT. of course, I might certainly be wrong, but your argument has not convinced me.

    “Also, the sense of duty pervades our life of reason, and there are no firewalls, if we are subject to so pervasive a delusion, rationality collapses.”

    Why so? The way we perceive both sound and vision are pure delusion. As is the way we perceive pain and pleasure. But these appear to be instrumental in our ability to survive, thrive and be happy. The possibility that there may be no objective IS to bridge OUGHT does not detract from OUGHT’s importance in how we live or in our rationality.

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, when IS trumps OUGHT, nihilism rides again. That should be sober warning, given the issue on the table of ungrounded ought. Further, our perceptions are not delusion, though they are filtered in ways that sample bands and apply logging action to compress signals while enhancing sensitivity where it counts, etc. Grand delusion is of the order of living in a Plato’s cave world of shadow-shows confused for reality. If our sense of being under moral law is false, it would be delusional. Even your own arguments count on us being responsive to duties to truth, sound logic, fairness etc. Once those are discarded as delusion, we are looking at the rational faculty twisted into a tool of deceitful manipulation in a world where might and manipulation make ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘knowledge’ ‘justice’ ‘rights’ and more, with the ghost of Herr Schicklegruber cheering on, on how cats have no sympathies towards mice. A world in which ‘right’ would be defined by reproductive success, turning Genghis Khan into the foremost paragon of virtue, while Jesus of Nazareth — who had no children — is an utter failure and worse. In short, your criteria are yet another case of a crooked yardstick being offered to us as a standard for what is straight, accurate and upright. I suggest, you think again. KF

  28. 28
    Seversky says:

    HGP @ 153

    Before anything else: I wish you a good time in this year 2018.

    And a belated Happy New Year to one and all as well.

    -You didn’t give a coherent account of how anyone’s agreement to the society consensus is established or whether such an agreement is necessary.

    I didn’t know I was supposed to be providing a blueprint but, okay, then don’t we first need to define a purpose? If you don’t believe the assent of those subject to moral government is required then obviously there is no need to obtain it. If you believe you do need popular support then there is a need to find ways to obtain it. We can start by asking how is the assent of the governed established in a democracy by the government? This is usually done through elections and referenda which are supposed to trigger national debates on relevant issues. Of course, such methods are not ideal. Perhaps, in this age of the Internet we should be looking to that technology to provide better solutions. Any thoughts?

    -You didn’t establish a rational way how society can establish whether any given individual should count as moral agent whose views should be taken into account or whether the views of the individual can be discarded by the society. This question is relevant to the examples you gave above.

    Are you suggesting that all individuals should be subject to a test for moral competence before they are allowed to participate in discussions? Isn’t it just simpler to assume that all members of society who are qualified to vote can contribute to the social debate on morals?

    -You didn’t explain why you appealed again and again to your own moral intuitions (even against established society consensus) when trying to argue for some moral rules, when you stated that society consensus was the only source of morality.

    The starting-point for all individuals are their own moral intuitions. That is what an individual contributes to the social debate on moral issues. That is what each should be fully entitled to voice and promote. There should also be a willingness on the part of all to hear and try to understand the views of others and it is out of that debate that a moral consensus should emerge.

    -Given that the outcome of a society consensus is to a considerable degree dependent on the consensus making process, you have a chicken and egg problem of how a society can establish the rules for establishing consensus without appeal to their own consensus (which can’t be established at this point). So your consensus morality is either dependent on an arbitrary (and so necessarily on an amoral) process or there exists another source of morality which must be appealed to in order to get the process going.

    I should say the first thing to do is to start talking, not just within your own “tribe”, not just with those who think as you do, but with all the others who don’t. It’s not easy or pleasant but if you don’t “jaw, jaw” then “war, war” becomes the only other way to resolve or reconcile differences. If you can get some sort of dialogue going then one of the first orders of business would be to try and agree on procedures for conducting a debate and preventing a descent into chaotic shouting-matches.

    -A society must be either open to its consensus being the result of manipulation and/or force OR it must screen its own consensus making process according to moral rules established in a different way from its own consensus.

    It depends on what you mean by “manipulation”. The process of trying to persuade others to agree with your point of view could be seen as manipulation and that would be part of the normal process of trying to arrive at a consensus.

    -Either one accepts that any society consensus IS moral no matter what (to which you agreed that this idea is stupid) or even your society consensus is in dire need of an arbiter that can be appealed to if one thinks that society is wrong on some issue. If such an arbiter is bound by society consensus then it’s superfluous since it can’t correct the same consensus it is bound by, OTOH if it’s not bound by consensus, then it becomes itself a source of morality independent of society consensus.

    This is where morality moves into the field of law, which I regard, at least in part, as moral injunctions given statutory form and force.

    Since both morals and law are concerned with protecting and preserving the rights of individuals in society then the first step is to agree on a list of fundamental human rights along the lines of the US Bill of Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights. Such a codified set of rights, since it is held to be both basic, unchanging and common to all, should be insulated against temporary shifts of public and political opinion. Disputes over human rights or other laws should be adjudicated in the courts. Any majority which attempted to violate or abridge any of the agreed fundamental rights of an individual or minority would put itself on the wrong, There should be no “tyranny of the majority”.

    Neither did various religions throughout recorded history, including events recounted in the Old Testament. The is no record of God conducting referenda of the populations of Sodom and Gomorrah or the other cities obliterated by Him or His proxies. There was no worldwide survey before almost all life on the surface of the Earth was exterminated in the Great Flood.

    You are making a category error here. If the Bible God exists, then he is not just another pawn on the board of morality. He is the one who made the board and all pawns on it and who established the “rules of the game”. To demand that God should behave according to the moral rules that (according to your views) are binding upon humans is like demanding that the inventor of a game is bound by the same rules as the pawns on the board he made. Before any sensible discussion of this subject can take place, this point must be acknowledged.

    On the contrary, if we, as rational beings, have a duty to truth, to being influenced in our actions by the fruits of our reasoning, then how much more so is the God who is held to be the ultimate source and most perfect exponent of that reason? In fact, I would go so far as to argue that to suggest that this Universe and all the life within it was created by God as some sort of board game for His own amusement and no more, is blasphemous from a Christian perspective. We don’t need to demand that such a God should behave according to moral rules, if He is as described He has no choice but to so behave. If such a being is observed to behave immorally then, whatever else He might be, He cannot be the God of Christianity

    And after acknowledging that point we see, that the God described in the Bible made the universe, life in it and the moral rules binding on us. So God is the judge in the moral court not just another potential defendant. A judge just simply doesn’t ask the defendants whether they would submit to a judgement. He just renders judgement

    I would remind you that judges may have had no hand in the enactment of the laws they enforce but they are nonetheless bound by them as much as those who appear before them.

    When WJM and others trot out that tired old canard about there being no way to choose between the ‘morality’ of the psychopath and that of the rest of us,

    When I asked you how you establish this difference in your moral system, I didn’t receive an answer that made sense, since it left important points without answer (see reference above).

    Would you wish to be raped, tortured and murdered? Would you want that to happen to your family or friends? I would not do that to anyone and neither would anyone else here I’m sure. That is the difference between my morality and that of the psychopath. What else do you need?

    … , be aware that what they are actually arguing for is some form of divine or other command morality. It’s designed by some supreme authority or an elite few supposedly for our benefit but the rest of us who are supposed to be subject to it don’t get a say. Apparently, we’re not good enough.

    This is the same category error as explained above. God is unlike any human elite when it comes to establishing morality. I agree with you that a human elite establishing morality for the rest of us isn’t really a good idea and fraught with problems.

    When it comes to the issue of deciding morality for humanity I see no difference between God or some human elite. They may have the power to formulate a morality and impose it on the rest of us but if it is done without our consent then it is immoral. Government without the consent of the governed is power without authority.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, no time for a point by point. I note that there are prior requisites of rational, responsible citizenship that are necessary for viable community, including making a success of democratic governance. Or else we stare Plato’s mutinous ship of state in the face. Which responded to the suicide of Athenian Democracy. As for God vs a human power elite, we are finite, fallible, morally struggling at our best and too often ill-willed. God, properly understood, is the inherently good creator [this defines character and function as author of our world], a necessary and maximally great being, thus worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature. As a result, what is good will in key parts rest on intelligible, discernible principles that make sense of doing the right. By contrast, doing the wrong will twist, frustrate, despoil and will predictably lead to chaos. Indeed, that is exactly the point of one form of the categorical imperative: universalisability of a sound maxim. KF

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Let us ponder Plato:

    It is not too hard to figure out that our civilisation is in deep trouble and is most likely headed for shipwreck. (And of course, that sort of concern is dismissed as “apocalyptic,” or neurotic pessimism that refuses to pause and smell the roses.)

    Plato’s Socrates spoke to this sort of situation, long since, in the ship of state parable in The Republic, Bk VI:

    >>[Soc.] I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures.

    Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain [–> often interpreted, ship’s owner] who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better. [= The people own the community and in the mass are overwhelmingly strong, but are ill equipped on the whole to guide, guard and lead it]

    The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering – every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer [= selfish ambition to rule and dominate], though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them [–> kubernetes, steersman, from which both cybernetics and government come in English]; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard [ = ruthless contest for domination of the community], and having first chained up the noble captain’s senses with drink or some narcotic drug [ = manipulation and befuddlement, cf. the parable of the cave], they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them [–> Cf here Luke’s subtle case study in Ac 27].

    Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion [–> Nihilistic will to power on the premise of might and manipulation making ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘justice’ ‘rights’ etc], they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.

    Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?

    [Ad.] Of course, said Adeimantus.

    [Soc.] Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State[ –> here we see Plato’s philosoppher-king emerging]; for you understand already.

    [Ad.] Certainly.

    [Soc.] Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more extraordinary.

    [Ad.] I will.

    [Soc.] Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by him –that is not the order of nature; neither are ‘the wise to go to the doors of the rich’ –the ingenious author of this saying told a lie –but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him [ –> down this road lies the modern solution: a sound, well informed people will seek sound leaders, who will not need to manipulate or bribe or worse, and such a ruler will in turn be checked by the soundness of the people, cf. US DoI, 1776]; although the present governors of mankind are of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors, and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.

    [Ad.] Precisely so, he said.

    [Soc] For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to her by her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the same of whom you suppose the accuser to say, that the greater number of them are arrant rogues, and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed [–> even among the students of the sound state (here, political philosophy and likely history etc.), many are of unsound motivation and intent, so mere education is not enough, character transformation is critical].

    [Ad.] Yes.

    [Soc.] And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?

    [Ad.] True.

    [Soc.] Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of philosophy any more than the other?

    [Ad.] By all means.

    [Soc.] And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description of the gentle and noble nature.[ — > note the character issue] Truth, as you will remember, was his leader, whom he followed always and in all things [ –> The spirit of truth as a marker]; failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy [–> the spirit of truth is a marker, for good or ill] . . . >>

    (There is more than an echo of this in Acts 27, a real world case study. [Luke, a physician, was an educated Greek with a taste for subtle references.] This blog post, on soundness in policy, will also help)

  31. 31
    critical rationalist says:

    What we should strive for is a way to remove laws that eventually get proposed and enacted. They do and will be proposed.

    There is an entire chapter in The Beginning of Infinity that talks about fallibilism at length, which is structured a dialog between Hermes and Socrates. On section of that chapter addresses this…

    To paraphrase, Hermes ask Socrates what would happen if fallible Athenian voters made a mistake and enacted a unwise and unjust law, which they often do. Specifically, he asks if voters managed to be strongly persuaded that thievery was a “high virtue” from which many “practical benefits flowed” and, therefore, they wiped from the books all laws forbidding it.

    Socrates suggest that everyone would start thieving. And, soon, the best at thieving and cooperating with other thieves would become the most wealthy in Athens. However, Socrates also pointed out that everyone else would no longer be able to keep their property secure – even most thieves – and those who produced goods and those who traded in them would find producing anything worth stealing untenable. The results would be disastrous. People would starve and the purported benefits would not materialize. Socrates then suggested they would realize they were mistaken.

    However, Hermes reminded Socrates of the fallibility of human nature and that they had been firmly persuaded that thievery was beneficial. So, wouldn’t their first reaction to the setbacks be to conclude there simply wasn’t enough thievery going on. And, therefore enact laws to promote thievery, to future encourage it?

    Socrates agrees that, at first, that would be the response. However, regardless of how persuaded they were, the resulting setbacks would be concrete problems in their lives. And they would want to solve them. As such, a few would eventually become suspect of the idea that thievery was indeed a virtue and the solution it was cracked up to be. So, they would consider it again.

    In fact, to have been firmly persuaded, there must have been some explanation as to why thievery would be beneficial. And the Athenian’s focus would shift to explaining why that explanation was failing. Eventually they would find a different explanation that seemed better And gradually, they would persuade others of it, and so on, and so on, until the majority of Athenians again opposed thievery.

    Then Hermes goes on to ask what would happen if Athenians error had been to ban debate, as opposed to thievery. Specifically, to ban elections, politics, philosophy, etc. and to consider them shameful, instead of virtue.

    Socrates points out this would effectively ban persuasion. And it would throw a significant road block in the path of correcting errors as described above. This error would perpetuate itself. The idea that some ideas are not subject to criticism is such an idea.

    Hermes tells Socrates this is what Sparta looks like to him.

    Earlier, Socrates had noticed the difference between Athens and Sparta was not merely a difference in perspective or a matter of degree. Rather if Socrates’ counterpart in Sparta was right in that Athens is stuck in falsehood and Sparta is not, then Sparta, which opposed change, must already be perfect and right about everything else. However, Sparta knew very little, including how to persuade other cities of Sparta’s perfection – even those who are are open to argument and criticism.

    Hermes points out that, logically, it could be that a “perfect way of life” might consist of having made few accomplishments and being wrong about most things, but that Socrates had made an important observation.

    Socrates then suggests that, if he is correct in that Athens is not in a trap, this implies nothing about their wrong or rightness about any other matter beyond the idea that improvement is possible, which implies there must be inadequacies and errors in the current ideas of Athens’ citizens.

  32. 32
    JSmith says:

    S at 28, very well said. You explained much of my view in a far more cogent fashion.

    But I do have a question. Do you believe that things we are taught when we are young by parents, teachers, ministers, etc., reinforced by repetition, feedback and reinforcement, is sufficient to condition us (indoctrinate, brainwash, pick an appropriate verb) to perceive some subjective moral values as objective?

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, how do we get to the assent of the community, and on what basis will that be relevantly just, upright and sound? What is there about the agreement of the effective, powerful in a community that determines that such will reflect wisdom, on thousands of years of history, including the bloodiest century ever just past? When “consensus” sets the rules, cf Plato’s Ship of State above [which you have never cogently responded to], is not the individual reformer then automatically suspect and of no account. As in, he explicitly warns of such being tossed over board, i.e. made to walk the plank — we have Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Red China and other cases as clear examples of what happens when the wicked seize a city, the precise circumstance in which thievery would be enshrined under false colour of law. As in, capitalism is theft and oppression, so the state is the answer, a state that then turned even worse thief and would answer the objector by the 4:00 am knock on the door by the Gestapo. Do you recall the case of the endless applause to Stalin and the fate of the man who could go on no longer and sat down, giving permission implicitly to the others to do so? Gulag. Democratic impulses must be tamed by justice and liberty, in a context of a people who have learned sound governance tot he point where it is in their bones so to speak, precisely what is being undermined when we see the sort of dismissal of principle (especially self-evident, plumbline principle) that you and others have sustained for quite some time here. And much more. Ir seems we have forgotten even living memory history and are dooming ourselves to relive some very bad chapters indeed. KF

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, why do you so choose to denigrate the principles of morality and to demonise those who stand up to say no, culture, something is wrong, you have made thievery the rule:

    But I do have a question. Do you believe that things we are taught when we are young by parents, teachers, ministers, etc., reinforced by repetition, feedback and reinforcement, is sufficient to condition us (indoctrinate, brainwash, pick an appropriate verb) to perceive some subjective moral values as objective?

    Do you not see how you have exposed the utter incoherence of what you have proposed and championed, as well as the underlying perceptions, hyper-suspicious mentality and attitudes that I think you very much need to revisit? What do you think would happen if people with that sort of perception were to gain unaccountable power over their parents, elders, teachers and the like? Did you see what the Red Guards did under Mao’s blessing, and what it cost China? You have implied much more than I think you realise. KF

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Kindly, explain to us how it is merely dismissible indoctrination misunderstood as having objective warrant, to perceive that our reasoning process is inescapably pervaded by the principles of duty to truth, sound logic, fairness etc? That, likewise, it is only a matter of brainwashing, that it is wicked to kidnap, bind, sexually assault and murder a young child? Recall, these are precisely the paradigmatic instructive cases on the table. Cases, which I have never found you satisfactorily addressing in a cogent manner.

  36. 36

    MB says:

    But that only matters if IS and OUGHT need to be bridged. Are you suggesting that OUGHTS that tend to be beneficial to most people in a social group for generations will not be passed on to their children through teaching as if they were objectively true? If that is the case, there is no need for any objective IS to bridge OUGHT. of course, I might certainly be wrong, but your argument has not convinced me.

    Hey, good idea! Let’s further this reasoning. Let’s say that the successful evolutionary idea of “objective morality” becomes very successful over a very long period of time. Oh look! It has! Neat, our experiment comports with historical reality.

    Now let’s say a mutation occurs and in the comfort of the vast, successful population, a thought begins spreading that undermines the successful “objective morality” perspective – subjective morality. Since this is a purely evolutionary perspective, what would be the most effective response of the objective reality population to the threat of being replaced by subjective moralists?

    Hmmm… seems to me that, you know, under survival of the fittest, it would be best to just kill all the mutants. Don’t you agree? Surely you agree – after all, there are no objective moral rules or consequences, so if the objective moralists can justify it under their objective morality, it’s probably the best course of action for their continued survival.

  37. 37

    Seversky begins with two starting points he implies are equally valid in principle – it just depend on which one you personally, subjectively prefer:

    If you don’t believe the assent of those subject to moral government is required then obviously there is no need to obtain it. If you believe you do need popular support then there is a need to find ways to obtain it.

    But seversky closes with:

    When it comes to the issue of deciding morality for humanity I see no difference between God or some human elite. They may have the power to formulate a morality and impose it on the rest of us but if it is done without our consent then it is immoral. Government without the consent of the governed is power without authority.

    No, Seversky. By your own admission, government by power and government by “consent” are two equally valid moral premises. Therefore a morality decided on by a god, a tyrant or by a powerful group, and enforced on everyone else, is just as moral and as authoritatively valid as any other form of moral governance, including “consent”. Just because you do not “intuit” or prefer a certain form of moral governance doesn’t make that form objectively immoral.

    Now, let’s look at how Seversky has distinguished between one from of moral governance and the other by using the term “consent”. Obviously, not everyone will consent to any particular form of moral governance, so they will be forced by law, and by the majority, to either adopt the consensus morality or face consequences by force (forced imprisonment, fines, etc.) by a greater power than them.

    One wonders, what is the principled difference between a tyrant, having the power to do so, and a consensus, having the power to do so, forcing their personal moral views on others who do not share them? Isn’t it still a form of “might makes right”, even if the “might” is gained by gathering up more supports than those you are going to force to adopt your moral behaviors or else?

    They may have the power to formulate a morality and impose it on the rest of us but if it is done without our consent then it is immoral.
    How is power wielded by a tyrant or a majority in principle different in your perspective? Is a democratic process somehow more innately moral than a tyrannical one?

    So if the majority imposes a morality on the minority without their consent, then it is immoral?

    Government without the consent of the governed is power without authority.

    Doesn’t the authority to wield moral power depend on the individual’s own moral “intuitions”? Is “authority” some kind of mystical entity that only exist if everyone agrees to give it to someone? Let’s see what the dictionary says:

    authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience

    Hmm.. Doesn’t say anything about consent, and if morality is personal, subjective “intuition” or preference, and if there are no objective natural law “rights”, then those that seize power by whatever means are, in fact, the moral authorities for those the have power over.

  38. 38

    Seversky’s post (and others) are great demonstrations of moral subjectivists attempting to persuade their way to a palatable moral society originally carved out by moral objectivists. In doing so, they often make statements that assume a moral position as if it is innately better than the alternative to move their narrative towards the desired end-result, which was originally accomplished using objective morality views).

    They rely on the listener moving along that path without recognizing that they have no principle by which to discern which path should be taken in the first place, nor which path to take in case the path splits. It’s all a matter of preference and intuition, they claim, even while they make every choice necessary to get to a civil, democratic, lawful society based on consent. How convenient!!

    Try as they might to avoid referring to or implying an objective moral ought, they cannot help but, at some point, do exactly that. Why? Because to fully avoid any objective morality implications or hidden references, one would follow the intellectual path of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ragnar Redbeard: ultimately, might makes right, whether it is the might of the individual, the group, the idea, or majority consent – without a natural law morality that not even god can change, then all we have, ultimately, is might makes right.

    So, Seversky can make whatever “persuasive” arguments from his own personal “intuition”; but at the end of the day his personally palatable methodology is no different, in principle, than someone just clubbing him over the head until he agrees to do what they want. There is no principled moral difference.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, back from a meeting. One of the subtler issues at work is that evolutionary determinism (or even a combination of mechanical necessity and equally blind chance) on something as pervasive as moral government is tantamount to non-rational cause and control of the contents and functions of that epiphenomenon of matter in biological motion we term mindedness. This instantly undermines rationality in general, and therefore the possibility of responsible, rational freedom. This has been pointed out many times, but of course the same people scoff at it. Scoffing does not change the fact of self-referential incoherence and the rise of the amorality that lends itself to might and manipulation make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘logic,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘rights,’ ‘knowledge’ etc etc. Irrationality, amorality and nihilism. Absurdity. appeal to “we” don’t agree does not undo it either, collective absurdity is even more dangerous than idiosyncratic, isolated absurdity; especially if it holds power It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. We need to look elsewhere for a fresh start, and self-evident plumb-line first truths, cases and principles of reason, knowledge and moral government are a good part of that fresh start. KF

    PS: Just as a reminder on the general incoherence of evolutionary materialism, here is J B S Haldane:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

    PPS: Crick’s The Astonishing Hypothesis is stark:

    >. . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    No wonder, then, that Philip Johnson has replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Johnson then acidly commented: “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    The above should help to put meat on these bones, and Provine makes it even more clear just what is in the driving seat:

    >Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will [–> without responsible freedom, mind, reason and morality alike disintegrate into grand delusion, hence self-referential incoherence and self-refutation. But that does not make such fallacies any less effective in the hands of clever manipulators] . . . [1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address, U of Tenn — and yes, that is significant i/l/o the Scopes Trial, 1925]

  40. 40
    Seversky says:

    JSmith @ 32

    S at 28, very well said. You explained much of my view in a far more cogent fashion.

    But I do have a question. Do you believe that things we are taught when we are young by parents, teachers, ministers, etc., reinforced by repetition, feedback and reinforcement, is sufficient to condition us (indoctrinate, brainwash, pick an appropriate verb) to perceive some subjective moral values as objective?

    Stephen Jay Gould defined ‘fact’ as meaning “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” Science prizes replicability of results as the best measure of good research. As a child, I believed in the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible without question because that is what I was taught by my elders for years. So, yes, simple repetition could be enough to imprint an assumption that moral values are objective.

    As a – probably – minor influence there is the problem of English usage. We say a rose is beautiful in the same way we say a rose is red or a rose is a plant. It implies beauty is as much an objective property of the rose as its color or its biological nature. In the same way, we say a certain behavior is good whereas another is bad. Again, this suggests that good and evil are objective properties of such behavior rather than our subjective evaluations of it.

  41. 41
    Seversky says:

    William J Murray @ 37

    No, Seversky. By your own admission, government by power and government by “consent” are two equally valid moral premises. Therefore a morality decided on by a god, a tyrant or by a powerful group, and enforced on everyone else, is just as moral and as authoritatively valid as any other form of moral governance, including “consent”. Just because you do not “intuit” or prefer a certain form of moral governance doesn’t make that form objectively immoral

    I don’t recognize objective morality or immorality come to that. However, on the question of a government deriving its authority from the consent of the governed I feel I should draw your attention to the following passage:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    It is either that or some form of tyranny or autocracy. You seem to be comfortable with the latter.

    Now, let’s look at how Seversky has distinguished between one from of moral governance and the other by using the term “consent”. Obviously, not everyone will consent to any particular form of moral governance, so they will be forced by law, and by the majority, to either adopt the consensus morality or face consequences by force (forced imprisonment, fines, etc.) by a greater power than them.

    It’s highly unlikely that in any human society will all members be of one mind about all issues. For any human society to work there has to be a degree of compromise. Consensus doesn’t necessarily mean total agreement on all issues but an agreement everyone decides they cam live with. I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that churches get substantial tax breaks. It means that my tax dollars are going towards supporting something I don’t believe in. But, in the interests of a relatively free, prosperous and stable society, it’s something I can live with. Others, who face an issue on which they feel they cannot compromise, have the choices of trying to change public opinion and ultimately the law or finding somewhere else to live.

    One wonders, what is the principled difference between a tyrant, having the power to do so, and a consensus, having the power to do so, forcing their personal moral views on others who do not share them? Isn’t it still a form of “might makes right”, even if the “might” is gained by gathering up more supports than those you are going to force to adopt your moral behaviors or else?

    As I’ve argued before, in a free society which affords its members a set of basic human rights, any attempt to infringe on or violate the rights of one or more of its members is immoral and should also be illegal, whether committed by an individual or a majority.

    So if the majority imposes a morality on the minority without their consent, then it is immoral?

    That would depend on context.

    If a majority wanted to establish a state church and make attendance at daily religious observances compulsory for all, whether they were members of a different faith or non-believers, that would be immoral.

    On the other hand, if the majority decided to ban the activities of a group of psychopaths who wanted to carry out rapes and murders for their own perverted pleasure, that would be moral.

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, what say you to the decision by a majority of a judicial panel in the US to legislate from the bench what has led to a slaughter of 60 million unborn members of our living posterity in the womb over the past 45 years? How have you responded to those who object and will be marching in a few days on that anniversary? To those who cast their objection to holocaust of the innocents in terms of oppression of women? KF

  43. 43
    asauber says:

    Fnarb @ 21,

    Thank you for the clarification. I think my issue was with the word ‘incoherent’. I think ‘inconsistent’ would be better. But I do see your point, with the only other idea that I’d like to present being that His ways are not our ways. And I wouldn’t say the we understand with metaphysical certitude what God’s parameters are. I think we know partially and we have a dumbed-down (so to speak) set of rules that are aspects of Him, yes.

    Andrew

  44. 44

    Seversky said:

    I don’t recognize objective morality or immorality come to that.

    So? When you can make a logical argument against that conclusion, let me know.

    It is either that or some form of tyranny or autocracy. You seem to be comfortable with the latter.

    It’s not my moral position that endorses the latter as just another subjective form of moral governance – it’s yours. If you are uncomfortable with the logical implications of your position, perhaps you should reconsider it.

    It’s highly unlikely that in any human society will all members be …

    Note how Seversky never addresses the actual logic. He doesn’t attempt to explain the moral difference between being forced to conform via consent or power; he doesn’t attempt to address the logic that it’s all ultimately based on power; he simply offers a bunch of rhetoric that draws from shared understanding of objective moral values in order to try and make his view more appealing than the alternative.

    If a majority wanted to establish a state church and make attendance at daily religious observances compulsory for all, whether they were members of a different faith or non-believers, that would be immoral.

    On the other hand, if the majority decided to ban the activities of a group of psychopaths who wanted to carry out rapes and murders for their own perverted pleasure, that would be moral.

    By what standard of evaluation, Seversky? Did you leave out “according to my own personal, subjective views on morality.”?? I guess so.

    So to be clear, it would be immoral to you but it would not be immoral to the tyrranical theocracy, right? If a person is one of those tyrranical clergy, then it is perfectly moral for him to enslave others, treat women as property, abuse children, etc. And, according to subjective morality, that system is as moral as any other – objectively speaking. Correct?a

    I’m not asking “in your opinion from your moral perspective”, Seversky. In an objective light from outside of all moral systems, no moral system or view is objectively “more moral” than the next; it’s a matter of subjective preference. Correct?

    And, at the end of the day, all of those moral governances ultimately enforce their morality on others by some form of strength, correct? So, for all systems, even one based on human rights and fairness, from an objective point of view, all subjective moral governances ultimately come down to might makes right, whether that might is used to install and protect human rights, or it is used to enslave and rape for the benefit of a few.

    And, from an objective point of view, the two systems would be morally equal.

    Does that make you the least bit uncomfortable?

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