One of the issues we must face is whether there is enduring moral truth that can be warranted to such a degree that it rightly governs our thoughts, words (especially in argument) and deeds. Where, given that we have an inner voice (conscience) that testifies to duty under moral law, as well as an inescapable sense of duty to truth, right reason, prudence, justice, uprightness etc., if that intuition is false, then our whole inner life becomes tainted by grand delusion.
A lot is at stake, in short.
A quick first answer is, that we may recognise that grand delusion is self-referential, incoherent, self-falsifying — a case of reduction to absurdity.
That is, we see the inescapability of being governed by moral truth as part of the same first principles that we cannot prove but must accept on reasonable responsible — note the self-reference! — faith, for all proofs, all arguing must start from such. This then raises the issue of how the IS-OUGHT gap can be bridged, which can only be done at the world-root; or else we will always see the Humean challenge of ungrounded oughts.
This already puts on the table the bill of requisites for such a root: necessary being with inherent moral goodness, causal adequacy to ground a physically, intellectually, mathematically and morally governed unified but diverse world that includes responsibly, rationally free creatures such as we are. (And yes, significant — as opposed to absolute — freedom to think, decide and act would be yet another of those inescapable truths.)
That bill of requisites of course has just one serious candidate bid (the God of ethical theism) . . . if you doubt that, simply provide another under comparative difficulties: ___________ . Namely, the inherently good, wise, truthful creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. One, who is worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.
Such is of course hotly contested, from every sort of angle.
Go ahead, just apply comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power. I remain confident that such a process will rapidly come back to there being just one serious candidate.
And, that a searching examination of our morally governed nature, starting with our thought-life, will point towards the dangers of imposing crooked yardsticks as standards of straightness, accurate measure, uprightness. Not least, that what is actually these things will never conform to crookedness. So, we need naturally straight and upright plumb lines to judge between yardsticks.
That is of course the role of logic, first principles and first truths that can be known to an appropriate degree of certainty. Which of course invites the rhetoric of how we old fashioned fuddy duddies and Christofascists etc are imposing agendas under the excuse of certainties.
Indeed, let us contrast a Biblical warning:
Isa 5: 18 Woe (judgment is coming) to those who drag along wickedness with cords of falsehood,
And sin as if with cart ropes [towing their own punishment];
19 Who say, “Let Him move speedily, let Him expedite His work [His promised vengeance], so that we may see it;
And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel approach
And come to pass, so that we may know it!”
20 Woe (judgment is coming) to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe (judgment is coming) to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe (judgment is coming) to those who are heroes at drinking wine
And men of strength in mixing intoxicating drinks,
23 Who justify the wicked and acquit the guilty for a bribe,
And take away the rights of those who are in the right! [AMP]
. . . with an example of current political correctness, from US Senator Kamala Harris in a recent CNN Townhall . . . which we cite as a summary of moral claims being made and trumpeted across our world:
“You know, we have to speak truths about this. Racism is real in America. Sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia. These things exist in America, and we have to speak truth that they do so that we can deal with them. But we have seen in the last two years
[–> H’mm, methinks the last two weeks have something to say, here]
that there has been new fuel that is lighting that fire in a way that has been harmful . . . we know that hate is something that in the history of our country, and currently, fuels not only dissension and division, but is — actually can lead to death. And so, we have to take it seriously.”
It is also worth the while to remind ourselves of Cicero in his opening remarks in De Legibus, c. 50 BC:
Marcus [in de Legibus, introductory remarks,. C1 BC] — . . . the subject of our present discussion . . . comprehends the universal principles of equity and law. In such a discussion therefore on the great moral law of nature, the practice of the civil law can occupy but an insignificant and subordinate station. For according to our idea, we shall have to explain the true nature of moral justice, which is congenial and correspondent with the true nature of man. We shall have to examine those principles of legislation by which all political states should be governed. And last of all, shall we have to speak of those laws and customs which are framed for the use and convenience of particular peoples, which regulate the civic and municipal affairs of the citizens, and which are known by the title of civil laws.
Quintus [his brother]. —You take a noble view of the subject, my brother, and go to the fountain–head of moral truth, in order to throw light on the whole science of jurisprudence: while those who confine their legal studies to the civil law too often grow less familiar with the arts of justice than with those of litigation.
Marcus. —Your observation, my Quintus, is not quite correct. It is not so much the science of law that produces litigation, as the ignorance of it, (potius ignoratio juris litigiosa est quam scientia) . . . . With respect to the true principle of justice, many learned men have maintained that it springs from Law. I hardly know if their opinion be not correct, at least, according to their own definition; for “Law (say they) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.” This, they think, is apparent from the converse of the proposition; because this same reason, when it is confirmed and established in men’s minds, is the law of all their actions. They therefore conceive that the voice of conscience is a law, that moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones. They think, too, that the Greek name for law (NOMOS), which is derived from NEMO, to distribute, implies the very nature of the thing, that is, to give every man his due. [–> this implies a definition of justice as the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities] For my part, I imagine that the moral essence of law is better expressed by its Latin name, (lex), which conveys the idea of selection or discrimination. According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimination between good and evil. The true definition of law should, however, include both these characteristics. And this being granted as an almost self–evident proposition, the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality. This indeed is the true energy of nature, the very soul and essence of wisdom, the test of virtue and vice.
In comparing the three, there is a surprising underlying agreement that we are under moral government. The debates come, on substance — and we must be very cautious when we see the dismissal of longstanding principled concerns as X-phobias, X to be extended to whatever latest fashionable behaviour supported by the “progressives” demands to be treated as a right. Where, a phobia is by definition an IRRATIONAL fear.
Such irrationality must be warranted, not just asserted.
Likewise, a right is a moral claim to support and respect in some particular way, so to justly claim a right, one must manifestly first be demonstrably in the right. For, it patently cannot be a right to demand that another taints conscience by enabling one in wrongdoing . . . something implicit in Isa 5 and in Cicero.
Such leads me to put on the table, that:
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.)
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. Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. 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 insitutionalised 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.
So, we have good reason to hold that there are moral truths, that some are self-evident, serving as plumb lines that correct crooked yardsticks, that we may therefore establish moral knowledge and that such knowledge is pivotal to sound, sustainable community and government. Where, manifestly moral soundness is under grave threat today, across our civilisation. Where, too, moral government is inseparable from truthful thought, right reason, prudence, justice and more. END
PS: I promote from below at 22, a cross-posted annotation of a clipped comment by H which underscores the force of the above:
[[KF, 98: >>H:
I note your remarks at 95:
I am certain that many of the positions ED, BB, and I have argued for in this thread, and in the Killing Babies thread, are held by many religious people, including Christians, as well as non-religious people of different sorts. The fact that I might have an opinion that might be held by a materialist doesn’t make me a materialist, any more than agreeing with a Christian position makes me a Christian.
You will note how frequently I have spoken to evolutionary materialistic scientism (with its institutional, deleterious dominance) [= “naturalism”] AND fellow travellers. The point, being, that when we face an ideological juggernaut — never mind its inherent self-falsification through self referential incoherence and the import of its implicit amorality — it distorts the institutional and policy space, strongly pulling people to “moderate” [= acceptable] positions.
Let me break this para and insert the Overton Window here, as clear context:
And where agit prop stunts, media amplification, media lyinchings and lawfare abound, there will be a tendency to undue dominance of the ideology. So, there will be a pattern where many who have varying views are pulled into orbit.
The further factor is that it is plain that the ideological dominance is leading our civilisation on a locked-in voyage of ruinous folly. Blind, ruinous folly.
That is background.
Let’s note on your worldview outline with ethical aspects, clipping and annotating particularly interesting points:
* I accept the reality of my mind as something separate from my body, and thus from the material world
[–>I add: implies, that the argument that a GIGO-limited, blindly mechanical and/or stochastic computational substrate cannot plausibly account for mind. “Mind,” being an aspect of soul that is frequently used as a stand-in.]
* I believe that my mind and my body are very entangled, constantly interacting with each other. [–> I add: mind/soul-body interface challenge]
* However, I do not know how my mind interfaces with my body, nor the details of how the two interact with and influence each other. I don’t believe anyone know these things.
* My philosophical speculation, which is nothing more than that, is that there is some unified oneness beyond the quantum level that gives rise to both mind and matter. [–> a unified root of reality, which also needs to reckon with diversity including moral diversity]
* I believe that my mind has rational capabilities, which includes the ability
*** to understand abstract concepts,
*** to embody those concepts in verbal and written symbols that can be shared with others, and can be used by me to increase my understanding via internal reflection
*** to manipulate those symbols logically
* I believe that my consciousness is just part of my mind, and that at one one time it is aware of just a small part of what is in my mind
* I believe that our mind has the ability to make freely determined choices,
*** although that ability is very entangled with our bodily self: learning how to exercise the will is one of the primary tasks of being a human being, I think . . . .
My sense that I am obligated to live morally, and that there is a fundamental moral foundation, is just as real to me as my consciousness or my rationality. [–> echoing, that the IS-OUGHT gap must be bridged at world-root] It seems to me that that foundation starts with some basic principles about how to treat our fellow human beings:
* Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor.” That’s a good place to start.
[–> but who is my neighbour and why must s/he be viewed as of equal
* Be compassionate to all. My yoga teacher ends each class with a precept from the Eastern religions, “Bow the head to the heart, and surrender the ego to compassion”. [–> a pointer to pantheistic/ panentheistic influences and the new age movement]
* All human beings are created equal, and have an inherent human worth. This is a foundational principle of our country
* Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule, and the basic social contract
Principles such as these are where morality start. [–> nope, we are not at the root of reality, we cannot ground morality, though we have in us a witness, conscience, which even regulates our reasoning] Applying them to everyday situations, from the momentous to the mundane, is where we have to apply our rationality. [–> which is itself inescapably morally governed] Yes we draw on our culture, and as we become educated we draw on the spiritual wisdom of the ages. We also have to draw on our ability to gather facts, think logically about consequences, and ultimately we have to make [–> morally governed] choices, because moral situations often present us with conflicting perspectives. [–> thus we have to weigh relative values and must regulate the weights we apply, hence the Golden Rule]
But some fundamental moral principles underlie it all.
Now, where do there underlying principles lie, and from whence do they come.
I don’t know.
[–> there is on the table a discussion on inference to best, worldview-level explanation, with open invitation to provide an alternative on comparative difficulties; it is asserted that there is but one serious candidate, you have just implicitly conceded that you cannot supply another]
I know that some of you see this uncertainty on my part in a negative light, but I am confident and comfortable with the idea that it is important to know what I know and what I don’t know.
[–> Or is it, given a known alternative on the table, in the context of being the only serious, successful candidate, that there is implicit refusal to admit that? Let’s summarise: from our thought life on up, we are inescapably morally governed, as witnessed by conscience and known duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice, neighbourliness etc. Likewise, it is self evidently wrong and wicked to kidnap, bind, gag, sexually assault and murder a young child for one’s pleasure. These and many other considerations in today’s age force us to ponder whether moral government and knowledge are delusional, artifacts of the evolved brain or some other kind of delusion. But if that is so, our whole inner life would fall under the taint, grand delusion. We are forced to accept that we are morally governed so that the IS-OUGHT gap must be bridged at world-root. This requires a being independent of others for its existence and moral framework, being also inherently good and causally adequate to account for a world involving us as morally governed creatures. There being (after many centuries of debate) just one serious candidate. If you doubt, just provide an alternative: _____ and address comparative difficulties: _______ . The candidate to beat: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being; worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature. That is, ethical theism, being here prior to any particular philosophical or religious tradition or teacher.]
But here is my speculation:
Whatever source gives rise to my mind (I mentioned an underlying oneness that is the source of both mind and matter) also gives me this fundamental moral foundation in the same way that it gives me the ability to use logic to manipulate concepts.[–> in short, we are made in God’s image, reasonable and responsible, though that word is avoided] In this view, all human beings have the same very basic foundation to draw on: one of love, compassion, and care for other human beings as fundamentally all the same in worth.
[–> All men are created equal, are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights . . . to secure such rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed]
These principles are part of my core being, as well as everyone else’s –> conscience as witness and regulator of reason], and once mine, they grow with me as I develop from childhood to adulthood.
Some people believe that this moral core is somehow in contact with some external source of morality: for instance, ba thinks it comes from God. [–> you have so far studiously avoided the ethical theism challenge that was repeatedly put on the table]
I don’t experience morality that way. [–> denial that conscience holds us accountable to law and duties, bearing witness to something beyond figments of our fever-dreams] I don’t feel my mind is in contact with any larger mind. [–> the issue is not active relationship with God, but the implications of inescapable moral government and the is-ought gap] The moral foundation is in me, and it’s my job to draw on it in the best way I can. One way to look at it (this is an anthropomorphic metaphor) is that once given the moral foundation, the rationality to assess moral situations in the world, and the ability to choose my actions, the giver goes away.[–> a somewhat deistic suggestion] It’s up to me as a human being to make use of these gifts.
Note: this moral foundation goes beyond culture. [–> is transcendent] I do not believe, as Barry said in his OP, that ““good” means what the people of a society collectively deem to be good.” [–> rejects cultural relativism, but that then extends to the society of one, subjectivism; we are not adequate in ourselves to ground moral government] I believe in conscientious objection. I believe we have a civic duty to question accepted morals and other norms when our conscience and rationality [–> which is morally regulated] deem that appropriate.
I of course find in this some interesting intersections with my current OP on ethical aspects of logic and first principles of right reason.
It is also significant to see how the pivotal challenge, to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap at the only place this is feasible — on pain of ungrounded ought — is side-stepped. Namely, the world root.
In short, we see yet again how sound the observation is, that after centuries of debates, there is just one serious candidate. One, that is obviously hard to swallow in today’s ideological climate.]]