Intelligent Design

Eric Harris Was Just Paying Attention

Spread the love

Thank you to all of the materialists (and there were several) who rose to the challenge of my last post [Materialists: [crickets]]. We will continue the discussion we began there in this thread.

Before I continue, please allow me to clear up some confusion. Several of my interlocutors seem to believe that the purpose of my post is to refute metaphysical naturalism. (See here for instance) It is not. Please look again at the very first line of the paragraph I quoted: “Let us assume for the sake of argument that metaphysical naturalism is a true account of reality.”

Please read that line again carefully. I am NOT arguing that metaphysical naturalism is false (though I believe it is; that is an argument for another day). I simply wish to explore the logical consequences of whole-heartedly embracing metaphysical naturalism. I thought this was clear, but apparently it was not, so I will repeat my argument step by step:

Step 1: What metaphysical naturalism asserts

Metaphysical naturalism asserts that nothing exists but matter, space and energy, and therefore every phenomenon is merely the product of particles in motion.

Step 2: Consequences of naturalism vis-à-vis, the “big questions”

Certain consequences with respect to God, ethics and meaning follow inexorably if metaphysical naturalism is a true account of reality. Perhaps Will Provine summed these up best:

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.

Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract)

Dawkins agrees:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, 133.

Step 3: Why Not Act Accordingly?

What if a person were able to act based on a clear-eyed and unsentimental understanding of the consequences outlined above? If that person had the courage not to be overwhelmed by the utter meaningless of existence, he would be transformed. He would be bold, self-confident, assertive, uninhibited, and unrestrained. He would consider empathy to be nothing but weak-kneed sentimentality. To him others would not be ends; they would be objects to be exploited for his own gratification. He would not mind being called cruel, because he would know that “cruelty” is an empty category, the product of mere sentiment. Is the lion being cruel to the gazelle? No, he is merely doing what lions naturally do to gazelles.

In my original argument I suggested this person would be a psychopath. That is not quite accurate. A psychopath, by definition, lacks empathy. Our Übermensch, however, might well have the capacity for empathy which he suppresses. It is more accurate, therefore, to say that the actions of the person who acts based on a clear-eyed and unsentimental acceptance of naturalism would be indistinguishable from the actions of a psychopath.

Step 4:

Finally, I raised the issue I would like to explore:

Why should our Übermensch refrain from hurting other people to achieve his selfish desires.

Mark Frank takes a stab at answering the question:

Do you mean “why should I?” in the sense of why is it right for me to do it? If so, that is tautology, of course it is right to do what is right.

Or do you mean “why should I” in the sense of “what is there in it for me?” In this case the pay-offs include:

* The intense satisfaction of having done the right thing.
* The congratulations of those that will approve of your action
* The firm example you will set for others to treat you the same way
* If done repeatedly an excellent basis for persuading others to do what you think it is right for them to do etc…

Thank you Mark. I believe your answer is about as good an answer as a naturalist can give. Let’s explore it and find out why it is wholly unsatisfactory as a logical matter.

Do you mean ‘why should I?’ in the sense of why is it right for me to do it? If so, that is tautology, of course it is right to do what is right.

Readers, notice the equivocation at the base of Mark’s argument. It is always “right” to do what is “right” is indeed a tautology if the word “right” is used in the same sense in both instances. But it is not. Remember, Mark is a metaphysical naturalist. The word “right” has no objective meaning for the metaphysical naturalist. It is purely subjective. For the metaphysical naturalist the good is the desirable and the desirable is that which he actually desires. In other words, Mark has no warrant to use the word “right” as if it had an objective meaning. Yet that is exactly what he does.

To see this, let us re-write Mark’s sentence using different words for the two senses of the word “right” that he uses: “of course, it is right [i.e., it conforms to a code of objective morality] to do what is right [i.e., that which I subjectively prefer].” Written this way, amplifying the inconsistent ways in which Mark uses the word “right,” exposes the fallacy.

Now let us turn to the second part of Mark’s argument. “What’s in it for me?” I want to thank Mark for unintentionally making my point for me. He says our Übermensch might refrain from hurting another person in order to achieve his selfish ends because he has engaged in a cost/benefit analysis. Mark points to certain “benefits” of refraining from hurting another person to achieve selfish ends. Presumably, the point of Mark’s argument is that “what’s in it for me” (i.e., the benefits received from not hurting the other person) outweighs the cost (failing to achieve a selfish end).

But of course Mark’s argument fails, because the benefits he suggests may not outweigh the cost. It depends on what selfish end the Übermensch wishes to achieve and how badly he wants it. Indeed, some of the so-called benefits are not really benefits at all to our Übermensch. Consider the first one: the intense satisfaction of having done the right thing. Here again Mark is employing a concept he has no right to employ. Our Übermensch understands that “the right thing” is a meaningless concept. Why should our Übermensch feel satisfaction at having conformed his behavior to a non-existent standard? That is the whole point of the exercise after all. Once we understand that there really is no such thing as “the right thing” why should we not do exactly as we please even if it hurts another person? Mark has no answer, because there is no answer.

Eric Harris was paying attention when someone taught him Nietzsche. He believed he was an Übermensch. He believed he was a lion and the other students at his school gazelles. On what grounds can a metaphysical naturalist say “Eric Harris was wrong”? Is it not true that the most a metaphysical naturalist can say is “I personally disagree with what he did and would not do it myself”?

A final note:
Many of the comments at the other thread concerned whether “objective morality” exists. I believe that it does, and those comments are very interesting. However, whether objective morality exists has no application in this thread. Again, the question I want to explore in this thread is “Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?”

376 Replies to “Eric Harris Was Just Paying Attention

  1. 1
    Phinehas says:

    Continued from the old thread…

    WJM: Rationally, it is only if you hold that your intuition is about an objective commodity that you can hold other people accountable to it. Unless, of course, you are saying that because you have a subjective intuition about a subjective state you are authorized to judge others and intervene in their behavior?

    RDF: There is no such thing as objective morality. There is only subjective morality. If I choose to believe in the morality of religious scripture X or Y or Z, then that is my subjective choice. If I choose instead to believe in the morality that I inuit, that is also my subjective choice. You and I both have subjective morality that we apply to all other people.

    RDF does indeed seem to be saying that he is authorized to judge others and intervene in their behavior based on a personal subjective intuition about a subjective state. (Please correct me if this is not the case.)

    Everything moral in me screams out that judging others and intervening in their behavior based solely on personal subjective intuition is wrong, wrong, wrong! Everything I believe about liberty, personal freedom, self-expression, and self-actualization tells me that it is morally repugnant to judge another or intervene in their behavior based solely on personal subjective intuition.

    Why do you think that personal subjective intuition gives you this authority? Do you have any warrant for holding this position? What is it about personal subjective intuition that could rationally authorize one to judge another to the point of intervening in their behavior? What argument would you put forward to support the notion that personal subjective intuitions out to have a privileged status above mere opinion or preference, or, in fact, that they ought not be seen as the same thing?

  2. 2
    Phinehas says:

    Should read:

    …subjective intuitions ought to have a privileged status…

  3. 3

    Under naturalism, whatever anyone feels is morally good, is morally good. QED.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    It IS right to do what is right. That is, it is correct to do what is good. And incorrect to do what is evil.

    Must be a “God Particle” thing.

  5. 5
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, [SNIP] everybody, believers/heathens alike, act according to their conscience. Geez, why do you people waste so much time on this nonsense ? Dont you have a life ?

  6. 6
    Phinehas says:

    Graham2:

    The question is not about how everybody acts. Rather, the question is: Given that everybody acts as though they have warrant for restricting or otherwise intervening in another’s behavior, can materialism support such a warrant?

  7. 7
    Tim says:

    Barry,

    I almost waxed poetic at the beginning of the last post, but thought it would be a stretch to use both bovine and ovine to complete the rhyme scheme. Now that you have mentioned Will Provine’s logical conclusions, dark clouds move on, the lawnmower is put away and the crickets warm up again.

    I understand it was not your sole purpose to remind the MN’s of their man Provine, but to extend some of his ethical conclusions to Eric Harris. What can the MN’s do but come together and say, “‘we’ disagree and would not behave that way.” Without vocabulary like “evil”, the MN is left writing convoluted volumes that don’t quite get to the nub of the issue.

    But vocabulary that a three-year-old could understand explains it easily: “Thou shalt not . . .” and the child says. . . “the evil man killed those people.”

    I am not saying that our sainted MN’s don’t understand or “have” words like “evil”, but that their denotations of such words lack meaning when being consistently MN. you don’t have to take my word for it, in fact you don’t even have to reference me ’cause I’m just repeating what Provine said.

    I would like to add one note concerning empathy. After MN, it is reasonable to say that empathy, like altruism, isn’t in a shared vocabulary either. For empathy, dictionary definitions describe the ability to understand others’ feelings without access to objective access to those feelings. But in our common vocabulary their is often a connotation of that understanding affecting us toward other-centered behaviors. Two dictionary examples from merriem-webster online “empathy with the poor” and “empathy toward convicts” lead us to believe that there may be some action we might take on their behalf. There was no mention of “Following his days in Monte Carlo, he felt empathy toward the super-rich”

    Why? Because we don’t as easily associate the super-rich with those whose needs might only be met through our intervention.

    All to say that if we are only a collection of our genes, and they are programmed in their self-interest, i.e. survival (it can be no other way), all selflessness is illusion, masking genetic “desires”.

    When the MN says, hey, hold the fort, we are nice too, all I can say is from whence do you get that altruism?

    Finally, I had to laugh at the person in the last strand who claimed that if he found himself in a world where killing puppies was not cruel, he would intuitively still think it cruel. On what basis? Genetic mutation?

  8. 8
    Querius says:

    LarTanner wrote:

    I was under the impression that you folks believe materialists have no way of determining the “good” — highest, lowest, or in between.

    Is it now your contention that materialists can assess certain values as good, and rank them?

    Exactly. Apparently materialists do. Notice what Tim wrote:

    Finally, I had to laugh at the person in the last strand who claimed that if he found himself in a world where killing puppies was not cruel, he would intuitively still think it cruel. On what basis? Genetic mutation?

    So, do you think killing puppies is cruel?

    -Q

  9. 9
    Daniel King says:

    “Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?”

    Because:

    1. She might lose a friend.
    2. She might lose a lover.
    3. She might be liable to criminal or civil prosecution.
    4. She might value the dignity of another person more than her own desires.
    5. She might be ostracized from her family or community.

    Etcetera, etcetera…

  10. 10
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    RDF does indeed seem to be saying that he is authorized to judge others and intervene in their behavior based on a personal subjective intuition about a subjective state. (Please correct me if this is not the case.)

    Close: I am right (morally compelled) to intervene in others’ behavior based on my subjective moral intuitions.

    Everything moral in me screams out that judging others and intervening in their behavior based solely on personal subjective intuition is wrong, wrong, wrong!

    There is nothing else for us to judge by, since even the choice to adopt some particular religious morality is a subjective decision. And I doubt you believe that if I saw someone torturing a puppy I would be wrong to intervene. That means I am right to intervene based upon my subjective moral intuitions.

    Everything I believe about liberty, personal freedom, self-expression, and self-actualization tells me that it is morally repugnant to judge another or intervene in their behavior based solely on personal subjective intuition.

    However, you do it all the time. If you can’t recite, off-hand, the chapter and verse of a clear Biblical prohibition against selling one’s loyal pet dog for unnecessary, useless, and tortuous medical research just for some quick cash, does that mean you think that is moral? On what basis do you make that decision?

    Why do you think that personal subjective intuition gives you this authority?

    It’s not just authority, it is an obligation. And it’s not just me, it’s everybody.

    Do you have any warrant for holding this position? What is it about personal subjective intuition that could rationally authorize one to judge another to the point of intervening in their behavior? What argument would you put forward to support the notion that personal subjective intuitions out to have a privileged status above mere opinion or preference, or, in fact, that they ought not be seen as the same thing?

    My warrant is my understanding of moral theory, which tells me that in order to act morally, one must act in accord with one’s abiding moral intuitions. These moral intuitions are not arbitrary, and they are not voluntary, and they are not preferences or opinions, and they are not superficial. I would hope that a moment’s introspection would reveal to you that while you may one day prefer apple pie and the next day prefer cherry, you will never change your mind about the morality of torturing puppies for fun.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  11. 11
    RDFish says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    If you’d like to respond to my last arguments to you in the previous thread, I’d like to hear it. If instead you’d like to (as Barry would say) dodge the issues, I would understand completely.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  12. 12
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, as I asked in the last thread, could you give us your version ? What do you think enables us to act morally ?

  13. 13
    jlowder says:

    I’ve re-read my post here. You claim that I interpret your last post as an attempt to “refute metaphysical naturalism.” I’m not sure why you think that. Perhaps my use of the phrase “objection to naturalism” is what gave you that impression? But that phrase is also consistent with the idea that naturalism has undesirable implications. (If naturalism has undesirable implications, that would be an important objection to naturalism, albeit not an objection to its truth.)

    In any case, I deny that I ever claimed your purpose was to refute metaphysical naturalism. And the point in my post stands: you made a very weak argument from silence by concluding that the best explanation for the silence of naturalists was their inability to provide an answer. Furthermore, if you read the comments on that post, I’ll think you’ll find several objections which are worth consideration.

  14. 14
    jlowder says:

    You write:

    Step 1: What metaphysical naturalism asserts

    Metaphysical naturalism asserts that nothing exists but matter, space and energy, and therefore every phenomenon is merely the product of particles in motion.

    There are many versions of metaphysical naturalism. The version you cite seems to be very popular with naturalists who happen to be scientists. There is another version which is much more popular among metaphysical naturalists who have a philosophical background. This other version, which is defended extensively here, does not claim that nature (or “matter, space, and energy”) is all there is. This version of naturalism is compatible with the existence of abstract objects. Nevertheless, both versions of naturalism have in common the idea that “nature is a closed system,” in the sense that nothing that is neither a part nor a product of the universe may affect the universe.

    Why does this matter? Because it undermines your other steps. This other version of naturalism, call it “modest metaphysical naturalism” if you like, does not claim, entail, or “imply” that “no ultimate foundation for ethics exists.” For a detailed essay defending a nontheistic foundation for ethics, see this outstanding essay by philosopher Erik Wielenberg.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    There is nothing else (subjective intuition) for us to judge by, since even the choice to adopt some particular religious morality is a subjective decision. And I doubt you believe that if I saw someone torturing a puppy I would be wrong to intervene. That means I am right to intervene based upon my subjective moral intuitions.

    I also means that the torturer is right to kill you for intervening if his subjective intuition prompts him to do so.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Jlowder @ 14. Yes, the paper you cite purports to be able to derive an “ought” from an “is.” It fails to do so, because the very notion is absurd as we have known since at least Hume. The author’s argument rests on his claim that naturalist ethics are objective because certain ethical norms are “brute facts.” That’s it folks. It is embarrassing. I am by extension embarrassed for jlowder when he calls it an “outstanding essay.’

  17. 17
    LarTanner says:

    Querius @8, Although your comment is ridiculous, I am not ignoring it so much as seeking to abstain from OPs that are authored by the ID movement’s own Eric Harris, who massacres reason and himself for sport.

    UD Editors: Nice Lar. Calling names beats actually having to come up with an argument. I abandoned that tactic along about the second grade.

  18. 18
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I also means that the torturer is right to kill you for intervening if his subjective intuition prompts him to do so.

    No, neither you nor I think he would be right to kill me. Only the torturer would think that is true, and you and I (and almost everyone else) would think he is a psychopath.

    Do you understand now?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  19. 19
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,

    You’ve ignored more complete replies to your OP, so I’ll try to make it as direct and simple as possible.

    Again, the question I want to explore in this thread is “Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?”

    The answer is: Metaphysical naturalists, just like everyone else, ought to do what their moral intuition tells them is right.

    If someone thinks that torturing puppies is aligned with their moral intuition, then there is something terribly wrong with their moral intuition, and we will all judge that person to be immoral on account of their faulty moral intuition. We will know it is faulty because it contradicts our own moral intuition, which we hold to be correct.

    Is there something unclear about that?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    No, neither you nor I think he would be right (for the torturer) to kill me.

    So what?

    Only the torturer would think that is true, and you and I (and almost everyone else) would think he is a psychopath.

    So what? It is right for him. I know because you said so. A person is “right” to follow is subjective moral intuitions. Whether or not he is in the minority is irrelevant to your standard.

    Do you understand now?

    I understand all to well. Do you?

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    …too well.

  22. 22
    Acartia_bogart says:

    DK: ““Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?”

    Because:

    1. She might lose a friend.
    2. She might lose a lover.
    3. She might be liable to criminal or civil prosecution.
    4. She might value the dignity of another person more than her own desires.
    5. She might be ostracized from her family or community.”

    You could use the exact same argument for a theist. All you are talking about is peer pressure. Are you suggesting that atheists/naturalists are more susceptible to peer pressure than theists? I don’t think that the evidence woe support you.

  23. 23
    Jul3s says:

    “Metaphysical naturalists, just like everyone else, ought to do what their moral intuition tells them is right.

    If someone thinks that torturing puppies is aligned with their moral intuition, then there is something terribly wrong with their moral intuition,”

    So they should follow their moral intuition because their moral intuition is right, except for when it isn’t. I see.

    How do you know that something is wrong with their intuition? A person who believes that torturing puppies is right would believe that there is something wrong with you for not believing that. You are in effect saying that everyone is morally obligated to agree with you.

    “and we will all judge that person to be immoral on account of their faulty moral intuition.”

    Who is this ‘we’? How can you judge their moral intuition to be faulty? A different culture in a different time and in a different place would have completely different moral intuition. From somebody else’s differing point of view, your moral intuition is faulty. Therefore this ‘we’ cannot refer to Humanity as a whole. If instead the ‘we’ refers to your society, then you are obligated to follow the crowd.

  24. 24
    Daniel King says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    You could use the exact same argument for a theist.

    Yes, but haven’t you noticed that the theists here think they have far better reasons ordained by their deity?

    All you are talking about is peer pressure.

    Take another look at item 4. She might value the dignity of another person more than her own desires.

    Are you suggesting that atheists/naturalists are more susceptible to peer pressure than theists?

    No.

    I don’t think that the evidence woe support you.

    Since I wasn’t suggesting that, your point is irrelevant. But please don’t hesitate to provide your own answers to Barry’s question.

  25. 25
    Dionisio says:

    Barry,

    Can we humans do this naturally?

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…”

    Matthew 5:43-44

  26. 26
    Dionisio says:

    #25

    Barry,

    It’s not in my nature to do that, but now I want to.
    Why?

  27. 27
    Dionisio says:

    RE: #26

    Is that desire natural?

  28. 28
    Dionisio says:

    12 Graham2

    Barry, as I asked in the last thread, could you give us your version ? What do you think enables us to act morally ?

    What do YOU mean by ‘morally’?

  29. 29
    Dionisio says:

    18 RDFish

    No, neither you nor I think he would be right to kill me.

    Why not? Can you explain why it would not be right?

    Thank you.

  30. 30
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    SB: I[t] also means that the torturer is right to kill you for intervening if his subjective intuition prompts him to do so.
    RDF: No, neither you nor I think he would be right (for the torturer) to kill me.
    SB: So what?

    So, you were mistaken.

    RDF: Only the torturer would think that is true, and you and I (and almost everyone else) would think he is a psychopath.
    SB: So what? It is right for him.

    No, you’ve just made the same mistake yet again. He is wrong. He is wrong to torture puppies, and if his moral intuition actually is that this action is right then his moral intuition is wrong (i.e. he is a psychopath). (If his moral intuition actually dictates that he not torture puppies, and he feels remorse after the fact, then he is not a psychopath, but rather someone who acted immorally).

    Whether or not he is in the minority is irrelevant to your standard.

    Yes, that is correct, as I’ve pointed out to others. What is relevant is whether or not actions align with your moral intuitions.

    I understand all to well.

    So far, you don’t seem to understand the moral subjectivist position at all. Let me ask you this: How does one find an objective standard for morality?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  31. 31
    RDFish says:

    Hi Jul3s,

    So they should follow their moral intuition because their moral intuition is right, except for when it isn’t. I see.

    No, you don’t have a clue, so you pretend I said something I didn’t. Sigh.

    How do you know that something is wrong with their intuition?

    Because it contradicts mine. How many times must I explain this? It really isn’t that hard.

    How do you know that somebody who tortures puppies is wrong?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  32. 32
    Jul3s says:

    “No, you don’t have a clue, so you pretend I said something I didn’t. Sigh.”

    I simply reworded what you said. What I said is perfectly accurate.

    “Because it contradicts mine. How many times must I explain this? It really isn’t that hard.”

    So people with different moral intuition to yours have something wrong with them. But from their point of view, it is YOU who has something wrong with your moral intuition. This has been repeatedly brought up before but you seem incapable or unwilling to recognize this.

  33. 33
    RDFish says:

    Hi Jul3s,

    So people with different moral intuition to yours have something wrong with them.

    Of course! If someone had a different moral intuition than yours, wouldn’t you conclude that there was something wrong with them?

    Imagine someone reflected for awhile and came to the conclusion that it would be right to sell his daughter into prostitution so he could buy a new sports car. Since that offends my moral intuition greatly, I would conclude that there is something wrong with this person. Wouldn’t you?

    But from their point of view, it is YOU who has something wrong with your moral intuition. This has been repeatedly brought up before but you seem incapable or unwilling to recognize this.

    I have been recognizing and answering this all along. Of course that person would consider me to be wrong! And if you judged against him (as I hope you would) then he would think you are wrong too!

    How many times must I explain this?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    He is wrong to torture puppies,

    So now you are arguing on behalf of objective morality? How soon you forget your own doctrine of subjective morality.

    and if his moral intuition actually is that this action is right then his moral intuition is wrong (i.e. he is a psychopath).

    But you said that our moral intuition always defines what is right. Now you are saying that this person’s moral intuitions could be wrong. Which is it?

    So far, you don’t seem to understand the moral subjectivist position at all.

    Moral subjectivism is just the way you described it. Everyone defines morality for himself. It isn’t complicated.

    Let me ask you this: How does one find an objective standard for morality?

    Embrace the following: The Golden Rule–The Silver Rule– The Law of Love (love neighbor as self)–The Sermon on the Mount–The Ten Commandments–The natural moral law in concert with the dictates of reason–Trust feelings only if they are your human conscience informed by all of the abovePractice the following: prudence, temperance, justice, courage, humility. Avoid the following: pride, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, sloth, envy.

  35. 35
    Jul3s says:

    “I have been recognizing and answering this all along. Of course that person would consider me to be wrong! And if you judged against him (as I hope you would) then he would think you are wrong too!”

    This is a road to nowhere.

  36. 36
    Andre says:

    Eric Harris got it, I spent a lot of time reading his journals and dairies and can I say he is the only atheist I know who lived and did what materialism entails in a honest manner. I wonder where this “moral intuition” comes from that our materialist friends speak of because honestly morality does not evolve from non-morality to think it does is absurd.

    If you think its wrong to torture puppies in a materialist world there IS something wrong with you! In a materialist world there is nothing wrong or right, good or evil in torturing those puppies because it really is just how it is and you have to accept it whether you like it or not. You see there is no free will in a materialistic backdrop so my genes made me do it and therefor I’m not even to blame if I do it. So what you really have a beef with is your own subjective moral intuition not mine…..

  37. 37
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: He is wrong to torture puppies,
    SB: So now you are arguing on behalf of objective morality? How soon you forget your own doctrine of subjective morality.

    We’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t pay attention to what I am saying. Once again: When a moral subjectivist declares something is wrong, they do not mean that God said it was wrong, or that it is otherwise objectively established as wrong. Rather, they mean that it contradicts their moral intuition. Please don’t make me explain this again.

    But you said that our moral intuition always defines what is right. Now you are saying that this person’s moral intuitions could be wrong. Which is it?

    You are being obtuse. There are no contradictions in what I’m saying. You are just pretending that I appeal to objective moral standards, but I never do. I believe that my moral intuition is right, just as you believe that your moral intuition is right. There is no final arbiter of which of us is correct. You may believe that some particular god is the final arbiter, but that belief is itself subjective.

    RDF: So far, you don’t seem to understand the moral subjectivist position at all.
    SB: Moral subjectivism is just the way you described it. Everyone defines morality for himself. It isn’t complicated.

    It apparently is too complicated for you! Nobody ought to define their own morality; rather, moral intuitionism holds that one must perceive one’s moral intuitions and act in accordance with them.

    RDF: Let me ask you this: How does one find an objective standard for morality?

    SB: Embrace the following: The Golden Rule–The Silver Rule– The Law of Love (love neighbor as self)–The Sermon on the Mount–The Ten Commandments–The natural moral law in concert with the dictates of reason–Trust feelings only if they are your human conscience informed by all of the above–Practice the following: prudence, temperance, justice, courage, humility. Avoid the following: pride, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, sloth, envy.

    Whoever wrote those things captured human moral intuition pretty well (though I would certainly have added rape, torture and kidnapping in there someplace).

    Imagine a man who reflects for awhile and decides to sell his daughter into slavery just for a laugh. What do your divine commandments tell you about that action? My moral intuition says it’s a horribly immoral act.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  38. 38
    RDFish says:

    Hi Jul3s,

    RDF: Of course! If someone had a different moral intuition than yours, wouldn’t you conclude that there was something wrong with them?

    Imagine someone reflected for awhile and came to the conclusion that it would be right to sell his daughter into prostitution so he could buy a new sports car. Since that offends my moral intuition greatly, I would conclude that there is something wrong with this person. Wouldn’t you?

    Jul3s: This is a road to nowhere.

    Why are you afraid to answer these questions? Because you would have to concede that your morality is subjective too.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  39. 39
    humbled says:

    Andre at Jul 18 – 12:41 am – nailed it 😉

  40. 40
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry – thanks for your new OP. I am delighted to see you taking a logical approach and trying to really pin down the meaning of rather vague words such as “should”. Substituting more precise phrases is a good way to approach this.  You will not be surprised that I come to a very different conclusion.
    Your original question was:

    Why should a materialist not act on that premise and always suppress his empathy to achieve whatever end he finds desirable?

    you rephrased that as

    Why should our Übermensch refrain from hurting other people to achieve his selfish desires.

    The two are not equivalent and there are no Übermensch in the real world so I will stick to the first one which was the one I was responding to.
    In my initial response I identified two senses of “should”. One was “right” and the other was “what will I get out of it”. I had to do that because I didn’t know which you intended. As you wrote it I thought you would know which one you meant. But instead you have pursued both and split “right” into two possible more detailed meanings.  I am going to pursue “what will I get out of it” as I am guessing that is what you really getting at. I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong.

    Now let us turn to the second part of Mark’s argument. “What’s in it for me?” I want to thank Mark for unintentionally making my point for me. He says our Übermensch might refrain from hurting another person in order to achieve his selfish ends because he has engaged in a cost/benefit analysis. Mark points to certain “benefits” of refraining from hurting another person to achieve selfish ends. Presumably, the point of Mark’s argument is that “what’s in it for me” (i.e., the benefits received from not hurting the other person) outweighs the cost (failing to achieve a selfish end).

    But of course Mark’s argument fails, because the benefits he suggests may not outweigh the cost. It depends on what selfish end the Übermensch wishes to achieve and how badly he wants it. Indeed, some of the so-called benefits are not really benefits at all to our Übermensch. Consider the first one: the intense satisfaction of having done the right thing. Here again Mark is employing a concept he has no right to employ. Our Übermensch understands that “the right thing” is a meaningless concept. Why should our Übermensch feel satisfaction at having conformed his behavior to a non-existent standard? That is the whole point of the exercise after all. Once we understand that there really is no such thing as “the right thing” why should we not do exactly as we please even if it hurts another person? Mark has no answer, because there is no answer.

    Here are my responses:

    * Materialist is not the same as Übermensch. But presumably we can get round that by substituting materialist for Übermensch throughout.

    * Of course,materialists are driven by conflicting motives and desires – some of which can be described as moral, some as selfish – the desire to help others may conflict with the desire to relax or party or whatever. Describing this as a cost/benefit analysis is extremely misleading. It implies that the conflicting desires can be measured on the same scale and a calculation done.  In fact it is just a question of which one tugs hardest in that context.

    * Why is it be a problem that materialists are subject to conflicting desires? Theists are in exactly the same situation – except they have a couple of extra drivers – fear of punishment in the after-life and a desire to do God’s will.  But theists also sometime pursuing selfish ends rather than moral ones – the selfish drivers win out over the moral ones.

    * Materialist do not understand that “the right thing” is a meaningless concept.   Just because an opinion is subjective that doesn’t imply it is meaningless.  Beautiful, interesting, funny, awesome are all subjective opinions, they are all based on the speaker’s assessment of the appropriate human response, but they are not meaningless.

    * It is perfectly reasonable to want to do something on the basis of a subjective assessment.  We might want to preserve an object on the grounds that it is beautiful or funny even though this involves a sacrifice of selfish pleasures.

  41. 41
    Andre says:

    Mark Frank

    Please can you tell me how you know its wrong to torture puppies, please………

  42. 42
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, Mark,
    Could someone from the theist camp please tell us how they know something to be wrong ?

    All Im hearing is crickets.

  43. 43
    Andre says:

    Graham This is how you know……

    there would be no evil without good, but we know there is evil therefore there must be good.

  44. 44
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 12

    Barry, as I asked in the last thread, could you give us your version ? What do you think enables us to act morally ?

    What do YOU mean by ‘morally’?

  45. 45
    Mark Frank says:

    #41 Andre

    Please can you tell me how you know its wrong to torture puppies, please………

    The way you phrase the question implies that it is an objective fact about the act of torturing puppies i.e. you are assuming your view of morality in the question. I am more likely say “I believe it is wrong to torture puppies” or simply “it is wrong to torture puppies” because I can guess the pain that the puppies will endure and I want to stop people doing it out of compassion. If I used the phrase “I know it is wrong” I would not be using in the same way as “I know puppies grow into dogs”. It would just be a way of stressing my opinion.

    You presumably think it is an objective fact. So how do you know this to be true?

  46. 46
    Dionisio says:

    RDFish @ 18

    No, neither you nor I think he would be right to kill me.

    Why not? Why it would not be right?

  47. 47
    Andre says:

    Mark

    I know that torturing puppies is against their purpose. thus it is an objective fact that it is wrong to torture puppies, I don’t even have to make a moral argument to point that out to you…..

  48. 48
    Mark Frank says:

    #47 Andre

    How do you know:

    * What the purpose of a puppy is
    * That is wrong to do things that are against the purpose of things

  49. 49
    Andre says:

    Mark Frank……

    Are you serious? Don’t know what puppies are for and why thy7 should not be tortured? Are you just yanking some chains now?

    Ever lived on a farm?

  50. 50
    Mark Frank says:

    #49 Andre

    Are you going to answer the questions?

  51. 51
    Dionisio says:

    Mark Frank @ 45

    I am more likely say “I believe it is wrong to torture puppies” or simply “it is wrong to torture puppies” because I can guess the pain that the puppies will endure and I want to stop people doing it out of compassion.

    1. Do you mean that “it is wrong” is your personal, subjective opinion, which does not have to be everybody else’s opinion?
    2. Does that mean that someone else could qualify as “right” what you consider to be “wrong”?
    3. Do you mean that what is “right” to you could be “wrong” to someone else, and nobody can claim having the last definitive word on this?
    4. Do you mean that you believe there’s no such thing as an absolute standard that can be used to tell right from wrong?
    5. Do you mean that you believe that what some people consider to be ‘right’ could be considered to be ‘wrong’ by other people?
    6. Do you mean that some people could believe that what they do to others is ‘right’ while others may see it as ‘wrong’?
    7. Do you realize that in the absence of absolute standards, everything could be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at the same time, depending on different subjective opinions or beliefs?

    Do you understand that in the absence of absolute objective laws there’s no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in absolute terms?
    Some people may deem ‘right’ to consider other people inferior and treat them in a manner that other people may consider ‘wrong’?
    In the absence of objective absolute standards, there’s no such thing as absolute ‘right’ or absolute ‘wrong’, hence the meaning of those words is subjectively relative, but they don’t apply to everyone the same way. In such case, those words mean absolutely nothing.
    In order for the terms ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to have absolute meaning, which applies equally to all people, there must be an absolute standard.
    In the absence of absolute standards, a cannibal may consider right to eat another person, while probably someone else might consider it wrong. But it won’t be absolutely right or wrong. It would be relatively right and wrong at the same time. In such case, does it matter? Why?

  52. 52
    Andre says:

    Mark

    I find the questions idiotic to put it in a nice way but sure here goes;

    1.) Puppies become dogs, dogs are excellent companions and security guards Remove the puppy you remove the purpose.

    But you are of course trying to trick me into making some moral argument, and here goes my argument is not a moral one that it is wrong to torture puppies, that is your argument and you have to in the absence of an unchanging standard have to explain why YOU think it is wrong….. not me…..

    So either be honest like Eric Harris or keep dodging the issue, after all its not like you can choose to be good or bad now can you Mark? I mean you can’t know what evil is unless you have a sense of what good is….. How do you have a sense of what good is Mark?

  53. 53
    Mark Frank says:

    Andre
     

    1.) Puppies become dogs, dogs are excellent companions and security guards Remove the puppy you remove the purpose.

    Of course some people eat dogs. For others they are a pest spreading disease and mess and have little purpose. It all rather depends where you live.
    What happened to your answer to (2) which is even more important. How do you know it is wrong to do something that is against the purpose of puppies?

    But you are of course trying to trick me into making some moral argument, and here goes my argument is not a moral one that it is wrong to torture puppies, that is your argument and you have to in the absence of an unchanging standard have to explain why YOU think it is wrong….. not me…..

    Why shouldn’t you give a moral argument to support a moral position? What other kind of argument are going to use!  You presumably think it is wrong to torture puppies. I have explained that for me to say it is wrong is to express about my feelings about puppies being in pain.  No standard is required anymore than you need a standard to state a book is interesting or a film funny.  You on the other hand presumably think it is wrong to torture puppies because the act fails to meet some standard. My second question simply asks how do you know that standard is a good one. What standard do you judge the standard against?

    So either be honest like Eric Harris or keep dodging the issue, after all its not like you can choose to be good or bad now can you Mark? I mean you can’t know what evil is unless you have a sense of what good is….. How do you have a sense of what good is Mark?

    What issue am I dodging?  I don’t understand.

  54. 54
    Andre says:

    Because torturing puppies is not a moral question unless the puppies themselves know the difference between right and wrong!

  55. 55
    Axel says:

    None of you have absolutely any chance of eliciting a scintilla of reason from RDF. That is immediately apparent from his response in #37 to StephenB’s #34.

    He is in a different argument all together from the theme of this thread, with protagonists whose identity I doubt if even he knows.

  56. 56
    Axel says:

    Oh. My apologies, Stephen. I see you’ve realised that.

  57. 57

    Graham2 asks:

    Could someone from the theist camp please tell us how they know something to be wrong ?

    Both the atheist/naturalist and the theist know something is wrong primarily through their conscience. People of both stripes generally also include empathy and reason in the process in various ways and to various degrees.

  58. 58
    Axel says:

    Where do they get the notion that matter creates intuition, never mind morality! That it should even be capable of creating the humble Mind is laughable enough.

    I suspect RDF believes matter creates a sort of rough, default morality, to be customized by the individual via a personally-customized, default intuition, also created by matter.

    Who needs a steenkin’ external moral code, when matter has such unlimited knowledge, power and… errr morality?

  59. 59
    LarTanner says:

    Andre @54,

    Violating my own rule on not posting to Barry-threads, I must ask if — based on your comment — you feel it would “not [be] a moral question” to torture any living being that doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong.

    In other words, would you defend as not moral questions the torture of newborn infants or humans in a persistent vegetative state? grisly stuff to imagine, I realize, but this seems to be the logic of your assertion.

  60. 60
    DavidD says:

    I love to follow ecological and conservation issues and subject matter because I have an interest in that direction. The direction this back and forth burden shifting spin is going reminded me of something that came out last month in June. The subject of course was conservation biology and that field of course is loaded with many evolutionary biologist. No problem there, I like conservation etc. But the article brought out many of the points here, for which the author never explains how he arrives at his judgmental viewpoint about what he considers morality.

    Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Marc sums up by saying, “Compassion for animals isn’t incompatible with preserving biodiversity and doing the best science possible. In fact, it is a must. Mistreatment of animals often produces poor conservation outcomes and bad science. It is also immoral. Only through compassion can we advance global conservation.”

    Now I have no problem with treating animals properly, even the Biblical Law given through Moses had rules animal treatment and mistreatment. Still, one wonders where most evolutionist do actually get their version or definition of morality, especially since most of their hangups and reasons for siding on the side of the theory of evolution are mostly gut felt personal version of what they think morality should be, which they later generally attempt to hide behind the cloak of Science. When pressed, all they can come up with is deflection, burden shifting, insults and sarcasm. When tables are turned, they then show phony hypocritical double standard outrage and accuse you of not answering or insulting them.

    The religiosity of Atheism & Evolutionism is entertaining at best, time wasting in dealing with at worst.

  61. 61

    I’m always amused (and amazed) by the cartoonish portrayal of human experience that invariably accompanies eristic “challenges” such as this. In that cartoon, stick figures with no relationships and no histories either act upon self-interested calculations or conform themselves to objective, moral guidelines, fearful of the riding crop of eternal consequences. Those who reject God and his objective values do so because they wish to take what they want from others. To fully embrace the logic of naturalism is to become indistinguishable from that of a psychopath. (Or, it should; never mind that none of this actually occurs.)

    Fortunately, the reality of human experience is different. Human beings are born into and participate in social worlds that are both cognitively and emotionally deeply interpenetrating, entering into what Andrew Whiten called “deep social mind.” Infants as young as 42 minutes imitate the facial gestures of adults – remarkable because they’ve never before seen a face and have yet to see their own. Mirror neurons encode the actions of others and the infant’s own actions identically, laying a neurobiological foundation for understanding and empathizing with others. Infants and mothers jointly attune themselves to the topography of their pre-verbal interactions, tracking “vitality affects” (per Daniel Stern) and sharing a form of joyful, mutually sustained and modulated affective attunement that in adulthood may be seen in joint activities as diverse as joint musical improvisation and good sex. In the latter months of the first year infants follow the gaze of adults to external objects, an innate skill that is quickly folded into thousands of episodes of shared joint attention that are crucial to human enculturation and language learning. Toddlers as young as 18 months understand and sympathize with the preferences of others, even when they differ from their own. Children at play enact countless simulated dramas in which fair play is argued and negotiated (can you count the number of times you heard “That’s not fair!” as a kid?). Out of all this emerges theory of mind, sensitivity to the beliefs, desires, affects and sufferings of others, skillfulness in “social chess” (the ability to negotiate and navigate social alliances and contracts), and the capacity for experiencing guilt (and being shamed) within one’s own community. These skills and capacities sculpt the human brain from birth and are among the foundations for filial love, pair bonding and community identification, altruism, and moral reasoning.

    We all, theist and philosophical naturalist alike, emerge from and live within like social networks, and we all derive our capacity for pro-social behaviors and moral reasoning from those experiences, not from a coat of philosophical or religious paint applied after the fact. And, like it or not, this human sociality has a long history, specifically an evolutionary history of at least several million years duration, atop of which have accrued briefer and more varied histories of cultural invention.

    Psychopaths display grave deficiencies in the deployment of this deep sociality. A large number of studies indicate that psychopaths exhibit subtle cognitive and affective abnormalities seen in language processing, cortical maturational lags, hemispheric imbalances, frontal lobe dysfunction, abnormalities of the deployment of attention, and states of chronic under-arousal. They have an attenuated experience of anxiety and fear and are abnormally physiologically unresponsive to punishment and painful stimuli, differences observable in galvanic skin response and accelerations in heart rate in experimental settings. Lack of social controls, emotional lability, restlessness and inattentiveness, impulsiveness and irritability may be identified in a subpopulation of children as early as age three years. Robert Hare observed that children who eventually become psychopaths as adults come to the attention of teachers and counselors at a very early age and continue their antisocial careers through latency and adolescence in the face of every attempt to socialize them. Something is awry in those children and adults they become. Absence of empathy for and attunement with the experiences of others is a defining characteristic, as codified in the Psychopathy Checklist (WJMs dictionary-driven misapprehension not withstanding).

    “Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?” Because it hurts other persons, Barry, and those of us who grew up in an adequate social milieu devoid of the profound deficits of the psychopath find that a good enough reason.

  62. 62
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bill at 61. Thank you very much for your comment. In the last sentence you say: ‘”Why shouldn’t a metaphysical naturalist do exactly what he pleases even if it hurts another person?’ Because it hurts other persons, Barry, and those of us who grew up in an adequate social milieu devoid of the profound deficits of the psychopath find that a good enough reason.”

    OK. So the MN should not hurt people because hurting people hurts people. Thanks Bill.

  63. 63
    humbled says:

    Reciprocating Bill, you proselytize “And, like it or not, this human sociality has a long history, specifically an evolutionary history of at least several million years duration, atop of which have accrued briefer and more varied histories of cultural invention.”

    We have no clue, scientifically speaking, as to the age of the Earth (circular reasoning doesn’t count), nor do we know how long humans have been about (joining imaginary dots and force fitting random evidences might work for you folk but not for those who want real answers).

    Your diatribe is based on your personal belief system, and you are entitled to this belief of course, but pretending, or attempting to mislead others, into believing any of what you have said is based on actual facts and evidence, experimentally or otherwise, is dishonest and just plain sad. It shows us to what lengths you lot will go to proselytize and Lie-for-Darwin.

    A+ for the effort though 😉

  64. 64
    rich says:

    You should perhaps focus more on the first sentence rather than the last, Barry. Has UD completely given up on science? A rebrand around its core, apologetics, might reinvigorate this website.

  65. 65
    Mark Frank says:

    #62 Barry – stop playing debating tricks. You must know what Bill meant.

  66. 66
    Mark Frank says:

    #63 humbled

    We have no clue, scientifically speaking, as to the age of the Earth (circular reasoning doesn’t count), nor do we know how long humans have been about

    Many of the saner members of the ID community disagree. I wonder if any of them will be prepared to say so now.

  67. 67
    jlowder says:

    Barry,

    Jlowder @ 14. Yes, the paper you cite purports to be able to derive an “ought” from an “is.” It fails to do so, because the very notion is absurd as we have known since at least Hume.

    I agree with everything you write, above, except for this: “the paper you cite purports to be able to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is.'” In fact, Wielenberg’s position is the opposite.

    Let’s distinguish between ethical and non-ethical propositions. When philosophers talk about “you can’t derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is,'” what they mean is that you cannot derive an ethical conclusion from only non-ethical premises. This is indeed Wielenberg’s view. On page 32 he writes:

    “The upshot is that while Adams’s theory does explain some substantive, metaphysically necessary ethical facts, it does so by appealing to other substantive, metaphysically necessary brute ethical facts. I think this is a perfectly reasonable approach; indeed, although I will not argue for it here, I think it is the only sensible approach to ethics. My own view is that any ethical fact that can be explained at all is explained at least in part by other ethical facts. I take it that this is the sort of thing philosophers have
    in mind when they talk about a “fact?/?value gap” or the impossibility of deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is.’

    Barry also writes:

    The author’s argument rests on his claim that naturalist ethics are objective because certain ethical norms are “brute facts.”

    Wielenberg does not claim that naturalist ethics are objective because certain ethical norms are brute facts. You are attacking a straw man of your own creation. Wielenberg’s actual argument, however, is much more sophisticated than that. One of his central points is that theism offers no advantage over metaphysical naturalism when it comes to explaining why there are ethical facts. He writes:

    The important thing to see here, however, is that Adams’s theistic approach and my non-theistic approach have the same basic structure: Some ethical claims are taken as substantive, metaphysically necessary, and brute; all other ethical claims are explained, at least in part, by these basic ethical facts. Both approaches imply that there are basic ethical facts. So it is hard to see why my approach should be considered more mysterious or queer than that of Adams.

    The conclusion of all of this is as follows. Let us suppose that the two options on the table are the following: (i) objective ethics has as its ultimate foundation some set of objective ethical facts, and (ii) objective ethics has as its ultimate foundation a necessarily existing perfect person. Both approaches ultimately ground objective morality on substantive, necessary brute facts. Indeed, Adams’s version of option (ii) grounds objective morality on substantive, necessary brute ethical facts. There may be a good reason to prefer one of these views over the other, but, as far as I can see, such a reason is not to be found in the issues of supervenience, explanation, and conceivability that have been considered in the present section.

  68. 68
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    You are being obtuse

    No. You are being evasive. If, as you say, each person’s subjective intuition is the standard for morality, then why is it that the person whose subjective intuition prompts him to torture puppies suddenly becomes immoral? You have not addressed this basic flaw in your philosophy.

    There are no contradictions in what I’m saying.

    The contradiction is profound.

    According to you, the person who tortures puppies and murders you for intervening is moral if he is following his subjective intuitions.

    At the same time, you also say that this same person is immoral on the grounds that his morality conflicts with your subjective intuitions.

    You may believe that some particular god is the final arbiter, but that belief is itself subjective.

    The belief is subjective of course, but the morality to which that belief attaches is objective. That is why we have those two words to mark the distinction: Subjective refers to the subject; objective refers to some reality outside the subject.

    It apparently is too complicated for you! Nobody ought to define their own morality; rather, moral intuitionism holds that one must perceive one’s moral intuitions and act in accordance with them.

    Apparently, it is too complicated for you. You are defining morality as your subjective intuition. Good grief, put on your thinking hat.

  69. 69
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    If, as you say, each person’s subjective intuition is the standard for morality, then why is it that the person whose subjective intuition prompts him to torture puppies suddenly becomes immoral?

    For the Nth time, I see it as immoral because it contradicts my moral intuitions. I should think this is obvious to you, since (hopefully) the same is true for you: It contradicts your moral intuitions, and so you also think it is immoral.

    According to you, the person who tortures puppies and murders you for intervening is moral if he is following his subjective intuitions.

    I’ve already explained many times now why this is mistaken. Again, if I find his moral intuitions faulty, I will see him as a psychopath, and see his actions as immoral.

    At the same time, you also say that this same person is immoral on the grounds that his morality conflicts with your subjective intuitions.

    I just said that! There is no contradiction whatsoever.

    The belief is subjective of course, but the morality to which that belief attaches is objective. That is why we have those two words to mark the distinction: Subjective refers to the subject; objective refers to some reality outside the subject.

    Yes, and thus your internal decision to adopt one particular religious dogma/moral system over others is subjective.

    But of course even once you subjectively decide that religion X or Y or Z has the morality that is correct, the world is so much more complex than scripture that you must constantly make subjective decisions regarding which actions are moral and which are not in real world situations.

    That is why you choose to dodge my question to you, which I shall repeat until you respond: If someone sells his daughter into slavery, is that a moral act? I know it is immoral because it conflicts with my moral intuition. How do you know?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  70. 70
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Nobody ought to define their own morality; rather, moral intuitionism holds that one must perceive one’s moral intuitions and act in accordance with them.

    So, oughts and musts are backed up by more oughts and musts? I don’t doubt that it’s oughts and musts all the way down to…what? Emergence? Poof.

    It’s not just authority, it is an obligation. And it’s not just me, it’s everybody

    You say this with such confidence given that these assertions rest on absolutely nothing at all, besides oughts and musts and poof of course. It hasn’t a shot at standing up to Arthur Leff’s Grand Sez Who? I’m not seeing anything that would save it from being just your personal opinion, no matter how strongly you assert otherwise.

    I would hope that a moment’s introspection would reveal to you that while you may one day prefer apple pie and the next day prefer cherry, you will never change your mind about the morality of torturing puppies for fun.

    A moment’s introspection clearly reveals to me that I will never change my mind about liver. I detest liver and cannot ever imagine feeling otherwise about it. Personal subjective intuition at its finest.

    ***

    Here’s the thing: I could probably get behind the following:

    I modify my own behavior based on personally-held subjective intuitions that I fully recognize others may not share.

    This is what I often find moral subjectivists saying as though it got to the heart of the morality issue. But this isn’t really how morality tends to shake out. Where the rubber meets the road, morality is about what I require of others and not just a standard I set for myself. So, it looks more like this.

    I require other autonomous beings to modify their behavior based on personally-held subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and others) might not share to the point that they should be compelled to comply to my demands on their behavior.

    But it get’s worse for the subjectivist.

    I require other autonomous beings to modify their behavior based on personally-held and admittedly fallible subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and others) might not share to the point that they should be compelled to comply to my demands on their behavior.

    And it get’s even worse (and for me, flabbergasting untenable) for the materialist.

    I require other autonomous beings to modify their behavior based on personally-held, admittedly fallible, and, ultimately, randomly constructed (from indifferent matter) subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and others) might not share to the point that they should be compelled to comply to my demands on their behavior.

    Really? Whence the confidence that it’s an obligation that everyone shares? Whence the certainty?

    I think that you really have no idea where the confidence and certainty come from, but like Arthur Leff and many others, you just know it is there. Further, it is difficult for me to imagine how one doesn’t see the glaring disconnect between such confidence and the implications of one’s materialistic beliefs unless, on some level, one has an intellectual blind spot or one willfully averts one’s intellectual gaze.

  71. 71
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    For the Nth time, I see it as immoral because it contradicts my moral intuitions. I should think this is obvious to you, since (hopefully) the same is true for you: It contradicts your moral intuitions, and so you also think it is immoral.

    Yes, but SB also thinks it is objectively immoral, meaning it doesn’t matter what the subject believes regarding its morality.

    You, on the other hand, seem to be saying that it is subjectively immoral, while at the same time trying to insist that it doesn’t matter what the subject believes, but only what you believe. It is as though you are claiming that morality is subjective to you while simultaneously being objective to everyone who is not you, and as SB points out, you really can’t have it both ways.

    If you believe that your morality holds for others, then it cannot be completely subjective. Your belief might be subjective, but your morality isn’t. Your morality is universal.

  72. 72
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a bit late to this discussion, but I’d just like to make a few brief comments.

    1. The question of whether morality is subjective or objective is quite distinct from the secondary question of how I know that a particular theory of objective morality is actually correct. The first question is an ontological one: in the end, it boils down to the question of whether we live in a world in which “oughts” are a basic feature of reality. The second question is an epistemological one: how do we know which “oughts” define reality, and carve Nature at the joints properly? The fact that Natural Law theorists have a hard time answering the second question has no bearing on the answer to the first question. Morality could still be objective, even if it is difficult or impossible for us to discover, using unaided reason.

    2. The only way to effectively counter Hume’s dictum that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is” is to make “oughts” a built-in, primitive feature of reality. In other words, there have to be at least some things out there in the world whose fundamental properties are not only descriptive, but prescriptive as well. For if we live in a world composed exclusively of “is”-properties, with no “oughts” as built-in features of Nature, then since we are part of that world, it follows that there are no “oughts” which can define the way in which we should behave towards others, or even the way in which we should think. (And please don’t say: “Science works.” What you’re implicitly assuming is that I ought to follow a method of knowing in the future which has worked well in the past. That’s begging the question.) Re morality: I may have certain strongly held intuitions, which are in a completely different category from my tastes and preferences, but if “oughts” are not part of the “warp and woof” of reality, then there’s absolutely no reason why I ought to follow my moral intuitions. In fact, one could even argue that I ought to reject my intuitions regarding heavily controverted moral issues: given the sheer diversity of opinions available on such issues, it’s a reasonable bet that my particular opinion will turn out to be poorly grounded, when compared to some other person’s opinion(s).

    3. If there are some things with prescriptive properties, then two things follow at once: (i) as rational beings who are endeavoring to understand the real world, we ought to recognize these properties if we want our internal “map of the world” to be true to reality; (ii) as moral beings who are trying to do what should be done, we ought to advert to these properties whenever we encounter them in things. In other words, the existence of prescriptive properties in other things imposes intellectual and moral norms on us as rational moral agents.

    4. You might ask: “How are we to recognize these prescriptive properties, assuming for argument’s sake that they exist?” I would answer: supposing that they exist, what would they look like? Answer: features of the real world which prove to be stubbornly recalcitrant to change on our part: i.e. essential or unalterable properties of things. That’s enough to generate rational norms which govern our understanding of the world. What about moral norms, which govern our behavior? Since these norms relate to what is good, they can only pertain to things which can legitimately be said to have a “good of their own” – i.e. living things. Inanimate objects don’t qualify as moral patients: we have no duties to rocks as such. (I’ll leave to one side the question of whether we could possibly have duties towards artifacts such as robots, which have been designed to mimic some or all of the properties of living things.) The most fundamental properties of living things relate to their needs – e.g. plants need sunlight; baby mammals need milk; and so on. It is here that we find the prescriptive properties we are looking for. From these properties, we can derive the moral norm that we should not deprive other living things of their needs – unless we have to do so, in order to meet our own needs. Gratuitous infliction of pain is therefore wrong.

    5. But even this is not enough to generate moral norms which are properly grounded. We also need higher-level norms which tell us that we should refrain from stunting a living thing by re-engineering its nature and robbing it of the vital powers that formerly defined it as a living thing of a certain kind, and that we should refrain from re-engineering our own natures in such a way as to deliberately stunt our realization of the goods which characterize us, or stunt the desire to realize our built-in ends. But these higher-level norms, by their very nature, cannot be embedded within the essences of things. They can only be handed to us from “on high”, so to speak. That is, if we are to suppose that morality is both objective and well-grounded, then we have to posit a Great Cosmic Prescriber, Who endows things with their essential properties and with their respective built-in “goods”, and Who expects His rational creatures to advert to the goods of other creatures, in their dealings with those creatures. Hence the existence of God is, in the end, required in order to make objective morality “stick” for rational moral agents, in their daily lives.

    6. This Cosmic Prescriber is Himself bound by certain norms in His dealings with creatures: (i) the duty not to create beings of a certain kind with ends which are by their very nature unrealizable by any being of that kind, given the world we live in; (ii) the duty not to frustrate or intentionally thwart a being’s pursuit of its good; and (iii) the duty not to break a promise made to a rational moral agent.

    7. The question, “Why should we do what the Cosmic Prescriber wants?” can be answered as follows: (i) because, as a Being Who is essentially good, He cannot want anything which is bad for His creatures – i.e. those creatures of His that matter in their own right as Kantian “ends in themselves” – and can only want what is good for them; and (ii) because we have been designed in such a way that if we do what this Being wants, it will be good for us, whereas if we attempt to defy the wishes of this Being, it will be bad for us.

    8. Getting back to the question, “How do we know which theory of morality is correct?”, we should compare the merits of different theories by asking:

    (i) “Which theories give a correct account of the prescriptive properties possessed by various kinds of things?”;

    (ii) “Which theories give a correct account of how we, as rational moral agents, discover these prescriptive properties and what obligations they impose on us?”;

    (iii) “Which theories give a correct account of what kinds of things have a good of their own?”;

    (iv) “Which theories give a correct account of what kinds of things qualify as moral agents?”;

    (v) “Which theories give a correct account of what kinds of things are good for these moral agents, on a biological, psychological, intellectual, moral and spiritual level?”; and

    (vi) “Which theories give a correct account of the relationship between rational moral agents and their Maker, and what mutual obligations exist between them?”

    Those are the questions that need to be addressed, when comparing the merits of different moral theories.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    Reciprocating Bill

    Fortunately, the reality of human experience is different. Human beings are born into and participate in social worlds that are both cognitively and emotionally deeply interpenetrating, entering into what Andrew Whiten called “deep social mind.” Infants as young as 42 minutes imitate the facial gestures of adults – remarkable because they’ve never before seen a face and have yet to see their own. Mirror neurons encode the actions of others and the infant’s own actions identically, laying a neurobiological foundation for understanding and empathizing with others. Infants and mothers jointly attune themselves to the topography of their pre-verbal interactions, tracking “vitality affects” (per Daniel Stern) and sharing a form of joyful, mutually sustained and modulated affective attunement that in adulthood may be seen in joint activities as diverse as joint musical improvisation and good sex. In the latter months of the first year infants follow the gaze of adults to external objects, an innate skill that is quickly folded into thousands of episodes of shared joint attention that are crucial to human enculturation and language learning. Toddlers as young as 18 months understand and sympathize with the preferences of others, even when they differ from their own. Children at play enact countless simulated dramas in which fair play is argued and negotiated (can you count the number of times you heard “That’s not fair!” as a kid?). Out of all this emerges theory of mind, sensitivity to the beliefs, desires, affects and sufferings of others, skillfulness in “social chess” (the ability to negotiate and navigate social alliances and contracts), and the capacity for experiencing guilt (and being shamed) within one’s own community. These skills and capacities sculpt the human brain from birth and are among the foundations for filial love, pair bonding and community identification, altruism, and moral reasoning.

    That was a well written paragraph (“the topography of their pre-verbal interactions” [nice!] Alas, your superb prose fails to compensate for the fact that your example contradicts the principle that it was meant to illuminate.

    Yes, indeed, children do protest the actions of their peers (or even their parents) and say things such as, “That’s not fair.” Notice, though, that in those very words, they are appealing to a pre-existent standard of justice. No one complains about mistreatment unless the rules of fair play are already in place. In that context, they certainly are not negotiating those rules or participating in a process by which they will someday be established.
    Notice, also, that the standard to which the child refers is objective. The protest does not take the form, “it’s not fair to me,” which is the subjectivist standard. The message is clear. It’s not fair, period.

  74. 74
    jlowder says:

    Awesome comment by Dr. Torley @71. I agree with much, but not all, of what he writes. Paragraph 5 is probably the most contentious.

  75. 75
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    So, oughts and musts are backed up by more oughts and musts?

    Oughts and musts are compelled by our subjective moral intuition. There is nothing else to go on, because even the belief in some “objective” source or morality is itself subjective.

    It hasn’t a shot at standing up to Arthur Leff’s Grand Sez Who? I’m not seeing anything that would save it from being just your personal opinion, no matter how strongly you assert otherwise.

    Not my personal opinion, but my moral intuition, which is very different. It is the same for you, of course. You would like to think your morality is “objective”, and I say, “Sez who?”.

    A moment’s introspection clearly reveals to me that I will never change my mind about liver. I detest liver and cannot ever imagine feeling otherwise about it. Personal subjective intuition at its finest.

    I think you are not being honest with yourself. I know my tastes have changed in innumerable ways in my life – food, clothing, recreation, and so on. But I never have, and never will, think it is OK to torture puppies.

    Why do you think torturing puppies is immoral?

    Where the rubber meets the road, morality is about what I require of others and not just a standard I set for myself.

    Both of course.

    I require other autonomous beings to modify their behavior based on personally-held subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and others) might not share to the point that they should be compelled to comply to my demands on their behavior.

    I require that other people act in accord with my moral intuitions, and whether or not you acknowledge this, the same is true of you. I acknowledge that some people have intuitions that conflict with mine, and also that some people do not act in accordance with their own moral intutitions. I judge those people on that basis, and so do you.

    Really? Whence the confidence that it’s an obligation that everyone shares? Whence the certainty?

    I’m sorry if in my attempts to explain moral subjectivism I sounded as though moral theory is somehow solved with 100% certainty. Of course it is not, which is why moral philosophers continue to write books and vehemently disagree. This just supports my position even more, however: Without a certain, objectively true answer, we have nothing else but our abiding moral intuitions (which are not random, nor superficial, nor arbitrary, nor voluntary) upon which to base our moral judgements.

    Further, it is difficult for me to imagine how one doesn’t see the glaring disconnect between such confidence and the implications of one’s materialistic beliefs unless, on some level, one has an intellectual blind spot or one willfully averts one’s intellectual gaze.

    I’m not a materialist, and I’m not certain of moral theory or ontology or epistemology or many other things. So I guess this doesn’t apply to me at all.

    Yes, but SB also thinks it is objectively immoral, meaning it doesn’t matter what the subject believes regarding its morality.

    But nobody will tell me how we can all see this objective morality. As far as I can see, the choice of which moral system to follow is itself subjective, and no moral system is comprehensive enough to tell us objectively how to act in the real world.

    Why do you think selling one’s daughter into slavery is immoral?

    You, on the other hand, seem to be saying that it is subjectively immoral,…

    I say it is immoral, period.

    It is as though you are claiming that morality is subjective to you…

    Morality is subjective to everyone, not just me.

    …while simultaneously being objective to everyone who is not you, and as SB points out, you really can’t have it both ways.

    There is only one way: We each judge morality – of ourselves and others – based on our own moral intuitions.

    If you believe that your morality holds for others, then it cannot be completely subjective. Your belief might be subjective, but your morality isn’t. Your morality is universal.

    This is a semantic issue. What I mean by “objective morality” is one particular moral code that is evident to us but which is external to our individual selves. I say this does not exist. Universal morality is different – it is that I say my subjective moral intuition is my guide to what I and everyone else should do.

    When you respond, don’t forget the questions in bold!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  76. 76
    drc466 says:

    I won’t be as erudite as Dr. Torley, but let me try to explain via an analogy.

    [analogy]
    The materialist/naturalist is equivalent to a person who claims that the only sense (reality) that exists is sight (matter/energy). When asked if grapes taste better than pears (good v. evil), they respond that of course grapes taste better – their taste buds (moral intuition, golden rule, whatever) tell them so. Your taste buds might disagree, but that doesn’t mean their taste buds are wrong for them (relativistic morality, yay!). And, of course, EVERYONE knows that broccoli (torturing puppies) tastes bad.

    The non-MN reasonably replies “but I thought you said that the only sense that exists is sight (matter/energy), and that no other sense is real – isn’t your reference to taste buds illogical and contradictory to your prior claim that only sight exists?” To which the MN responds in some variation that you don’t understand, you aren’t paying attention, non-MN also have taste buds, or something completely obtuse to the inherent contradiction of “only matter/energy exists and the universe is meaningless” vs. “morality, which is clearly not matter/energy, is nonetheless real”.

    A non-MN recognizes that other senses (such as information, spirit, conscience, etc.) exist, and so expressing a taste preference, while not any different than the process a MN uses, is not a logical contradiction for the non-MN, like it is for the MN.
    [/analogy]

    drc466

  77. 77
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    Morality could still be objective, even if it is difficult or impossible for us to discover, using unaided reason.

    What this means is that when someone believes that one particular moral code or another is objectively true, that belief is itself subjective. There is no escaping this fact. It does not help the person who wishes to follow an objectively correct morality if there is no way to objectively find out what that moral code is. That is the situation in which we find ourselves – all of us.

    I may have certain strongly held intuitions, which are in a completely different category from my tastes and preferences, but if “oughts” are not part of the “warp and woof” of reality, then there’s absolutely no reason why I ought to follow my moral intuitions.

    That is simply not true; the reason we follow our moral intuitions is obvious and pragmatic: If I chose to torture a puppy despite my abding moral intuition that it is wrong, I would be unbearably distressed. The same is true for you, and that is why you are moral.

    In fact, one could even argue that I ought to reject my intuitions regarding heavily controverted moral issues: given the sheer diversity of opinions available on such issues, it’s a reasonable bet that my particular opinion will turn out to be poorly grounded, when compared to some other person’s opinion(s).

    What we find a general alignment of moral intuitions – I would say nobody in this discussion disagrees about rape, torture, murder, theft, or kidnapping. The things we do disagree about are not specifically addressed by any “objective” and unambiguous moral code, and so we have nothing but our moral intuitions to rely on.

    From these properties, we can derive the moral norm that we should not deprive other living things of their needs – unless we have to do so, in order to meet our own needs. Gratuitous infliction of pain is therefore wrong.

    We all feel this is true, but your reasoning is subjective still: Why do I care about my “duty” to living things? Why do I care about moral norms at all? There is no answer except the one that comes from within – our subjective moral intuitions.

    We also need higher-level norms which tell us that we should refrain from stunting a living thing by re-engineering its nature and robbing it of the vital powers that formerly defined it as a living thing of a certain kind, and that we should refrain from re-engineering our own natures in such a way as to deliberately stunt our realization of the goods which characterize us, or stunt the desire to realize our built-in ends.

    Why should we do this – because you say so? It is turtles all the way down, VJT – no matter how you try, we can always simply ask “Why should we care about this instead of that?” and there is nowhere to ground the answer in our shared experience. We have only our subjective intuitions.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  78. 78
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    When you respond, don’t forget the questions in bold!

    Because they fall short of an objective standard defined by the very nature of their Creator and His design for what He has created.

    So, to contrast:

    I require that other autonomous beings (having no more or less moral authority than I do) modify their behavior to the point that they are compelled to comply with my demands based solely on personally-held, admittedly fallible, and, ultimately, randomly constructed (from indifferent matter) subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and, perhaps, the entire universe) might not share.

    vs.

    I require that other autonomous beings (having no more or less moral authority than I do) modify their behavior to the point that they are compelled to comply with my demands based solely on my best (admittedly fallible) understanding of an objective standard established and revealed by God in keeping with His nature and design that I fully recognize others might not share.

    For me, if I am being honest, the second formulation is hard enough to swallow, given my aversion to compulsion and interfering in the lives of other autonomous beings, though when faced with the Hitlers and Nazis of the world, I feel the weight of obligation you referenced earlier. But the first formulation is seriously and in all ways absolutely repugnant to me. It literally turns my stomach to imagine trampling on another’s freedom and compelling them to bend their own self-expression or self-actualization to something that only exists in me as a personal subjective intuition.

  79. 79
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    What this means is that when someone believes that one particular moral code or another is objectively true, that belief is itself subjective. There is no escaping this fact.

    Is there any such thing, even conceptually, as an objective belief? Beliefs are just beliefs. Right.

  80. 80
    Dionisio says:

    Mark Frank @ 45

    I am more likely say “I believe it is wrong to torture puppies” or simply “it is wrong to torture puppies” because I can guess the pain that the puppies will endure and I want to stop people doing it out of compassion.

    1. Do you mean that “it is wrong” is your personal, subjective opinion, which does not have to be everybody else’s opinion?
    2. Does that mean that someone else could qualify as “right” what you consider to be “wrong”?
    3. Do you mean that what is “right” to you could be “wrong” to someone else, and nobody can claim having the last definitive word on this?
    4. Do you mean that you believe there’s no such thing as an absolute standard that can be used to tell right from wrong?
    5. Do you mean that you believe that what some people consider to be ‘right’ could be considered to be ‘wrong’ by other people?
    6. Do you mean that some people could believe that what they do to others is ‘right’ while others may see it as ‘wrong’?
    7. Do you realize that in the absence of absolute standards, everything could be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at the same time, depending on different subjective opinions or beliefs?

    Do you understand that in the absence of absolute objective laws there’s no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in absolute terms?
    Some people may deem ‘right’ to consider other people inferior and treat them in a manner that other people may consider ‘wrong’?
    In the absence of objective absolute standards, there’s no such thing as absolute ‘right’ or absolute ‘wrong’, hence the meaning of those words is subjectively relative, but they don’t apply to everyone the same way. In such case, those words mean absolutely nothing.
    In order for the terms ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to have absolute meaning, which applies equally to all people, there must be an absolute standard.
    In the absence of absolute standards, a cannibal may consider right to eat another person, while probably someone else might consider it wrong. But it won’t be absolutely right or wrong. It would be relatively right and wrong at the same time. In such case, does it matter? Why?

  81. 81
    Dionisio says:

    RDFish,

    Are you able to answer the simple questions I asked you in posts 29 & 46 ?
    Are they too difficult for you?

    BTW, in baseball three strikes = out.
    But fortunately in this UD blog the admin. is very compassionate and tolerant, hence they’ll let you remain in this game, just for the fun of it, perhaps to attract more readers 😉

  82. 82
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2
    Are you able to answer the simple question I asked you in posts 28 & 44 ?
    is it too difficult for you?

    BTW, in baseball three strikes = out.
    But fortunately in this UD blog the admin. is very compassionate and tolerant, hence they’ll let you remain in this game, just for the fun of it, perhaps to attract more readers 😉

  83. 83
    Daniel King says:

    Is there any such thing, even conceptually, as an objective belief? Beliefs are just beliefs. Right.

    Right. And moral beliefs are just beliefs, therefore not objective.

  84. 84
    Dionisio says:

    Mark Frank

    Are you able to answer the simple questions I asked you in posts 51 & 79 ?
    Are they too difficult for you?

    BTW, in baseball three strikes = out.
    But fortunately in this UD blog the admin. is very compassionate and tolerant, hence they’ll let you remain in this game, just for the fun of it, perhaps to attract more readers 😉

  85. 85
    StephenB says:

    SB” According to you, the person who tortures puppies and murders you for intervening is moral if he is following his subjective intuitions.

    RDFish

    I’ve already explained many times now why this is mistaken. Again, if I find his moral intuitions faulty, RDFishI will see him as a psychopath, and see his actions as immoral.

    That statement undermines your entire argument. The contradiction persists:

    On the one hand, you say that a person is moral if he follows his subjective intuitions. On the other hand, you say that this same person is moral only if he follows your subjective intuitions. You are, indeed, trying to have it both ways.

  86. 86

    StephenB:

    Yes, indeed, children do protest the actions of their peers (or even their parents) and say things such as, “That’s not fair.” Notice, though, that in those very words, they are appealing to a pre-existent standard of justice.

    Of course. We’re all born into cultures that enclose us within pre-existing standards of fairness and justice, conveyed by parents, teachers, siblings, friends, proverbs, stories, movies, religious parables, etc. Through the deep social interaction I describe, across thousands of interactions, most children internalize those standards. In play children practice the application of those standards. The process continues into adulthood.

    Alas, your superb prose fails to compensate for the fact that your example contradicts the principle that it was meant to illuminate.

    First, it does not follow from the above that the standards of the enclosing culture are “objective” in the larger sense that so many here advocate. But no matter, it is not the intention of my post above to argue that there are no objective standards. (I’d think you’d agree that that has proved a pointless discussion).

    Rather, the central point of the above is that, for theist and naturalist alike, it is the deep interpenetrating social immersion I describe through which persons acquire the sophisticated theory of mind and skills for both cognitive and affective attunement that we call empathy. The notion that toggling a few switches (belief in god: OFF, belief in an afterlife, OFF, etc.) should prompt one to sweep aside a lifetime of shared deep social mind (and what Searle calls a world of “we intentionality”), itself in no way contingent upon the positions of those switches, and morph into a bold, confident, callous Nietzshean Superman indistinguishable from a psychopath is both philosophically and psychologically preposterous, in my opinion.

  87. 87
    tgpeeler says:

    Maybe it would help to distinguish between the ontological issue: Is there a moral law? And the epistemological issue: How would I know what that is? That there is a moral law is apparent to all, or seems to be at least. Else the materialists are just sparing us the “apparently right and wrong” or the “to me” verbiage. So the first question, logically, becomes “Is there a moral law?” If there is one then it would make sense to talk of right and wrong and how we would know that things are right or wrong. If there isn’t a moral law, then it makes zero sense to speak of right and wrong in any way, shape, or form. It would be like arguing about the true color of the easter bunny’s fur in the absence of a real easter bunny.

    In a purely material or physical or natural (take your choice – I will use material) world there is only matter and energy. Or if you prefer, sub-atomic particles in energy fields (hereafter particles). The behavior of these particles is described, at least, if not dictated by, the laws of physics as they are currently conceived. Never mind for now that these laws are immaterial themselves. e.g. What does gravity smell like? What does it taste like? Where is this law? Can I touch this law? Well, you (should) get the point. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the laws of physics have unified general relativity and quantum theory, found the God particle, figured out dark matter and dark energy, etc… In other words explained EVERYTHING about the particle world. And since the particle world is the only world that exists then EVERYTHING has been explained. Imagine that we exist in that world right now. Particles are all there is and physics explains them completely.

    For the materialist, the problem of morality (also God, consciousness, design, purpose, language, information, thought, mind, etc… in other words, every thing that makes us human or matters to humans) is intractable. For the intellectually honest materialist (aye, there’s the rub) there only IS, there is no OUGHT. And anyone with half a brain or thirty spare seconds to think about it can see this. Why? The particles only “are.” What they are doing or where they are doing it or when they are doing it or how they are doing it or in what configuration they are doing it is simply a matter of physical law (and time and chance). And those are the only questions that a materialist ontology allows. To ask “why” is to invoke or acknowledge the existence of design or purpose which is denied by the materialist ontology. As Barry mentions above, even the intellectually challenged (my claim, not Barry’s) Richard Dawkins can see that this must be true. In “River Out of Eden” he says: “This sounds savagely cruel but, as we shall see, nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.” Well there you have it plain as day. In a material universe of only particles this is the necessary conclusion. (Leaving aside the fact that no one really believes this for an instant, least of all Dawkins, it’s still the logical conclusion to which the ha ha ha ha ha intellectually honest materialist is forced. And how, one might ask, in a universe of particles only, did Dawkins come up with the idea of cruel, anyway?)

    Let’s formalize this with a syllogism.

    Everything that exists is a material thing. (Major Premise and fundamental intellectual “commitment,” if there really is such a thing, of the materialist)
    The laws of physics explain all material things. (Minor Premise and true by definition)
    Therefore, the laws of physics explain everything that exists. (Necessary conclusion of a valid argument)

    The syllogism is valid. The minor premise is true, by definition. If the major premise is true then the conclusion is necessarily true. Note that it is possible for the major premise to be true but it is also possible for it to be false.

    Assuming the “truth” of the major premise as Barry has done for the purpose of this thread, what follows?

    We can think of another syllogism.

    No non-material things exist. (Restatement of major premise)
    The moral law is a non-material thing. (True by definition)
    Therefore the moral law does not exist.

    (Substitute God, mind, purpose, intention, free will, information, language, thought, laws of logic, etc… for “moral law” and the syllogism still spits out the necessary conclusion: that none of these things exist. Thus the language of Dawkins and others that design, purpose, free will, minds, etc… are only “apparent.” We are somehow deluded to think that we have them but we really do not.

    This much is clear. Within a materialist ontology, any sense of the phrase “moral law,” is meaningless and empty. There is no moral law in any sense of the word. So how can a materialist even avail himself of the concepts “right” and “wrong” even if they are only what he “feels” is right or wrong? The answer is that he cannot. The fact that this discussion can be carried on at all reflects a lack of rigor in thinking that is shameful on the part of the materialist. If there is no moral law then there is no right or wrong, period. And ANY AND ALL talk of it is mere nonsense.

    But, oddly enough, everyone on this thread has opinions about what is right and what is wrong. Whether one grounds them in one’s own subjective appraisal of things or grounds them in an objective moral law, everybody knows or has an intuition that there are such things as right and wrong and they do not reduce to “it makes me feel good” or “it gives me an advantage” or some other such nonsense. It makes me feel good to torture puppies is therefore a “moral” statement in the materialist world. AIGuy may disagree but so what? Without appeal to a higher standard or authority, that he denies exists BTW, his feeling is his feeling and mine is mine (no, I don’t torture puppies) and there is no way to adjudicate who is “right” and who is “wrong.” Remembering that in the materialist ontology those terms are meaningless in every sense of the word.

    Let’s make this a bit more graphic. If the materialist is correct then there is no moral ground for condemning the actions of nazi Germany in WW2. The holocaust, after all, was for the purpose of enhancing the genetic fitness of the German people and what higher purpose could there be than that? (Again, realizing that in the materialist world there is NO purpose, none, zero, zip, nada. So the reference to purpose, i.e. improvement or survival, is a reference to nothing. Why this doesn’t offend the rational sensibilities of materialists is something about which I am genuinely curious. Maybe a sociologist will do a study someday…) How then would a materialist answer this charge that Hitler did nothing wrong? I will not speak for them but I will be intensely interested in how they would try to answer that question. (Well, we all know how, don’t we? But still, I’d like to see it in print in this thread.)

    The epistemological problem is now seen to be even more absurd. If the materialist recognizes that there is no moral law (some do and if they live out the implications of that we have a word for them – monster), and he must if he is to be intellectually honest (ah, the rub again), then how is it possible, in any universe, to argue about how we know the essence of that which does not exist? Is that not even more irrational? It’s bad enough to sign up for the fact that there is no real right and wrong, as the materialist must. It’s even worse to then engage others in a debate about what right and wrong consist of. To paraphrase Edward Feser who wrote “The Last Superstition,” discussing these issues with materialists is like trying to discuss Shakespeare with a three year old who thinks writing is something you do on a wall with crayons. That’s the real problem here.

  88. 88
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Because they fall short of an objective standard defined by the very nature of their Creator and His design for what He has created.

    First, if that is really why you wouldn’t sell your daughter into slavery or torture puppies, can you show me where this Creator has specified these prohibitions? (Be especially careful about the daughter/slavery example :-), cf. Exodus 21:7)

    Next, if the standard given by this Creator said it was just fine to torture puppies and sell your daughter into slavery, would you then happily comply?

    Next, why should I believe in what you say this Creator wants, rather than what some other person from some other religion says their Creator wants?

    Next, why should I care about what any Creator wants at all?

    So, to contrast…

    The difference doesn’t make any difference: Since neither of us knows with objective certainty what is right, postulating one god or another Who may or may not exist with moral commands He may or may not wish us to follow doesn’t help. It’s subjective all the way down, despite our yearning for objective certainty.

    It literally turns my stomach to imagine trampling on another’s freedom and compelling them to bend their own self-expression or self-actualization to something that only exists in me as a personal subjective intuition.

    It is your personal, subjective moral intuition that makes this thought repugnant! You’ve just demonstrated my point. You are using your moral intuition to decide which moral system is right.

    Is there any such thing, even conceptually, as an objective belief? Beliefs are just beliefs. Right.

    Now we leave the murky waters of moral theory and wade into the bottomless abyss of epistemology.

    You and I are both good people, Phinehas – I’m certain of it!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  89. 89
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Yes, indeed, children do protest the actions of their peers (or even their parents) and say things such as, “That’s not fair.” Notice, though, that in those very words, they are appealing to a pre-existent standard of justice.

    What they refer to is their own internal sense of fairness.

    No one complains about mistreatment unless the rules of fair play are already in place.

    The “place” where these rules are is inside of the head of people.

    Notice, also, that the standard to which the child refers is objective.

    WRONG. The standard is subjective, but the child wishes to apply their subjective standard universally.

    The protest does not take the form, “it’s not fair to me,” which is the subjectivist standard. The message is clear. It’s not fair, period.

    Yes of course: It’s not fair, period – not fair for anyone. Why isn’t it fair? Because it contradicts my subjective sense of fairness.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  90. 90
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    On the one hand, you say that a person is moral if he follows his subjective intuitions.

    No, I do not say that. I say we ought to follow our moral intuitions, but that does not guarantee we will be moral. If our moral intuitions are faulty (that is, if we are psychopathic), then our actions will be immoral.

    And from my previous post:

    But of course even once you subjectively decide that religion X or Y or Z has the morality that is correct, the world is so much more complex than scripture that you must constantly make subjective decisions regarding which actions are moral and which are not in real world situations.

    That is why you choose to dodge my question to you, which I shall repeat until you respond: If someone sells his daughter into slavery, is that a moral act? I know it is immoral because it conflicts with my moral intuition. How do you know?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  91. 91
    scordova says:

    What this means is that when someone believes that one particular moral code or another is objectively true, that belief is itself subjective. There is no escaping this fact.

    Agreed! But the discussion assumes there is not an objective ultimate moral principle.

    As to Barry’s question, I’m not a materialist, so I deferred giving my answer. Is it logical to suppress ones moral feelings if there is no ultimate right and wrong? I’d say, a qualified “yes” to Barry’s question, and the qualification is only if is practical. It might be too hard to rewire someone’s intuition.

    The other reason I’d say, “yes” and agree with Barry is that his question also applies to Christians. Sometimes one has to exercise tough love to do the right thing (according to Christian doctrine anyway), and suppress natural empathy. Suppose for the sake of argument my denomination’s policies (Presbyterian Church in America) are God’s truth, I’d be excommunicated for returning to the Roman Catholic church. So as far as my current denomination goes, they would be commanded to expel me, and it would make them happier if they didn’t feel so guilty about it.

    There was a case where a woman shot her husband to death. Her husband was a pastor. It turned out he was a wife and child abuser (nearly suffocated their children to death) and tired to privately dress up his wife according to the porn videos he watched. If I were a judge, I’d still have to sentence her to serve some time (I think the final outcome was manslaughter), but it’s hard not to feel she was defending the lives of her kids. I’d have to suppress my empathy to follow the letter of the law… Here is a case of conflicting moral intuitions.

    So how much more will it be true for someone who thinks there is no ultimate right or wrong except to follow one
    s conscience that is supposedly only the product of molecules. If is practical, then it would seem logical to re-wire the way one’s conscience works, but usually it is not practical, so the point is generally moot.

    I’m astonished why a simple “yes” was never offered to Barry’s question.

    What this means is that when someone believes that one particular moral code or another is objectively true, that belief is itself subjective. There is no escaping this fact.

    Agreed!

    Now, if we assume there is an objective moral principle,
    as far as our subjectiveness aligning with the objective truth it is like a jury making their subjective decision in a court case about a claim that is objectively true or false. No guarantee one is right, but they do the best they can. When they send an innocent person to face the death penalty, the judicial system has collectively made moral mistake in the application of justice. But there is still a sense there was a right and wrong decision in the ultimate sense — again on the assumption there is an ultimate right and wrong…..

    PS
    A total side note, Himmler did not want any of his SS troops to be atheists. He also did not approve of gratuitous torture of jews (just killing them efficiently and subjecting them to deprivation and beatings). He didn’t think such torture was decent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology_of_the_SS

    I throw this out to show, the structure of people’s conscience is sometimes ironic.

  92. 92
    StephenB says:

    Daniel King And moral beliefs are just beliefs, therefore not objective.

    Well, let’s just say that the act of believing is subjective and the substance of the thing believed can either be subjective (rooted in one’s perceptions or wishes) or objective (aligned with objective reality).

  93. 93
    StephenB says:

    DK

    And moral beliefs are just beliefs, therefore not objective.

    Well, let’s just say that the act of believing is subjective and the substance of the thing believed can either be subjective (rooted in one’s perceptions or wishes) or objective (aligned with objective reality).

  94. 94
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    The difference doesn’t make any difference: Since neither of us knows with objective certainty what is right, postulating one god or another Who may or may not exist with moral commands He may or may not wish us to follow doesn’t help. It’s subjective all the way down, despite our yearning for objective certainty.

    You only say this because you’ve already ruled out the possibility of an all-knowing God with the power to reveal what is right such that it can be known with objective certainty. And yet you treat your personal subjective intuitions precisely as though you know them with objective certainty.

    I’m merely pointing out that, for me, the path:

    from – an all-knowing God who has the power to reveal what is right
    to – those beliefs that you can’t help but treat as though you know them with objective certainty

    This path appears much more believable and comprehensible to me than a path:

    from– indifferent matter and random construction
    to – those beliefs that you can’t help but treat as though you know them with objective certainty

    In fact, for me, the path from (absolutely nothing to) indifferent matter and random construction to anything with any sort of meaning is mind-blowingly inscrutable.

  95. 95
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    No, I do not say that. I say we ought to follow our moral intuitions, but that does not guarantee we will be moral. If our moral intuitions are faulty (that is, if we are psychopathic), then our actions will be immoral.

    Earlier, you said, …”one must act in accord with one’s abiding moral intuitions. These moral intuitions are not arbitrary, and they are not voluntary, and they are not preferences or opinions, and they are not superficial.”

    Now you are saying that those same intuitions, upon which one must act, can be faulty. Why, then, would you say that we “must act” on intuitions that could be faulty?

    Of course, all of this begs the question: How do we know if our moral intuitions are “faulty” (or, for that matter, psychopathic) if we have only our subjective and varying moral intuitions to guide us. By that standard, all you can say is that your intuitions are faulty to me and my interpretations are faulty for you. Who or what is to act as abritrator for that disagreement.

    But of course even once you subjectively decide that religion X or Y or Z has the morality that is correct, the world is so much more complex than scripture that you must constantly make subjective decisions regarding which actions are moral and which are not in real world situations.

    Well, no, not really. The unchanging objective moral standard must be applied in individual, changeable, and unpredictable circumstances. Thus, one needs to understand the unchanging principle well enough to apply it in changing circumstances. Otherwise, one just blows with the wind.

    If someone sells his daughter into slavery, is that a moral act? I know it is immoral because it conflicts with my moral intuition. How do you know?

    I don’t know why you would think it is a difficult question. I know that it is immoral for a man to sell his daughter into slavery because it violates every objective standard of morality. Among many other things,

    It violates the inherent dignity of the human person *which you deny), it violates the fifth and sixth commandments (which you deny), and It violates the natural moral law 9which you also deny).

    It is this standard that determines which of the millions of subjective intuitions are right and which ones are not. Naturally, you don’t have that. All you have is the notion that my intuition is faulty for you and your intuition is faulty for me, so, in order settle the matter, you will “require me” (those are your words) to bend to your will. That is the way it always works with sujectivism. Might makes right.

  96. 96
    Tim says:

    @72

    Try as you might, you cannot ignore me.
    “The MN’s vast construct comes off rather poorly.”
    The hard bottom line is . .
    You should read your Aquinas
    Or some summarized Summa by the good Dr. Torley.

  97. 97
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    No, I do not say that. I say we ought to follow our moral intuitions, but that does not guarantee we will be moral. If our moral intuitions are faulty (that is, if we are psychopathic), then our actions will be immoral.

    First, you say that we “must” follow our subjective intuitions in order to be moral.Then, you say that those same intuitions can be faulty, in which case they will not be moral. Nevertheless, you also insist that we have nothing but our subjective intuitions, which may be faulty, to evaluate the legitimacy of our subjective intuitions. This is a very strange doctrine.

  98. 98
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    You write:

    …[T]he reason we follow our moral intuitions is obvious and pragmatic: If I chose to torture a puppy despite my abiding moral intuition that it is wrong, I would be unbearably distressed. The same is true for you, and that is why you are moral.

    That may be the reason why you follow your moral intuitions, but that’s certainly not a reason why you ought to follow them. And while you might feel unbearably distressed at the very thought of torturing a puppy, I doubt whether you feel the same kind of distress at the idea of taking a pill that would temporarily inhibit your capacity to empathize with other sentient beings. Disgust, perhaps, but not distress. Granted that you wouldn’t take the pill, I doubt whether it’s psychologically true to say that you couldn’t take the pill. So, why shouldn’t you take the pill?

  99. 99
    tgpeeler says:

    “…[T]he reason we follow our moral intuitions is obvious and pragmatic: If I chose to torture a puppy despite my abiding moral intuition that it is wrong, I would be unbearably distressed. The same is true for you, and that is why you are moral.”

    Whence this abiding moral intuition and why does every (normal) person have it? Remembering that all people are merely collections of particles randomly and accidentally assembled by nobody for nothing. And why does this abiding moral intuition make you feel distressed instead of good? Any why should you feel anything, anyway? You are just particles with no point, no purpose, just rattling around in a pointless purposeless universe…

  100. 100
    Daniel King says:

    Daniel King And moral beliefs are just beliefs, therefore not objective.

    Well, let’s just say that the act of believing is subjective and the substance of the thing believed can either be subjective (rooted in one’s perceptions or wishes) or objective (aligned with objective reality).

    Is it not that case that a person experiences objective reality only through perceptions?

  101. 101
    Heartlander says:

    If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.To natural selection killing your siblings and offspring is all the same as loving them. Selection only favors what works to enhance survival and reproduction, and it does not matter if it is nice and moral, or harsh and brutal. – Darwin, Descent of Man

    Joel Marks, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the U. of New Haven, who for 10 years authored the “Moral Moments” column in Philosophy Now, made the following statements in a 2010 article entitled, “An Amoral Manifesto.”

    “This philosopher has been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t…The long and short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality…I experienced my shocking epiphany that religious fundamentalists are correct; without God there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.

    Marks then quite boldly and candidly addresses the implications of his newfound beliefs:

    “Even though words like “sinful” and “evil” come naturally to the tongue as say a description of child molesting. They do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God…nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality…yet we human beings can still discover plenty of completely naturally explainable resources for motivating certain preferences. Thus enough of us are sufficiently averse to the molestation of children and would likely continue to be…( An Amoral Manifesto Part I )

    Clarence Darrow (from the Scopes "monkey trial") was an early champion of the idea that criminals should not be held responsible for their crimes. His outspoken denial of personal responsibility came to the forefront when he chose to defend Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb for their cold-blooded murder of a young boy in Chicago in the 1920s. Darrow's debunking of criminal responsibility was based squarely on his worldview of deterministic materialism and claimed that pleasure was the ultimate basis for morality: "I believe that progress is purely a question of the pleasurable units that we get out of life. The pleasure-pain theory is the only correct theory of morality, and the only way of judging life."

    What about rape? – There’s no need for ’morality’ – naturalism/evolution has an explanation – A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion

    Biologist Thornhill (University of New Mexico) and anthropologist Palmer (University of Colorado) contend in this already highly controversial book that prevailing explanations of why men rape and how we can prevent them rely on wrong, dangerous and outmoded dogma. The right explanations for rape, they contend, as for all other human behavior, rely on Darwinian models of natural selection. Rapists want sex, they say. Rape, or the drive to rape, is an adaptation: some of our ancestors increased their reproductive success by mating with unwilling partners, and the brain-wiring that led them to do so got passed on to their male descendants. Women, meanwhile, have evolved adaptations against rape, and against getting pregnant if they are raped.

    Dr. David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at The University of Texas at Austin and author of “The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill” has been quoted as stating:

    Killing is fundamentally in our nature because over the eons of human evolution murder was so surprisingly beneficial in the intense game of reproductive competition,. Our minds have developed adaptations to kill, which is contrary to previous theories that murder is something outside of human nature—a pathology imposed from the distorting influences of culture, media images, poverty or child abuse. …People might mistakenly assume that the theory of adaptations for murder implies approval or acceptance of killing. It doesn’t. I would suggest instead that those who create myths of a peaceful human past, who blame killing on the contemporary ills of modern culture, and who cling to single-variable theories that have long outlived their scientific warrant tread on dangerous moral ground. The problem of murder cannot be solved by wishing away those aspects of human nature that we desire not to exist. As an evolutionary psychologist, I’ve become accustomed to critics who confuse what is with what ought to be.

    Look, if life is the result of mindless mutations from what we call ’nature’ and we are merely a mutated primate animal – why not expect killing and rape? Male animals kill the offspring of their competitors and then take the female as their own. What if human intelligence had developed in another predator without any ‘conscience’? Would there be any care for the environment?- or animals going extinct? Face it, here would be no caring and it would not make any difference ultimately because there is no reason or purpose for anything.
    Personally, I could not live according to this philosophy…

  102. 102
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    You only say this because you’ve already ruled out the possibility of an all-knowing God with the power to reveal what is right such that it can be known with objective certainty.

    It’s not that I’ve ruled it out; I simply observe that people don’t generally agree about gods and their rules, so all that remains a matter of subjective choice. Happily, though, eveyone agrees in the main about most moral issues.

    And yet you treat your personal subjective intuitions precisely as though you know them with objective certainty.

    No, I’ve been very clear about this, so I think you’re being a bit obstinate. Read what I’ve said and you’ll see this isn’t the case. What I’ve said is that since there is no way to objectively verify what is the moral course of action, we are all left to our moral intuitions.

    Would you sell your daughter into slavery? If the Bible said it was OK (which apparently it does), would you still?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  103. 103
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Earlier, you said, …”one must act in accord with one’s abiding moral intuitions. These moral intuitions are not arbitrary, and they are not voluntary, and they are not preferences or opinions, and they are not superficial.”

    Yes, that is what I said. That is very different from what you pretended that I said, which was that a person is moral if he follows his subjective intuitions.

    Now you are saying that those same intuitions, upon which one must act, can be faulty.

    Now??? I’ve said this all along of course. Nobody is perfect, StephenB – you really should know that already.

    Why, then, would you say that we “must act” on intuitions that could be faulty?

    Because we have no objectively knowable standard by which to decide what the moral course of action is, and our moral intuitions demand that we act according to our moral intuitions. (At least mine do – perhaps you think it’s perfectly fine to act in a way that you find morally repugnant?)

    Of course, all of this begs the question: How do we know if our moral intuitions are “faulty” (or, for that matter, psychopathic) if we have only our subjective and varying moral intuitions to guide us.

    We cannot know, of course.

    By that standard, all you can say is that your intuitions are faulty to me and my interpretations are faulty for you. Who or what is to act as abritrator for that disagreement.

    There is noone and nothing, of course.

    The unchanging objective moral standard must be applied in individual, changeable, and unpredictable circumstances. Thus, one needs to understand the unchanging principle well enough to apply it in changing circumstances. Otherwise, one just blows with the wind.

    So you use your fallible subjective judgement to decide what to do, and those who pretend that there is some objectively knowable standard guiding them agree no more often with each other than those who honestly admit that there is no such objectively knowable standard.

    I know that it is immoral for a man to sell his daughter into slavery because it violates every objective standard of morality.

    Come on, StephenB – I know you’re aware that this unchanging, objective, perfect code of morality that you wish for found slavery perfectly acceptable in Biblical times. No matter how you spin it, nothing has changed since then regarding human dignity and slavery, so don’t even try that one.

    It violates the inherent dignity of the human person *which you deny), it violates the fifth and sixth commandments (which you deny), and It violates the natural moral law 9which you also deny).

    I always can tell when you feel I’ve undermined your beliefs – that is when you start hurling crazy insults and putting words in my mouth. Sorry to disappoint you but I am deeply committed to the inherent human dignity of people. Tell me which commandment you violate when you lie about what I believe!

    All you have is the notion that my intuition is faulty for you and your intuition is faulty for me, so, in order settle the matter, you will “require me” (those are your words) to bend to your will.

    And here you go, completely off the rails. You can’t argue against what I say, so you make up some ridiculous strawman and start attacking that. So sad.

    That is the way it always works with sujectivism. Might makes right.

    And down the drain goes all your integrity and honesty… doesn’t the Bible tell you to try and argue in good faith? No? What about your moral intuition? Don’t you feel a bit guilty for accusing me of believing things I would never believe?

    First, you say that we “must” follow our subjective intuitions in order to be moral. Then, you say that those same intuitions can be faulty, in which case they will not be moral.

    Yes, that is what I said.

    Nevertheless, you also insist that we have nothing but our subjective intuitions, which may be faulty, to evaluate the legitimacy of our subjective intuitions. This is a very strange doctrine.

    Strange as it may be, it is the human condition. I have been utterly consistent, despite your ridiculous strawmen and attempts to conjure up inconsistencies on my part.

    Now, tell me why you think the unchanging moral code of the Bible was right to condone slavery.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  104. 104
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    That may be the reason why you follow your moral intuitions, but that’s certainly not a reason why you ought to follow them.

    The reason I ought to follow my moral intuitions is because I am compelled to do so… by my moral intuitions. The reason you believe you ought to follow God’s commands is because you are compelled to do so… by God’s commands.

    There is simply no bedrock upon which to found our moral imperatives. You can postulate such a thing, but it is not objectively knowable. And so in the real world of pragmatics, it doesn’t matter if you posit objective morality or not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  105. 105
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: What do I mean by ‘moral’. The usual meaning, I think. If something is ‘wrong’, we say it is ‘morally’ wrong, or ‘unethical’ etc etc. They all mean the same thing. Adding the word ‘moral’ doesn’t really add anything.

    VJTorley #72: You at least had the honesty to state the obvious: The denizens of this place believe our moral framework comes from God. Simple.

  106. 106
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 105

    Dionisio: What do I mean by ‘moral’. The usual meaning, I think. If something is ‘wrong’, we say it is ‘morally’ wrong, or ‘unethical’ etc etc. They all mean the same thing. Adding the word ‘moral’ doesn’t really add anything.

    What do you mean by “if something is ‘wrong'”?
    How can you tell right from wrong?
    Is your measuring standard personal, subjective, relative?
    If you deem something is wrong, does it necessarily mean that everybody else must consider it to be wrong too?
    In the absence of absolute standards, can something you consider to be wrong be considered to be right by others?

  107. 107
    StephenB says:

    SB: Of course, all of this begs the question: How do we know if our moral intuitions are “faulty” (or, for that matter, psychopathic) if we have only our subjective and varying moral intuitions to guide us.

    RDFish

    We cannot know, of course.

    So, why did you say that the murderer/torturer’s subjective intuitions were “faulty,” if you don’t know what faulty means? What you really mean is that they seem “faulty to you,”just as your intuitions seem faulty to him. Why do you use the language of objective morality (is faulty) when you really mean subjective intuitions (seems faulty to you). It requires no more space to use the word “seems” than the word “is.”

    And here you go, completely off the rails.

    Apologies. I misread Phineas comment (“requirements”) as yours.

    SB: Nevertheless, you also insist that we have nothing but our subjective intuitions, which may be faulty, to evaluate the legitimacy of our subjective intuitions. This is a very strange doctrine.

    Strange as it may be, it is the human condition. I have been utterly consistent, despite your ridiculous strawmen and attempts to conjure up inconsistencies on my part.

    Part of the problem is that you use the word “is,” which indicates objectivity, when it would be more appropriate to use the word “seems,” which indicates subjectivity. You cannot blame me for you equivocations. In any case, you still have not addressed the argument on the table. Why should your subjective intuitions be preferred over those of the torturer/murderer when, by your own admission, you don’t know which subjective moral codes are faulty and which ones are not. Indeed, you have not explained why any moral code at all could possibly be faulty. This is a serious gap in your philosophy.

    Now, tell me why you think the unchanging moral code of the Bible was right to condone slavery.

    There are many different kinds of slavery, among which we could include debt bondage, indentured servitude, and chatel slavery. The Bible tolerates the first two, but not the third, which is the only one that is unqualifiedly immoral.

    Notice, though, that you have no standard to make these kind of evaluations since the only thing you have going for you are your subjective intuitions. You cannot even say that chatel slavery “is” wrong. You can only say that it “seems” wrong, but you don’t know why it is wrong.

  108. 108
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Strange as it may be, it is the human condition. I have been utterly consistent, despite your ridiculous strawmen and attempts to conjure up inconsistencies on my part.

    Part of the problem is that you use the word “is,” which indicates objectivity, when it would be more appropriate to use the word “seems,” which indicates subjectivity. You cannot blame me for you equivocations. In any case, you still have not addressed the argument on the table. Why should your subjective intuitions be preferred over those of the torturer/murderer when, by your own admission, you don’t know which subjective moral codes are faulty and which ones are not. Indeed, you have not explained why any moral code at all could possibly be faulty. This is a serious gap in your philosophy.

  109. 109
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: There is either an objective standard of morality or there isn’t. If there is, the discussion is over.
    If there isn’t, its all subjective.
    I think the concept of objective morality is simply absurd. Even if it did exist, it is remarkably elusive.
    This leave us with a moral standard that is entirely subjective. Its messy, contradictory, frustratingly difficult to pin down, but then that’s exactly what we see around us, its how the world is. Perhaps you have noticed.

    Eg: slavery was considered quite OK for many years, now it isn’t. Why the change ? Was everyone right then but wrong now ? wrong then but right now ? How can you tell ? The answer is you cant. Its not a nice answer, but its how the world works.

  110. 110
    StephenB says:

    Daniel King

    Is it not that case that a person experiences objective reality only through perceptions?

    Isn’t there a difference between subjectively perceiving something as real and objectively knowing that it is real? When I recognize a tree as a tree, am I not making making contact with the objective reality of a tree? Isn’t it more than just perceiving it to be a tree?

  111. 111
    Jul3s says:

    “Why are you afraid to answer these questions? Because you would have to concede that your morality is subjective too.”

    False. I am not afraid to answer anything, you don’t even know whether I have morality at all.

    This is nothing but a waste of time because you refuse to accept the fact that your position is full of contradictions and it completely useless.

    If someone follows their moral intuition and somebody else comes along and says “what you are doing is wrong because it contradicts my moral intuition” the first person has no reason to stop. A person’s moral intuition might be considered ‘faulty’ according to one group, but another group would believe the exact opposite.

    If a person has faulty moral intuition, then they are being immoral for following their moral intuition, but they are also immoral for not following it because moral intuition is all we have. If someone says that my moral intuition is ‘faulty’ and that I am a psychopath, I can just ignore them and find someone else who agrees with me.

  112. 112
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 409

    I think the concept of objective morality is simply absurd.

    Why do you think so?

  113. 113
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 109

    I think the concept of objective morality is simply absurd.

    Why do you think so?

  114. 114
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: What I meant was the supernatural in all its forms is absurd. If you accept God/angels/devils/soul/etc/etc then anything is possible. Objective morality is just another face of this nonsense.

    Regarding objective morality in particular, if it exists, it is, as I said, very elusive. Why are we bedevilled with endless, endless arguments on moral questions ? Abortion/gay issues/politics/etc. And why are these questions never settled ? Why are we still raking over the same coals 2000 years later ? If objective morality exists, it is very elusive, and even if it exists, and even if it manifests itself in some individuals, how can we identify those individuals ? Maybe I am the only person on the planet that has it all. Im in perfect communication with objective morality, and everyone else is in a poor reception area. How can we tell ?

    And the Catholic Church must be in a permanent tunnel.

  115. 115
    Mung says:

    Compelled by moral intuition. Marvelous!

    Why not just claim to be compelled by moral compulsion?

    intuition:
    the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

    What then, is a moral intuition?

    How does an unconscious understanding become a compulsion?

  116. 116
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    SB: How do we know if our moral intuitions are “faulty”
    RDF: We cannot know, of course.
    SB: So, why did you say that the murderer/torturer’s subjective intuitions were “faulty,” if you don’t know what faulty means?

    Really? You want me to explain this for the nth+1 time? I view the murderer/torturer’s moral intuitions as faulty because they contradict mine.

    Why (and this is not a rhetorical question) are you unable to grasp this?

    You keep asking the same thing, over and over again, in all different ways: How do you know if something is actually right or wrong? I keep answering the same thing: When something aligns with my moral intuitions, I consider it to be right. Then you tell me it’s an arbitrary preference, and I tell you it is an abiding and involuntary conviction. Then you ask me on what basis I think I can hold other people to my moral convictions, and I tell you my moral intuition compels me to intervene against immoral acts. Then you tell me that what is immoral for me isn’t immoral for somebody else because they may have different moral intuitions, and I say I know that and so what – I still believe my morality is correct and contradictory moral codes are faulty. Then you say how can I tell which moral codes are faulty and I tell you… (can you guess at this point? no? good grief) … I tell you they’re the ones that contradict my moral intuition. And we start all over again.

    Why do you use the language of objective morality (is faulty) when you really mean subjective intuitions (seems faulty to you).

    Actually, the term “faulty” does not come from moral theory. In any case, as I’ve made clear n+2 times now, I am arguing for moral subjectivism, where morality is deemed to be faulty when it contradicts one’s moral intuitions.

    Part of the problem is that you use the word “is,” which indicates objectivity, when it would be more appropriate to use the word “seems,” which indicates subjectivity.

    What? No, Stephen, the word “is” does not indicate objectivity. If I say “Mary is beautiful” that does not imply that beauty is objectively measurable, now, does it? It would be downright weird to say “Mary seems beautiful”, wouldn’t it?

    How about “That comedian seems funny!” or “This steak seems delicious!”? Hahahahahaha.

    You cannot blame me for you equivocations.

    Hahahaha that’s funny. As you can see, the language I’ve used by no means indicates objectivity, so I guess that was at the root of your inability to grasp what I’ve been saying. Hopefully we can move on now.

    In any case, you still have not addressed the argument on the table. Why should your subjective intuitions be preferred over those of the torturer/murderer when, by your own admission, you don’t know which subjective moral codes are faulty and which ones are not.

    Really? You need it again? All right, but this is the last time, OK?

    There is no objectively knowable standard by which can judge moral actions. Instead, we each have abiding, involuntary moral intuitions, and according to moral intuitionism, these serve as the basis for moral judgement. If P judges Q to have faulty moral intuitions, what that means is that Q’s moral intuitions contradicts those of P. There is no final arbiter of who is correct.

    You reject this philosophy because it offends your moral intuition that this could be the case. How, you wonder, can there be no objective way to decide who is right? That’s just terrible! That’s…that’s… not right! But who are you to say what is right?

    You think your subjective religious faith somehow trumps my subjective moral theory, but there’s nothing about your moral beliefs that is any more objectively true than anyone else’s. You don’t have any magic that makes your particular beliefs objectively true whilst people with different religious beliefs – or no religious beliefs – are just wrong. It is a perfect hypocrisy on the face of it, since you accuse me putting my moral intuitions before others.

    Indeed, you have not explained why any moral code at all could possibly be faulty. This is a serious gap in your philosophy.

    I already said I’ve explained that for the last time. Just re-read this very post for your answer.

    There are many different kinds of slavery, among which we could include debt bondage, indentured servitude, and chatel slavery. The Bible tolerates the first two, but not the third, which is the only one that is unqualifiedly immoral.

    Really, that’s your position? I would have guessed something else. Anyway, am I to think you condone selling one’s children into servitude, or enslaving the children of theives? Or beating one’s slaves? In that case, you and I have very different moral intuitions, because I think these acts are just hideous. Yes, you can argue that your moral intuitions are correct and mine are wrong, but I’m sure about what my moral intuitions say about the matter.

    Notice, though, that you have no standard to make these kind of evaluations since the only thing you have going for you are your subjective intuitions.

    My standard is my moral intuition. That’s all you have going for you too. If the Bible told you it was OK to torture a puppy, would you agree? If the Bible told you it was OK to rape and enslave your enemies, would you agree?

    You cannot even say that chatel slavery “is” wrong. You can only say that it “seems” wrong, but you don’t know why it is wrong.

    Re-read the part about where you got the implications of “is” all confused.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  117. 117
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 114

    What I meant was the supernatural in all its forms is absurd.

    How do you know that? Are you absolutely certain?

  118. 118
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    There is no objectively knowable standard by which can judge moral actions. Instead, we each have abiding, involuntary moral intuitions, and according to moral intuitionism, these serve as the basis for moral judgement. If P judges Q to have faulty moral intuitions, what that means is that Q’s moral intuitions contradicts those of P. There is no final arbiter of who is correct.

    So far, all you have said is that you prefer your morality over the morality of the torturer/murderer because you prefer it. However, he prefers his morality over yours because he prefers it. How should that conflict be resolved?

    What? No, Stephen, the word “is” does not indicate objectivity

    Yes, it does. ”Is” refers to objective being; “seems” refers to subjective perception. So, I repeat my question. Why do you use the term “is” faulty when you really mean “seems” faulty? Is it because you want to create the illusion of objective morality while arguing on behalf of subjective morality? Are you trying to mislead your audience?

    If I say “Mary is beautiful” that does not imply that beauty is objectively measurable, now, does it? It would be downright weird to say “Mary seems beautiful”, wouldn’t it?

    If you say Mary “is” beautiful, you are saying that she meets objective standards for beauty, such as bodily proportions. Everyone recognizes a beautiful woman as a beautiful woman. However, we are not discussing aesthetics. We are discussing a word “faulty,” which by definition, indicates the failure to meet an objective standard.

    Faulty

    working badly or unreliably because of imperfections.
    “a car with faulty brakes”
    synonyms: malfunctioning, broken, damaged, defective, not working, out of order; More
    informalon the blink, acting up, kaput, bust, busted, on the fritz
    “a faulty electric blanket”
    antonyms: working
    (of reasoning and other mental processes) mistaken or misleading because of flaws.
    “faulty logic”
    synonyms: defective, flawed, unsound, inaccurate, incorrect, erroneous, fallacious, wrong More
    “her logic is faulty”
    antonyms: sound
    having or displaying weaknesses.
    “her character was faulty”

    Again, I ask the question. Why do you use the term “is faulty” when you really mean “seems faulty.”

    SB: Indeed, you have not explained why any moral code at all could possibly be faulty. This is a serious gap in your philosophy.

    I already said I’ve explained that for the last time. Just re-read this very post for your answer.

    No, you explain how you think that others’ morality “seems faulty,” but you incorrectly use the words “is faulty” when you do the explaining. Why do you do that?

    Really, that’s your position? I would have guessed something else. Anyway, am I to think you condone selling one’s children into servitude, or enslaving the children of theives? Or beating one’s slaves? In that case, you and I have very different moral intuitions, because I think these acts are just hideous. Yes, you can argue that your moral intuitions are correct and mine are wrong, but I’m sure about what my moral intuitions say about the matter.

    Getting a little hysterical, aren’t you? No, I don’t condone the selling of children. There are many kinds of slavery, some of which are not morally unobjectionable. Chatel slavery is not one of them. Notice how you stray from the original point, which was the fact that objective morality doesn’t change. When all else fails, you move the goalposts.

    Then, of course, we have the problem that you claimed that the Bible “condones slavery” without defining your terms. Is this another example of your proclivity to misuse words in order to create a false impression?
    .

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The thread above aptly illustrates the force of this, from the Psalms, where the Psalmist speaks in the implicit name and voice of God (and so also, godly wisdom):

    Ps 32:8 I will instruct and teach you about how you should live.
    I will advise you as I look you in the eye.

    9 Do not be like an unintelligent horse or mule,
    which will not obey you
    unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit
    . [NET]

    That is, we have a forced, momentous worldview level choice:

    ALT A: Acknowledge that we are under the moral government of OUGHT (and so there must be a foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT), or else

    ALT B: Refuse to grant that there is such a ground of OUGHT, and reduce OUGHT to “might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth’ . . . ” — amorality in short.

    Where, of course, across centuries of contention, it has been quite clear that here is but one serious candidate to be an IS that bridges the is-ought gap by properly grounding OUGHT: the inherently good, creator God who is a necessary and maximally great being.

    The perceived “absurdity” of such a notion professed by G2 boils down to this: he and others of like ilk find this repugnant to their sense of and demand for autonomy, not any real self-refuting contradiction or community level disintegration and infeasibility parallel to what would happen if say lying were to become the norm for and utterly dominant pattern of communication. (Even among Cretans, MOST communications must be truthful, or there would be no community of Cretans. But, proverbially, if they think they can get away with it . . . )

    And in fact, it is quite evident that we are not hoses or mules that must be led about with bit and bridle, or carrot and stick. We, inescapably are morally governed creatures, as can be seen directly from the rhetorical twists and turns above as objectors to objectivity of OUGHT seek to . . . justify themselves.

    Oops.

    I think long time readers will remember how often it came up as an example of self evident moral truth, and ought that is TRUE on pain of absurdity, is: is is self-evidently true that (a) it is morally wrong and evil to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child, and (b) were we to come across such in progress, we are bound to try to do what we can to stop the Nero-like monster.

    As usual, there were duckings, dodges to the side, distractions twist-about attacks aplenty, but no answers that no that is not so that had any solid footing. Manifesting exactly the point that we are bound by OUGHT and it points to a world-foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

    We assert rights, and we demand to be treated fairly, implying that those we object to are immoral, hypocritical, unfair . . . even, accusing God much less those who despite inevitable failings, try to serve him.

    Only to end up at the very same point.

    For, a right that is genuinely so — and not merely a demand backed up by might and manipulation, that is genuinely binding, is nothing but a moral claim to other morally governed creatures to be respected, rooted in our inherent dignity as morally governed creatures. As the US DOI of 1776 so plainly said:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15 . . . the deep root of these claims], 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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .

    We can duck, dodge, twist about, accuse, etc etc all we want, we cannot get away from this choice, and the consequences that stem from our decision.

    KF

  120. 120
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Long-time onlookers will know that for years — with but few exceptions {KN, for example] — evolutionary materialism advocates in and around UD have consistently side-stepped or ignored the following, from Plato’s The Laws, c 360 BC. Which lays out the worldview roots and consequences quite plainly . . . before going on to a shocking, first on the record cosmological design inference to a good soul as the author of cosmic reality. Part 1, where we see Plato in the voices of the Athenian Stranger and Clenias:

    ______________

    >> Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another [–> Pagan gods of course are not to be equated to the God of theism] . Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. [ –> Notice Plato’s own carefully stated skepticisms and moral concerns regarding classical paganism.] Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . .

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [ –> i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [–> Evolutionary materialism is ancient, it used to dress as a philosopher or a poet or a teacher, now, it likes to wear the lab coat] . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke’s views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic “every man does what is right in his own eyes” chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . >>

    _________________

    So, in every direction we go, we see Plato and Socrates [with Aristotle, Aquinas and others close behind] on their way back. KF

  121. 121
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 3: Let us continue as Plato speaks through his characters in dialogue:

    _______________

    >> Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.

    Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens.

    Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular.

    Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.

    Ath. Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

    Cle. Still I do not understand you.

    Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

    Cle. Certainly.

    Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.

    Cle. But why is the word “nature” wrong?

    Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [ –> Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.] >>

    ________________

    So, the issues at stake at worldview level, and their consequences, have long been on the table. KF

  122. 122
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: The issue of the self-moved first cause surfaces the question of mind and the point that things that are moved and move others with no initiative are secondary and not root points out what so many so violently objected to in the past few weeks: computation is not contemplation. Neither ball and disk integrators nor digital processors not neural networks based on accumulated inputs triggering outputs when a threshold is passed, can adequately account for the self-moved. But, a view that rejects that, is then locked up in explaining away morality as well as rationality and freedom of responsible choice. Which is what we see so clearly laid out above.

  123. 123
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: There is no final arbiter of who is correct.
    SB: So far, all you have said is that you prefer your morality over the morality of the torturer/murderer because you prefer it. However, he prefers his morality over yours because he prefers it. How should that conflict be resolved?

    You insist on calling moral intuition a “preference” even though I’ve explained repeatedly that it is an abiding, involuntary conviction. I have also just explained for the nth+3 time that there is no ultimate arbiter of morality. Why can’t you learn?

    Anyway, how would YOU resolve the conflict? Convince the torturer he’s wrong?

    Yes, it does. ”Is” refers to objective being; “seems” refers to subjective perception. So, I repeat my question. Why do you use the term “is” faulty when you really mean “seems” faulty? Is it because you want to create the illusion of objective morality while arguing on behalf of subjective morality? Are you trying to mislead your audience?

    Actually, you’ve just informed the audience that your argument has reached new lows of incoherence. The term “is”, as everyone can see, in no way indicates objective qualities. Food is delicious (you may subjectively disagree). A roller coaster is fun (you may subjectively disagree). It is hilarious that you don’t understand this.

    If you say Mary “is” beautiful, you are saying that she meets objective standards for beauty, such as bodily proportions. Everyone recognizes a beautiful woman as a beautiful woman.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahahahah. That is among the dumbest and most hysterically funny things you’ve said here, which is saying a great deal. Everyone agrees on who is a beautiful woman? So that is objective? But the fact that everyone agrees torturing puppies is wrong doesn’t make that objective? Hahahahahaha.

    So all these qualities like “delicious” and “funny” and “pretty” – these are objective qualities that can be objectively determined? Do you have a “funny” meter? Really? Everyone agrees on what is funny? I can hardly wait to see how you try to squirm out of this one!

    Again, I ask the question. Why do you use the term “is faulty” when you really mean “seems faulty.”

    Again, I instruct you that the word “is” does not convey “objective”. For you to deny this really does make you seem incredibly obtuse!!!

    Getting a little hysterical, aren’t you?

    Sorry, but you’re just too funny today, and I can’t stop laughing at you.

    No, I don’t condone the selling of children.

    Good to hear that! The Bible does, however, (e.g. Exodus 21:7-11) so what do you have to say about that? Is it perhaps your subjective moral intuition that tells you the Bible is wrong in this case?

    You are doing very badly here, Stephen. Time to regroup.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  124. 124
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB:

    Isn’t there a difference between subjectively perceiving something as real and objectively knowing that it is real? When I recognize a tree as a tree, am I not making making contact with the objective reality of a tree? Isn’t it more than just perceiving it to be a tree?

    That’s an interesting question. I can see a difference between dreaming that I’m seeing a tree and actually seeing a tree when I’m awake. In the latter case, with the proviso that my cognition is not impaired, I see no reason to doubt that what I’m seeing is real, so I’m guessing that you have a more significant basis for posing your question.

    If it’s a difference that you construe between “perceiving” and “recognizing,” would you explain that difference?

  125. 125
    Mark Frank says:

    #123 RDFish

    Stephenb has opened up a whole new chat-up line.

    “how beautiful you seem today my dear – let me check your body proportions to make sure I am right”

  126. 126
    RDFish says:

    Mark, that seems very funny, but I need to check it against the divine objective comedy criteria before I decide to laugh.

  127. 127
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @StephenB:

    If you say Mary “is” beautiful, you are saying that she meets objective standards for beauty.

    Yes, your personal objective standards.

  128. 128
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Anyway, how would YOU resolve the conflict? Convince the torturer he’s wrong?

    It isn’t a question of “convincing” the torturer/murderer. It is a question of establishing social conventions and civil laws based on objective moral principles so that everyone is held accountable to them, both RDFish, the torturer murderer, and even those who are powerful. When person A’s subjective morality comes into conflict with person B’s subjective morality, the only solution to the conflict is the objective moral law. It’s much more reliable than an instance of RDFish’s subjective intuitions being offended, which is irrelevant to all social problems.

    SB:”Is” refers to objective being; “seems” refers to subjective perception. So, I repeat my question. Why do you use the term “is” faulty when you really mean “seems” faulty? Is it because you want to create the illusion of objective morality while arguing on behalf of subjective morality? Are you trying to mislead your audience?

    Actually, you’ve just informed the audience that your argument has reached new lows of incoherence. The term “is”, as everyone can see, in no way indicates objective qualities.

    Actually, I just presented a formal definition for the word “faulty,” indicating that it points to an objective standard. As usual, you ignored the refutation. Now that you have been informed that the word “is” meets that standard and the word “seems” does not, I will assume that you are purposely misusing the language in order to mislead your audience.

    SB: Everyone agrees that a beautiful woman is beautiful

    But the fact that everyone agrees torturing puppies is wrong doesn’t make that objective?

    Of course it doesn’t. You are confused as usual. The reason that everyone agrees that she is beautiful is because her beauty is an objective fact. The agreement follows the fact, not the other way around.

    So all these qualities like “delicious” and “funny” and “pretty” – these are objective qualities that can be objectively determined? Do you have a “funny” meter? Really? Everyone agrees on what is funny? I can hardly wait to see how you try to squirm out of this one!

    LOL: I am not the one who squirmed out of the clear meaning of the word “faulty” and began introducing irrelevant topics like beauty, which by the way is not even close to being analogous to funny and delicious. Each time you are refuted, you go looking for distractions. At least try to be creative if you are going to run away from an argument. Would you now like to discuss your perverse use of the world “faulty,” which is the topic under discussion? Or, are you going to continue to evade and obfuscate?

    Again, I instruct you that the word “is” does not convey “objective”. For you to deny this really does make you seem incredibly obtuse!!!

    Obviously, you are not in a position to instruct anyone since you don’t know the difference in meaning between “seems” and “is.” Well, no, you do know by now, you just don’t have enough intellectual integrity to say what needs to be said. What you should have said was this: When I said that the torturer/murderer’s morality ‘is’ faulty, I didn’t really mean that it IS faulty since I have no objective standard for determining what IS moral and what is not. What I should have said is that his morality “seems” faulty to me because it conflicts with my personal morality.” That is what an honest person would say.

    Sorry, but you’re just too funny today, and I can’t stop laughing at you.

    Actually, your pattern is always the same. When I refute you, you panic and begin typing out ha ha ha ha! When you really get desperate, you claim victory, hoping someone will believe you. It’s pathetic.

    Good to hear that! The Bible does, however, (e.g. Exodus 21:7-11) so what do you have to say about that? Is it perhaps your subjective moral intuition that tells you the Bible is wrong in this case?

    Again, we have the problem that you don’t pay attention. Exodus 21 does not, in any way, condone chatel slavery. There is nothing wrong with indentured servitude if it is humane, that is, if it doesn’t violate the inherent dignity of the human person. Of course, you don’t believe that humans have inherent dignity, so your misguided protests make no sense. More serious, though, is the fact that, once again, you go searching for distractions. The subject matter on the table is that objective morality is unchanging. That is why it can serve as a fair arbitrator for conflicts in subjective moralities. By they way, I should also point out that you evaded that question as well. How should conflicts among subjective moralities be settled? I trust that you will not use the words “delicious” or “ha ha ha” in your answer.

    You are doing very badly here, Stephen.

    LOL Didn’t I tell you that you would use your perennial trick of claiming victory after having been refuted at every turn? I knew it was going to happen even before it happened. You are so boringly predictable.

  129. 129
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB:

    The subject matter on the table is that objective morality is unchanging.

    How long has that been going on? There seem to be some discrepancies between the Code of Hammurabi, Mosaic Law, the New Testament dispensation, Sharia, etc.

  130. 130
    kairosfocus says:

    DK:

    There is in fact a well known core of agreement regarding basic moral principles that is quite trans-cultural. Cf. the appendix to Lewis’ Mere Christianity for abundant illustrative cases.

    You may wish to start with something fairly simple: kindly, tell us whether the following case, as reported by Wikipedia regarding an incident with an eight-year old girl in Toulouse France (and quite similar to the Columbine case), shows that there is a mere chaos of moral opinions, or whether it illustrates someone gone badly wrong:

    [Mohammed Merah] chased an 8-year-old girl [Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the principal of a Jewish day
    school in Toulouse, France Merah attacked in IIRC, 2012 . . . ] into the courtyard, caught her by her hair and raised a gun to shoot her. The gun jammed at this point and he changed weapons from what the police identified as a 9mm pistol to a .45 calibre gun, and shot the girl in her temple at point-blank range. The gunman then retrieved his moped and drove off.

    If you disagree that this act is self-evidently wrong, and/or that had we been present it would have been our self-evident duty to protect this child from her tormentor, kindly explain to us why.

    KF

    PS: Onlookers, the tactic of trying to cast various moral opinions against one another as if that demonstrates that all that there is is the relativity of views, backed up by might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth’ is a manifestation of the problem I highlighted in comments 119 – 122 above [studiously ignored by evo mat advocates . . . ], noting in 121 – 122 particularly how Plato exposed the essential amorality and invitation to nihilism of evolutionary materialism 2350 years ago in The Laws, Bk X.

  131. 131
    kairosfocus says:

    Pardon, the Plato clip from The Laws, Bk X is in 120 – 121.

  132. 132
    StephenB says:

    SB: The subject matter on the table is that objective morality is unchanging.

    DK

    How long has that been going on? There seem to be some discrepancies between the Code of Hammurabi, Mosaic Law, the New Testament dispensation, Sharia, etc.

    Insofar as not everything in some of these books faithfully reflects the objective moral law, one would expect discrepancies.

    With respect to Sharia law, Islam does not accept the natural moral law or the inherent dignity of the human person, and it claims that God can change his mind about what is right and wrong. The objective natural moral law is not like that at all. It is consistent with reason.

    The point is that the objective moral law does not change over time. If it did, then either the earlier version or the latter version would be false and there would be no way of knowing which one was true. Error changes; truth doesn’t. It isn’t reasonable to ask someone to accept and follow a changing moral code.

  133. 133
    Daniel King says:

    Insofar as not everything in some of these books faithfully reflects the objective moral law, one would expect discrepancies.

    Then what book or other authority faithfully renders The Objective Moral Law?

  134. 134
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Ah, bravo! You are doubling down on what must be the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever seen presented on this forum, and this forum isn’t exactly devoid of ridiculous arguments in the first place.

    Ok, everybody – forget everything you’ve heard about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. StephenB has decreed all that is wrong! According to Stephen’s new take on beauty, it is a perfectly objective quality, and everyone always agrees about who is beautiful and who isn’t!

    In fact, according to Stephen, whenever you use the word “is”, you are specifying an objective quality. You might think that if you say you think some particular joke is funny, you would be expressing your subjective opinion on the matter. Not so, according to StephenB here! No, you are in fact making a declaration of objective fact, and that you expect every person on Earth to agree that this joke is in fact funny! If you find that a dish is delicious, then you are stating that everyone will find this dish delicious – and objectively so!

    Again, let’s see what Stephen thinks about the word is:

    ”Is” refers to objective being; “seems” refers to subjective perception.

    So you have to use the word “seems” to indicate that you are merely expressing a subjective opinion. So next time, tell your hostess “Thank you for dinner – this food seems delicious!”. And I must repeat Mark Frank’s hilarious example:

    MF: Stephenb has opened up a whole new chat-up line.
    “how beautiful you seem today my dear – let me check your body proportions to make sure I am right”

    Hahahahahaha!

    Come on, StephenB – even you can see this is a perfectly ridiculous corner you’ve backed yourself into. Do you expect anyone – even the most diehard ID defenders – to agree with you that the word “is” indicates that you are stating a necessarily objective proposition? It really is going to be more embarrassing for you to stick to this laughable position than to simply admit you took a wrong turn here.

    And then we come to Stephen’s belief that his noble stand against selling children is echoed by his favored source of objective morality, the Bible.

    The Bible: If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do.

    That sounds to me, objectively speaking, as though it means that men can sell their daughters as servants, and she is not to go free as male servants do.

    Now, maybe it’s just me, but no matter what sort of servitude we’re talking about, this offends my moral intuitions in a very serious way. I couldn’t care less if it is “chatel slavery” or any other type of servitude – parents don’t get to sell their kids for money, ever.

    So Stephen, you can either defend this loathsome practice, in which case you deny the objective truth of unchanging Biblical morality, or you can condone this practice, in which case you show yourself to be a horrible person. Which do you choose? And I know you know there are plenty more Biblical quotes about rape and murder and other things that good people nowadays find morally repugnant.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  135. 135
    Daniel King says:

    With respect to Sharia law, Islam does not accept the natural moral law or the inherent dignity of the human person, and it claims that God can change his mind about what is right and wrong.

    That’s very interesting. Do you have some references to support your claims?

    Parenthetically, don’t you agree that God changes his mind about what is right or wrong when the Old and New Testaments are compared?

  136. 136
    Daniel King says:

    If you disagree that this act is self-evidently wrong, and/or that had we been present it would have been our self-evident duty to protect this child from her tormentor, kindly explain to us why.

    Since what is “self-evident” to one person is not necessarily self-evident to another person, I find that arguments to “self-evidence” are unwarranted.

    Of course, you and I agree on the moral judgment of this event and our moral duty to have intervened. But that’s because we share a congruent culture, and we have acquired our moral judgments from our life experiences, especially during childhood.l

  137. 137
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: Am I certain about the supernatural ? To exactly the same extent that you don’t believe in fairies.

  138. 138
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 114
    What I meant was the supernatural in all its forms is absurd.

    How do you know that? Are you absolutely certain?

    Graham2 @ 137

    Dionisio: Am I certain about the supernatural ? To exactly the same extent that you don’t believe in fairies.

    Is that your best answer to the given questions?

    What do you understand by ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’?

    BTW, I appreciate you have not run away from our polite discussion, unlike Mark Frank and RDFish, who apparently ignored my simple questions in this thread completely.
    However, so far you have not been able to produce a coherent answer to my simple questions. But that could happen to anyone. Just try to understand the questions before answering them more clearly. Thanks.

  139. 139
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: Yes, I agree its frustrating when the other avoids awkward questions.

    Regarding the meanings of ‘natural’ etc, this has wasted so much time here. I regard ‘supernatural’ as that which we cant detect, like gods, spirits, angels etc. The ‘natural’ is of course everything else.

  140. 140
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Ok, everybody – forget everything you’ve heard about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. StephenB has decreed all that is wrong! According to Stephen’s new take on beauty, it is a perfectly objective quality, and everyone always agrees about who is beautiful and who isn’t!

    Beauty is a function of symmetry and proportion. Ask any informed person. The perception of beauty is in the beholder, but the beauty itself is in the thing beheld. That is why all leading men and women in the movies are beautiful. The beholder simply recognizes that fact. His perception does not make them beautiful.

    In fact, according to Stephen, whenever you use the word “is”, you are specifying an objective quality.

    In the context of morality, yes, that is always the case. It is also true in most other (though not all) contexts. In the context of subjective vs. objective, or in the context of perception vs. reality, “seems” always refers to the former; “is” always refers to the latter. Clearly, that is the case with respect to the phrase “is faulty.”

    You might think that if you say you think some particular joke is funny, you would be expressing your subjective opinion on the matter.

    If a joke makes people laugh or smile, then it is funny. The proper use of the word “seems” would apply to your misguided attempt to write “ha ha ha ha” after you have been refuted. It “seems” funny to you, but it isn’t really funny at all. Do you understand the difference?

    If you find that a dish is delicious, then you are stating that everyone will find this dish delicious – and objectively so!

    This is a different context. Delicious or tasty is, by definition, subjective, unlike beauty or fault, both of which are objective. A meal is not objectively tasty. Thus, the context has clearly changed.

    On the other hand, you claim that any morality that conflicts with your morality IS faulty, when it only SEEMS faulty to you. Do you understand your error?

    Now, maybe it’s just me, but no matter what sort of servitude we’re talking about, this offends my moral intuitions in a very serious way.

    The Bible does not “condone” (your word) slavery. It takes note of its existence and regulates it so that it will not become chatel slavery. Meanwhile, because it does not approve of slavery in any form, it sets the stage for its demise. The Bible has never taught that slavery is acceptable.

    It may SEEM that way to you, but that is not the way it IS. Do you understand the difference in usage here? If so, you can start applying it to your claims about morality. You claim that any morality that conflicts with your morality IS faulty, when it only SEEMS faulty to you.

  141. 141
    StephenB says:

    SB: With respect to Sharia law, Islam does not accept the natural moral law or the inherent dignity of the human person, and it claims that God can change his mind about what is right and wrong.

    That’s very interesting. Do you have some references to support your claims?

    Qur’an 2:106, 16:101:

    “When We substitute one revelation for another, “

    ” and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages), “

    In one section, for example, the Qur’an says that wine has “some profit” for mankind, but in another, it teaches that wine is an abomination.

    Parenthetically, don’t you agree that God changes his mind about what is right or wrong when the Old and New Testaments are compared?

    In what way?

  142. 142
    StephenB says:

    141 is for Daniel King.

  143. 143
    Dionisio says:

    Graham2 @ 12

    Barry, as I asked in the last thread, could you give us your version ? What do you think enables us to act morally ?

    What do YOU mean by ‘morally’?

    Graham2 @ 105

    What do I mean by ‘moral’. The usual meaning, I think. If something is ‘wrong’, we say it is ‘morally’ wrong, or ‘unethical’ etc etc. They all mean the same thing. Adding the word ‘moral’ doesn’t really add anything.

    What do you mean by “if something is ‘wrong’”?
    How can you tell right from wrong?
    Is your measuring standard personal, subjective, relative?
    If you deem something is wrong, does it necessarily mean that everybody else must consider it to be wrong too?
    In the absence of absolute standards, can something you consider to be wrong be considered to be right by others?

    Graham2 @ 109

    I think the concept of objective morality is simply absurd.

    Why do you think so?

    Graham2 @ 114
    What I meant was the supernatural in all its forms is absurd.

    How do you know that? Are you absolutely certain?

    Graham2 @ 137

    Am I certain about the supernatural ? To exactly the same extent that you don’t believe in fairies.

    Is that your best answer to the given questions?

    What do you understand by ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’?

    BTW, I appreciate you have not run away from our polite discussion, unlike Mark Frank and RDFish, who apparently ignored my simple questions in this thread completely.
    However, so far you have not been able to produce a coherent answer to my simple questions. But that could happen to anyone. Just try to understand the questions before answering them more clearly. Thanks.

    Graham2 @ 139

    Yes, I agree its frustrating when the other avoids awkward questions.

    Regarding the meanings of ‘natural’ etc, this has wasted so much time here. I regard ‘supernatural’ as that which we cant detect, like gods, spirits, angels etc. The ‘natural’ is of course everything else.

    Your incoherent answers seem to reveal your motives for arguing. It’s obvious you’re not interested in a serious discussion. I don’t want to squander my limited time.

    Bye.

  144. 144
    Graham2 says:

    Dionisio: Oh dear. Incoherent ? How so ?

  145. 145
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    You [StephenB] insist on calling moral intuition a “preference” even though I’ve explained repeatedly that it is an abiding, involuntary conviction.

    Mung:

    Why not just claim to be compelled by moral compulsion?

    How does this “abiding, involuntary conviction” compel you to act, or not act?

  146. 146
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @StephenB:

    Beauty is a function of symmetry and proportion. Ask any informed person. The perception of beauty is in the beholder, but the beauty itself is in the thing beheld. That is why all leading men and women in the movies are beautiful. The beholder simply recognizes that fact. His perception does not make them beautiful.

    The beauty-analogy might be a solution to define objective moral laws into existence:
    – Moral is what most people seem to percept as moral.
    – Amoral is what most people seem to percept as amoral.

  147. 147
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Ok, this particular exchange with you has revealed even more clearly than before that you will say simply anything – no matter how outlandish – to defend your beliefs and avoid admitting your errors.

    You are the only person I have ever known to claim that beauty is an objective attribute. Everyone else knows that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means it is subjective. (Yes, that really is what that aphorism means – just type that phrase into Google and click the first link).

    Honestly, every schoolkid knows what that means, yet you refuse to admit that beauty is subjective.

    Then you start making up crazy rules to support your position, such as “‘is’ refers to objective being”… except when it doesn’t. What rulebook are you using for these ridiculous assertions? The StephenB make-it-up-as-you-go rulebook, obviously. And then you declare that “delicious” is subjective by definition, but “funny” is objective. You are just pulling this nonsense out of thin air.

    While your blunders regarding objectivity are definitely good for a laugh, your bizarre stand on Biblical morality is a bit less amusing.

    The Bible does not “condone” (your word) slavery. It takes note of its existence and regulates it so that it will not become chatel slavery.

    This is just scary. In your view, the Bible is the sole infallible guide to objectively correct morality for all of humanity. And yet it fails to condemn the selling of one’s children, the rape of one’s enemies’ wives, and all sorts of other acts that are incredibly morally offensive. You can’t even bring yourself to deal with the issue – trying to dodge it by drawing distinctions between different sorts of slavery!

    Just face the facts, Stephen: Either you condemn the selling of one’s children for money (or raping ones’ enemies, etc) or you don’t. If you condemn these acts, you must admit that the Bible is not an objective guide to morality, and that you need to rely on your moral intuition instead. If you do not condemn these acts, you reveal yourself to be a morally reprehensible person. Which is it, Stephen?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  148. 148
    kairosfocus says:

    DK, 136:

    Thank you for laying out your view:

    what is “self-evident” to one person is not necessarily self-evident to another person, I find that arguments to “self-evidence” are unwarranted.

    I hear your complaint.

    However, I must plead: let us refresh our memories.

    For, as Aquinas pointed out things are self-evident in two distinct senses. First, in themselves as one who understands will see that X is not only so, but must be so on pain of patent absurdity — the objective sense. In the second sense, someone who does not understand may well fail to perceive with insight.

    Where this becomes interesting is that there are two different failures of understanding. Primary, as someone may be ignorant. Secondary, as one may be committed to a distorted scheme of thought that blocks seeing straight. And so, such a person will cling to absurdity.

    In this case, we can observe DK . . . with all due respect but making fair comment, that you are willing to go along with the moral sense that something is wrong, but are unwilling to concede its compelling force. Further, you demand to dismiss even self evident truth if it does not fit in with your preferred schemes of thought. In short, you want in the end something that leads straight to moral anarchy resolved through might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’

    By way of contrast to your view, I think Hooker as cited by Locke in his 2nd treatise on Civil Gov’t, Ch 2, has somewhat to say to us:

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

    Merah’s moral failure . . . and he had several obvious opportunities to think had he not been blinded by hate, out of control anger and power . . . was that he refused to accept that the shy little girl he chased down, grabbed by the hair and tried to shoot was fundamentally the same as him as a human person made in the same image of God. So, he found his second gun and murdered an obviously innocent little child who had no power to fight him off and no eloquence to persuade him to stop in his bloody course. It seems, all he could see — in a horrific echo of (forgive me for giving painfully unwelcome but material context) the Gharqad Tree Hadith that is cited in Clause 7 of the Hamas covenant — was that the young miss in front of him was committing what to him was the capital crime of breathing while being Jewish.

    That is the same fundamentally horrific story that in the past century has led one dictator after another to cloak themselves in the lab coats of science and commit mass murder.

    And, DK, it is that same failure that, with all due respect, lies beneath your dismissal of the self evident. Well does Paul, writing to Philemon, say to our civilisation and world, in words that became the motto of the antislavery societies:

    2 to Apphia our sister . . . . 15 For perhaps it was for this reason that [Onesimus] was separated from you [Philemon] for a little while, so that you would have him back eternally, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord. 17 Therefore if you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 Now if he has defrauded you of anything or owes you anything, charge what he owes to me.

    These words were penned by a man chained to a Roman soldier, knowing that flight from slavery, harbouring of fugitive slaves and slave uprisings faced the ruthless, often merciless might of Imperial Rome. Mere miles from where he was writing, Rome had nailed up thousands of slaves who had risen up with Spartacus, literally lining a road with their crosses.

    So, he pointed to that which was true, and was necessarily true on pain of absurdity: Apphia our sister, Onesimus our brother. As in, “Am I not a man and a brother . . . Am I not a woman and a sister”

    Yes, DK, we may not understand the self evident to be self-evident. But, we must then ask ourselves, are we failing the test, pons asinorum? And if so, why?

    KF

  149. 149
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF: Pardon, I think you are projecting there. SB has quite plainly and repeatedly argued to the foundational role of the self evident principles of natural law based morality. Elsewhere, he has argued to the primacy of plumbline rules of right reason that are also self-evident. Above, he points to the permanent character of truth, but the temporary one of error. There is also such a thing as that humans are morally governed creatures, not brute animals that must be controlled by bridle and bit. Thus, there is the issue of reform based on first amelioration and regulation; instructions and limits that restrain, counsel and soften the hearts of members of a community, leading onward to gradual abolition of increasingly evident damaging evils that have become rooted in a culture, through the impact of legitimacy — as opposed to its counterfeit, manipulation driven by agitprop resting on distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies such as are all too common in our day. The alternative to reform rooted in genuine legitimacy is imposition by raw force, by unaccountable elites or by revolutionary dictators or committees of public safety, so-called. The history of such exercises in might and manipulation make ‘right’ should tell us something. Even do-gooder over-reaches such as Prohibition have something to tell us on the unintended consequences of premature, forced reform attempts. I suggest you need to think again. KF

  150. 150
    Graham2 says:

    KF #149: Are you winding us up ? I can never tell.

  151. 151
    Mung says:

    RDFish is an intellectual fraud. A pretender.

  152. 152
    kairosfocus says:

    G2: You full well know the history of the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions etc. and their consequences; unless you are deaf to the moans of over 100 million ghosts from the century just past. I am pointing to the difference between reformation and revolution and how it reflects the difference between reasonable and progressive moral suasion and legitimacy on one hand and might and manipulation make ‘right’ on the other. Or, do you want me to be a lot more relevant and point to the ongoing American holocaust of 50+ million unborn children slaughtered in the womb in the name of “choice”? And hundreds of millions elsewhere similarly slaughtered? As in cumulatively, the biggest holocaust of all — the one that is currently ongoing and which is utterly unacknowledged as what it is? My point is that in reply to even that ongoing horror, the proper path is reform based on heart-softening moral suasion rooted in truth. Plainly, the IS-OUGHT gap and the inherent amorality of evolutionary materialism and its travelling companions is a case of ideas have consequences, consequences warned against on the record since Plato in The Laws Bk X, 2350 years ago. KF

  153. 153
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Ok, this particular exchange with you has revealed even more clearly than before that you will say simply anything – no matter how outlandish – to defend your beliefs and avoid admitting your errors.

    You are the only person I have ever known to claim that beauty is an objective attribute. Everyone else knows that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means it is subjective.

    Honestly, every schoolkid knows what that means, yet you refuse to admit that beauty is subjective.

    I am the only person you have ever known to say this? You have never heard of Plato, Aristotle, or Euclid? You have never heard of the “Canon of Polykleitos.” You have never heard of the Roman architect Vitruvius? You have never heard of Aquinas? You have never heard of the Beautific Vision. You have never heard of the Italian Renaissance? Wow, you don’t read much, do you?

    Here is just a taste of what you have missed. Aristotle says in the Poetics that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (Aristotle, volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]). And in the Metaphysics: “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (Aristotle, volume 2 1705 [1078a36]).

    Or try this:

    “Order is the balanced adjustment of the details of the work separately, and as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a view to a symmetrical result.

    Proportion implies a graceful semblance: the suitable display of details in their context. This is attained when the details of the work are of a height suitable to their breadth, of a breadth suitable to their length; in a word, when everything has a symmetrical correspondence.

    Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the details of the work itself: the correspondence of each given detail to the form of the design as a whole. As in the human body, from cubit, foot, palm, inch and other small parts come the symmetric quality of eurhythmy. (Vitruvius, 26–27)”

    Or try this:

    “There are three requirements for beauty. Firstly, integrity or perfection—for if something is impaired it is ugly. Then there is due proportion or consonance. And also clarity: whence things that are brightly coloured are called beautiful” (Summa Theologica I, 39, 8).

    Please don’t get the impression that my references end here. I could fill up the remainder of this thread with that which you have never heard of. If what you believe is what “every school kid knows,” that would explain the decline in modern education.

    However, this beauty thing was your idea. You brought it up to avoid the fact that “faulty morality,” which you attribute to anything that conflicts with your personal morality, must, by definition, be objective. Since you couldn’t tolerate the refutation, and you were soundly refuted, you sought refuge in this useless discussion about “beauty.”

    My refutation is still in force. You are misusing the language when you say that any subjective moral intuition that conflicts with your subjective intuition IS faulty, when you mean that it only SEEMS faulty to you. In this way, you seek to have it both ways, creating the impression of objectivity while arguing on behalf of subjectivity. Your attempts to distract with side stories about beauty and taste have failed miserably.

    Then you start making up crazy rules to support your position, such as “‘is’ refers to objective being”… except when it doesn’t. What rulebook are you using for these ridiculous assertions?

    Oh, its that crazy rule book which has always been your infernal enemy. The one that continually calls attention to your equivocations and deceptions. Its that insane reference that continually makes “ridiculous assertions. It’s called….. a dictionary.

    Is

    third person for “to be”

    “To exist.”

    “To have being”

    “To have existence”

    Seems

    “give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality.”

    synonyms: “appear (to be), have the appearance/air of being, give the impression of being, look, look as though one is, show signs of being, look to be;

    “used to make a statement or description of one’s thoughts, feelings, or actions less assertive or forceful.”

    ———————————————————–

    Yes, RD, I know you hate the fact that words mean things, but they do. If only you would use them to express and clarify rather than deceive and obfuscate, our discussions would be much more fruitful.

  154. 154
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF: Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but how? (Hint, what does 1.618 have to do with it? Even, when we try to get away from it? And of course, more broadly . . . ) KF

    PS: Look for symmetry, proportions, order, and highlighted assymetry that gives a pleasing surprise.

  155. 155
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    This is just scary. In your view, the Bible is the sole infallible guide to objectively correct morality for all of humanity.

    This is just another one of your side stories to avoid the topic under discussion. Just as you sought to hide behind irrelevant issues like beauty and taste to avoid a discussion about faulty morality, you seek to hide behind the bible to avoid the topic under discussion, which is the unchanging nature of objective morality. For some reason, you feel the need to change the subject when a refutation is in the works.

    Just face the facts, Stephen: Either you condemn the selling of one’s children for money (or raping ones’ enemies, etc) or you don’t.

    Good grief, what a demagogue you are. Yes, I condemn rape and exploitation of any kind. Unlike yourself, I recognize these acts to be objective moral evils. Do you condemn abortion? Do your tender and subjective (and convenient) moral sensibilities extend to helpless unborn children in the womb? Or are your subjective intuitions duly aligned with the politically-correct hypocrites that rule our culture?

    If you condemn these acts, you must admit that the Bible is not an objective guide to morality, and that you need to rely on your moral intuition instead.

    The bible does not condone slavery of any kind, your amateurish attempts at biblical exegesis notwithstanding.

  156. 156
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB:

    …Islam does not accept the natural moral law or the inherent dignity of the human person, and it claims that God can change his mind about what is right and wrong.

    Thanks for the quote from the Qur’an about God being able to change his mind about right and wrong. Do you have references for the other two claims above?

    Insofar as not everything in some of these books faithfully reflects the objective moral law, one would expect discrepancies.

    Would you mind addressing how one chooses – objectively – which book is 100% faithful to the objective moral law?

  157. 157
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Daniel King:

    Thanks for the quote from the Qur’an about God being able to change his mind about right and wrong.

    Regarding StephenB’s wine-example: http://www.islamic-awareness.o.....qi028.html.

  158. 158
    kairosfocus says:

    DK:

    Pardon, but at this level, it is about worldviews, not books blindly taken as blanket authorities; we seek plumb-line principles of moral reasoning.

    In particular, answering to how does one ground that universal sense of ought that leads even you to try to justify yourself in your attempts to set up and knock over a “fundamentalist” strawman.

    We live in a world where OUGHT is credibly real and binding, starting with the right to life, and to many other things generally connected to fairness. As in, we universally quarrel: You unfair me!

    And just as universally, when we really care, we acknowledge that yes, we do have duties to be fair.

    What grounds such . . . what IS can properly bear the weight of OUGHT?

    The first bit of the answer comes back, it has to be worldview-foundational, for after that we will always run into but how is it grounded, and into the IS-OUGHT gap.

    The only truly serious worldview level coherent, plumb-line answer (after thousands of years of debate) is this . . . OUGHT can only be grounded in an inherently good Creator God, the necessary and maximally great being at the root of reality.

    So, in the end OUGHT leads you to the Good and Great God, or else rejection of OUGHT on whatever excuse decisively undermines OUGHT in lives and communities. Much, as “that Bible-thumping Fundy” — NOT! — Plato pointed out in The Laws Bk X, 2350 years ago. (The very passage cited again above and just as studiously ignored as ever. But it gives the lie to your strawman tactic “fundy.” Sometimes, when you have to ignore an elephant in the middle of the room for years, it speaks louder than words can.)

    Where, too, patently: if you have a RIGHT to your life, liberty, innocent reputation, etc, it is because others have a duty . . . OUGHT . . . to respect you, your life, liberty etc because of your intrinsic value as a human being — AKA, love and thus respect neighbour as self. And by manifest reciprocity among creatures who are as we are, this imposes a network of mutual obligations.

    So also, as Locke, citing Hooker (in turn making reference to Aristotle) so aptly summed up in his 2nd treatise on civil Govt, Ch 2:

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

    Of such, no reasonably well educated or experienced person can credibly plead ignorance.

    From maybe the intelligent twelve year old on up.

    KF

  159. 159
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: There is a keystone principle in Islamic reasoning, abrogation. KF

  160. 160
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: some have tried to get away from foundations, suggesting for instance a web like a spiderweb, or a raft under perpetual reconstruction. In all such cases it fails — a web rests on foundational anchor-lines, and a raft both must have structural integrity and depends on the support of the sea. Even a spaceship rests on structural and functional integrity anchored on principles of design tied to the grounding laws of the world. Any chain of warrant . . . why accept A? B; why B? C. Etc . . . will end in infinite regress or question-begging circularity or else a finitely remote set of first plausibles. Neither of the first two can stand. It is on comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, that we may choose a credible foundation without begging questions. KF

  161. 161
    Daniel King says:

    JWTruthInLove,

    Thank you for the link. As usual, when it comes to holy books and theological disputes, there is more than one side to a story.

  162. 162
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I am the only person you have ever known to say this? You have never heard of Plato, Aristotle, or Euclid?

    Your mistake here is that you’ve got the whole thing backwards. These people worked (and by the way, the study of aesthetics didn’t stop with them – it is still being studied of course) to understand our innate subjective aesthetic intuitions – they don’t begin with some objective standard of beauty and tell people they must agree.

    Who, pray tell, is authorized to set the objective standard for what is beautiful and what is not? The fact that we all find Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson beautiful (well, at least I do!) does not make that an objective fact, right? Do I get to decide who is beautiful? Do you? Does Euclid? Does the Bible enumerate the proportions of the female body that I find attractive? Should I find redheads more objectively beautiful than blondes? Are black women as objectively beautiful as white women? Where is that objectively decided?

    Squirm, wiggle, and dodge dance all you’d like, but the fact remains: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and this tells even schoolkids that we do not all agree on who or what is beautiful.

    Aristotle says in the Poetics that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (Aristotle, volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]). And in the Metaphysics: “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (Aristotle, volume 2 1705 [1078a36]).

    Ah – so Aristotle is the ultimate arbiter of what is beautiful! How did he get that job? Why is his opinion objective truth?

    Still don’t get it? Just like our subjective morality, we have a subjective aesthetic. Just like morality, our aesthetic intuitions align to a great degree, even though there are significant divergences among different cultures and different individuals. Just like descriptive moral theory seeks to understand our moral intuitions, theories of aesthetics seek to under our subjective intuitions about beauty.

    Get it? Even if you do, you won’t admit it, but I’m pretty sure you know you’re just digging your hole deeper and deeper.

    Please don’t get the impression that my references end here. I could fill up the remainder of this thread with that which you have never heard of. If what you believe is what “every school kid knows,” that would explain the decline in modern education.

    Tsk, tsk, now. I know you wasted a tremendous amount of time looking up these references, and now they’ve turned out to be completely irrelevant to our discussion. Too bad!

    However, this beauty thing was your idea.

    The “beauty thing” was to show how completely ridiculous was your assertion that the word “is” refers to objective qualities. This stupid idea has led to you absolutely inane ideas such as “what is funny is objective, but what tastes good is subjective” (or maybe it was the other way around?).

    And your pathetic claim about the word “is” was prompted in the first place because you were trying to say I used “objective language” to describe moral subjectivism! You have been as wrong as it is possible to be at every turn in the discussion!

    My refutation is still in force.

    You’re refutation is a farce. Humor is objective? I would definitely bet we do not find the same things funny, you and I. Which of us is objectively correct to laugh? How can we find out? Does the Bible tell us if Louis C.K. is funny or not? How about the Three Stooges?

    Let it go – you are making a fool of yourself.

    You are misusing the language when you say that any subjective moral intuition that conflicts with your subjective intuition IS faulty, when you mean that it only SEEMS faulty to you.

    This tactic was exactly what led you down this fatuous exercise in the first place. I told you at least two dozen times that in moral subjectivism, when one says “X is wrong”, what that means is “X contradicts my subjective moral intuition”. There is nothing hard to understand about that, and there is certainly nothing contradictory about the word “is” in that sentence (as I’ve demonstrated over and over again).

    Is
    third person for “to be”
    “To exist.”
    “To have being”
    “To have existence”

    What is wrong with you?!?!?! Here is a sentence: Chris Rock is funny. How does your dictionary definition work in that sentence?

    GIVE IT UP!!!! YOU ARE SO WRONG!!!

    Yes, I condemn rape and exploitation of any kind.

    Why? Where in the Bible does it say you may not ever rape anyone? Or that you cannot sell your children for money? Nowhere, of course, because the Bible accepts these horrific deeds without condemnation. It is only your subjective moral intuition that tells you these acts are repulsive.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  163. 163
    velikovskys says:

    Stephen B.

    Yes, I condemn rape and exploitation of any kind. Unlike yourself, I recognize these acts to be objective moral evils.

    So if the acts themselves are objectively immoral,any justification would not change their status as being immoral? No ends justify the means,correct?
    Likewise anyone condoning an immoral act would be in fact committing an immoral act?

    Do you condemn abortion? Do your tender and subjective (and convenient) moral sensibilities extend to helpless unborn children in the womb?

    Since many believe that is not self evidently true, what is your basis for your subjective belief that is objectively true?

    Or are your subjective intuitions duly aligned with the politically-correct hypocrites that rule our culture?

    Only those claim in public to oppose abortions while in private availing themselves could be viewed as hypocrites. Otherwise it does not seem hypocritical to support choice by choosing.

  164. 164
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Tsk, tsk, now. I know you wasted a tremendous amount of time looking up these references, and now they’ve turned out to be completely irrelevant to our discussion. Too bad!

    This is precious. First, RD introduces the subject of beauty to evade my refutation of his contradictory notions about objectivity and faulty moral codes. Then, as a means of sustaining that distraction, RD says that he has never heard of “anyone” other than me who thinks that beauty is objective. In order to dramatize the point even further, he claims that any school child would know better. Now, after he learns that two thousand years of Western thought supported this view, he tells us that the refutation is irrelevant to the discussion. It just keeps getting better and better.

    By the way, I notice that RD failed to connect to the link that kairosfocus provided:

    “Facial Analysis and the Beauty Mask”

    –“Beauty is in the phi of the beholder.”

    Oh well, if doubling down is your thing, I guess you can’t afford to follow up on facts in evidence.

    Meanwhile, I have given up trying to get RD to confront the issue on the table. What is the point of issuing multiple challenges to someone who cannot endure refutations and is always looking for a distraction.

    SB: My refutation is still in force. (about objectivity and moral faults)

    You’re refutation is a farce. Humor is objective?

    Get the picture? Distractions, distractions, distractions. Anything to avoid discussing his error about objectivity and moral faults. Distractions about humor, distractions about beauty, distractions about delicious foods. Why would a person spend so much time and energy running for cover? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply address the issue.

  165. 165
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @StephenB:

    “Facial Analysis and the Beauty Mask”

    –“Beauty is in the phi of the beholder.”

    This is what RDF said:

    Just like descriptive moral theory seeks to understand our moral intuitions, theories of aesthetics seek to under our subjective intuitions about beauty.

  166. 166
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: BTW, years ago I had a Muslim prof, who talked with me about wine prohibitions under Islam. In summary the Imams made it clear alcohol was forbidden, but he said he looked at sources and saw don’t get drunk. FWIW, it is notorious that strict Sunnis do generally hold that alcohol use is forbidden and sometimes resort to force in enforcing that. I recall an old joke long ago now on a prince who imported furniture into a certain notoriously strict Muslim state, who got an urgent call from customs — the furniture crate was dripping Whiskey. KF

  167. 167
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Those tempted to play at well poisoning distractors would be well advised to consider the issues raised by Rabbi Boteach, here; especially in light of the issue that after one poisons the well, where are we all going to drink from becomes an issue. I note as well that the matters put on the table 2350 yeas ago by Plato in The Laws, Bk X continue to be studiously ignored. I suggest that serious onlookers refocus the primary issue, our evident status as morally governed creatures, the implication that OUGHT is real, and the question of a world-foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT. KF

    PS: for those unsure of the core of Biblical morality and its implications (in light of angry-at-God talking points), let me use a Pauline summary with obvious roots in what was taught by Jesus and Moses as pivotal:

    Rom 13:8 Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor [who practices loving others] has fulfilled the Law [relating to one’s fellowmen, meeting all its requirements].

    9 The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet (have an evil desire), and any other commandment, are summed up in the single command, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.

    10 Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law. [AMP]

    Any purported presentation of the focal pivot of Judaeo- Christian ethics that is not consistent with this, is fundamentally false. (As is the suggestion above that the Judaeo- Christian ethical framework endorses rape, etc. We are talking here a system that holds that to look at a woman with lust is morally speaking to already be bguilty of adultery.)

  168. 168
    StephenB says:

    SB: Yes, I condemn rape and exploitation of any kind.

    RDFish

    Why? Where in the Bible does it say you may not ever rape anyone?

    Because it violates the fifth commandment against violence and the ninth commandment against lust.

    Or that you cannot sell your children for money? Nowhere, of course, because the Bible accepts these horrific deeds without condemnation. It is only your subjective moral intuition that tells you these acts are repulsive.

    You are very confused. The morality of an action in these situations turns on the relationship—not the social conditions. The Old Testament, or for that matter, the New Testament, places emphasis on the way “slaves” (the word has not been defined) are treated because it is the nature of the treatment that defines the relationship.

    Most “slavery in ancient times involved the holding of conquered soldiers as indentured servants so as to not allow them suit up again. It was usually of temporary duration—something like seven years. Would you have murdered those soldiers instead?

    In some cases, indentured servitude involved poor people seeking ways to survive? Would you allow your children to starve if the issue was homelessness vs. indentured servitude, keeping in mind that indentured servitude does not constitute sexual slavery nor does it involve fighting in the arena as a gladiator for the amusement of others? It is NOT chattel slavery or anything close to it.

    So, I put it to you. You have no money, no prospects, and no governmental agency to save you. (I assume that you know that state-sponsored welfare did not exist in those days). Your children are starving. You know someone who, for a fact, does not abuse children, and he offers you a contract similar to conditions that we know characterize as indentured servitude. Your children must work seven years for this master, at which time they will be set free (if they want to be.)

    What does your subjective moral code command you to do? Is it slow death by starvation or indentured servitude? Provide your answer and your reasons to support it. Also, explain how your morality differs from the Biblical exhortation to treat everyone in those circumstances humanely. Also, tell me what any of this has to do with rape?

  169. 169
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I am sufficiently disgusted with RDF’s rhetorical tactics above to do something I would not otherwise do. Here, in a lump, is the overview of Judaeo-Christian ethics from its central teacher, in Matt 5 – 7 . . . The Sermon on the Mount:

    ________________

    >> Matthew 5-7New English Translation (NET Bible)
    The Beatitudes

    5 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to teach them by saying:

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
    10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.
    Salt and Light

    13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
    Fulfillment of the Law and Prophets

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. 19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Anger and Murder

    21 “You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell. 23 So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift. 25 Reach agreement quickly with your accuser while on the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the warden, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!
    Adultery

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.
    Divorce

    31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a legal document.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    Oaths

    33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all—not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 35 not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one.
    Retaliation

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.
    Love for Enemies

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Pure-hearted Giving

    6 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
    Private Prayer

    5 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. 7 When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 So pray this way:

    Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored,
    10 may your kingdom come,
    may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us today our daily bread,
    12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

    14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.
    Proper Fasting

    16 “When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 17 When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
    Lasting Treasure

    19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

    24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
    Do Not Worry

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
    Do Not Judge

    7 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.
    Ask, Seek, Knock

    7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.
    The Narrow Gate

    13 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it!
    A Tree and Its Fruit

    15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
    Judgment of Pretenders

    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’
    Hearing and Doing

    24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!”

    28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law. >>
    ________________

    I hope RDF has enough decency left to be deeply ashamed for what he tried to do. KF

  170. 170
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Why? Where in the Bible does it say you may not ever rape anyone?

    Because it violates the fifth commandment against physical violence and the ninth commandment against sexual lust.

  171. 171
    kairosfocus says:

    SB: At this point RDF has stepped beyond the pale of civil discussion. KF

  172. 172
    StephenB says:

    SB: Do you condemn abortion? Do your tender and subjective (and convenient) moral sensibilities extend to helpless unborn children in the womb?

    velikovskys

    Since many believe that is not self evidently true, what is your basis for your subjective belief that is objectively true?

    I don’t know what you are referring to. I didn’t make a statement or disclose my subjective belief about anything. I simply asked RDFish a question, and, as usual, he is afraid to answer. Since you want to enter into the fray, I will let you answer the question for him. If, after answering my question, you would like to ask one of me, I will provide an answer.

  173. 173
    StephenB says:

    kairosfocus

    SB: At this point RDF has stepped beyond the pale of civil discussion. KF

    KF, RDF is not interested in discussing the New Testament or the clear teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount. Clarity is his enemy; confusion is his friend. Accordingly, his objective is to find moral errors in the complex historical events of the Old Testament by misinterpreting related biblical passages.

  174. 174
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    You began by accusing me of using “objective language” without believing in objective morality. I explained that my language was not referring to objective morality, and explained what it meant within subjectivism. You claimed that the word “is” implied objective qualities, and I’ve proceeded to show you (and everyone else) how inane your position is.

    You have dodged all of my questions… and then with stunning hypocrisy decided that I was the one avoiding the issues. I think you forget that all of our posts are right here on this page for everyone to see. I’ll do you a favor and list a few of the questions you’ve dodged:

    RDF: How can morality be objective when the choice of what moral code to follow is subjective?
    SB: [dodges the question]

    RDF: Why do you claim moral subjectivism is inconsistent when I’ve explained exactly what is meant when a moral subjectivist says X is immoral?
    SB: [dodges the question, then decides it’s because the word “is” implies objectivism]

    RDF: If the word “is” implies an objective quality, and taste is a subjective quality, then why do we say “This food is delicious?”
    SB: [dodges the question]

    RDF: If beauty is objective, who decides what is beautiful and what isn’t?
    SB: [dodges the question]

    RDF: If Aristotle is merely describing our aesthetic inuitions, how does that show beauty is objective?
    SB: [dodges the question]

    RDF: If humor is objective, who decides what is funny?
    SB: [dodges the question]

    RDF: Why is the taste of food subjective, but the perception of humor objective?
    SB: [dodges the question]

    I could go on of course. You’re the one who attacked me for using the word “is” to stave off my subjectivism, and now you’re trying to get me to drop the issue – because you are so obviously wrong.
    Go ahead, show us that you can actually make sense of your position by answering these questions. But as everyone can see, you cannot do it.

    But of course it gets worse:

    RDF: Here the Bible talks about selling your children, and fails to condemn it. But selling your children is wrong in every context. How can the objective handbook of morality fail to condemn this?
    SB: Sometimes it’s right to sell your children for some money, if you are really poor.
    RDF: I think that is reprehensible. If you couldn’t afford to raise your children, you shouldn’t have had sex.

    RDF: The Bible discusses rape frequently without condeming it. But raping women is wrong in every context. How can the objective handbook of morality fail to condemn this?
    SB: [dodges the question]
    RDF: I think that is reprehensible.

    Your attempt to spin these Bible passages is predictably disingenuous. Here is some choice objective, unchanging morality for you, all straight from the source:

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. … If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. … (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

    When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

    Let’s hear how this is an infallible, unchanging, objective guide to moral behavior, Stephen. Is this how you act?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  175. 175
    RDFish says:

    SB: Accordingly, his [my] objective is to find moral errors in the complex historical events of the Old Testament by misinterpreting related biblical passages.

    You can make up your own subjective interpretations all you’d like, and they will fit your moral intuitions a lot better than what the Bible actually says. But that sure doesn’t mean the Bible provides an objective guide to morality.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  176. 176
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    You’re the one who attacked me for using the word “is” to stave off

    I accused you of abusing the language by saying that any morality that conflicts with your subjective morality is faulty. That is a claim about objective error. There is no question that faulty means to fail to live up to an objective standard and there is no question that “is,” in that context, means failing to live up to an objective standard.

    I didn’t answer some of your questions because I didn’t want to spend all that time on peripheral issues. However, I will answer them now:

    RDF: How can morality be objective when the choice of what moral code to follow is subjective?

    Answer: The choice of the moral code has nothing to do with the objective nature of the code that is chosen. One can choose an objective code, as I have, or one can choose a subjective code, as you have. Object = the thing chosen.
    Subject = the chooser.

    RDF: Why do you claim moral subjectivism is inconsistent when I’ve explained exactly what is meant when a moral subjectivist says X is immoral?

    Answer: I don’t recall using the word “Inconsistent.” Provide the quote and the context and I will explain it. Moral subjectivism is arbitrary.

    RDF: If the word “is” implies an objective quality, and taste is a subjective quality, then why do we say “This food is delicious?”

    Answer: The word “is” implies an objective quality unless it is used in a context in which it refers to something that is subjective by definition. That is the case with taste, which refers directly to the taster (subjective). It is not the case with beauty. Without that special context, the word means what it means, which is why I provided the dictionary definition. There is no question that “faulty,” refers to an objective standard of perfection. None whatsoever.

    RDF: If beauty is objective, who decides what is beautiful and what isn’t?

    Beauty is not something that is decided upon. It is something that it recognized and appreciated for what it is. There is a subjective component to beauty, of course. That is where taste comes in.

    The works of Mozart, Bach, and Chopin are all objectively beautiful. That beauty is reflected in the mathematical precision, order, and structure in their music. It is also present in the unity and thematic nature inherent in the organization. The subjective element comes into play when listeners decide for themselves which of the three works of beauty are the most beautiful. That is where subjective taste comes into play. However, their personal opinion does not cause the music to be beautiful. No matter how much one tries to project his subjectivism onto a child banging his teaspoon on the table it will not cause that noise to become a beautiful piece a music. Such beauty requires architecture and creativity from a source outside of the listener.

    RDF: If Aristotle is merely describing our aesthetic inuitions, how does that show beauty is objective?

    Aristotle is not describing our aesthetic intuitions. He is describing the object to which are aesthetic intuitions attach.

    RDF: If humor is objective, who decides what is funny?

    The anatomy of a joke is the set up and the surprise. That is the objective component. But there is also the subjective element present in the fact that not everyone is equally amused by any given joke. Remember, there is a subjective component in all the arts. Indeed, there is a subjective component to objective morality. Every individual (subject) must apply the unchanging objective moral law to his changing, subjective circumstances. Just because morality is objective doesn’t mean that subjectivity does not enter in. The error is in believing that the morality itself is subjective.

    RDF: Why is the taste of food subjective, but the perception of humor objective?

    The taste of food is totally subjective. There is no such thing as an objectively tasty meal. I remember answering that question earlier.

  177. 177
    StephenB says:

    RDF @174

    Let’s hear how this is an infallible, unchanging, objective guide to moral behavior, Stephen. Is this how you act?

    I answered your questions @168, and followed with a few of my own. It was lost in the mix of long posts. What is your response?

  178. 178
    StephenB says:

    You can make up your own subjective interpretations all you’d like, and they will fit your moral intuitions a lot better than what the Bible actually says. But that sure doesn’t mean the Bible provides an objective guide to morality.

    How could you possibly know if the Bible does or does not provide an objective standard for morality if you don’t even know what that standard is or where it can be found?

  179. 179
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    KF, RDF is not interested in discussing the New Testament or the clear teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount. Clarity is his enemy; confusion is his friend.

    KF, RDF is not interested in discussing the New Testament or the clear teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount. Charity is his enemy; confusion is his friend.

    There, fixed it fer ya.

  180. 180
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    You [StephenB] have dodged all of my questions

    So?

    RDFish:

    …and then with stunning hypocrisy decided that I was the one avoiding the issues.

    So?

    Why ought StephenB to have acted differently?

    What was his moral failing? Hypocrisy? Really? How so?

  181. 181
    Mung says:

    You just have to love people who hypocritically cry foul.

  182. 182
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    Why is the taste of food subjective, but the perception of humor objective?

    This question reflects a large part of the confusion that reigns over this discussion. The “perception” of humor is, by definition, subjective. The perceiving subject (the listener) is not synonymous with thing perceived (the joke), which comes from the outside of the listener.

  183. 183
    JWTruthInLove says:

    StephenB: The works of Mozart, Bach, and Chopin are all objectively beautiful. That beauty is reflected in the mathematical precision, order, and structure in their music.

    One can also define objective beauty by “what most human testobjects percept to be beautiful”.
    So it’s pretty easy to establish objective properties of something. Ask a representative set of people -> establish a model which describes the results -> call it objective.

  184. 184
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb

    The choice of the moral code has nothing to do with the objective nature of the code that is chosen. One can choose an objective code, as I have, or one can choose a subjective code, as you have. Object = the thing chosen

    Can I confirm I understand this. It seems rather fundamental. Are you saying there is no objective basis for choosing between moral codes? I believe that is true – but I am surprised to hear it from you.

  185. 185
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Are you saying there is no objective basis for choosing between moral codes?

    No.

    No. I am saying that the mere act of choosing a moral code has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not the code thus chosen is objective or subjective. Its nature, whether objective or subjective, has already been established prior to the choice. It was chosen because it is what it is. It didn’t become what it is because it was chosen.

  186. 186
    StephenB says:

    JWTruthInLove

    One can also define objective beauty by “what most human testobjects percept to be beautiful”.

    If we define beauty on the basis of how it is perceived, as opposed to defining it on the basis of its form or structure, then we have provided a subjective definition. Of course, how it is formed and structured will influence how it is perceived, so there is a strong connection between the objective and the subjective. They certainly cannot be separated. Still, if we define something according to how it affects us–the subjects–as opposed to the qualities that affected us–which is outside of us–then we have provided a subjective definition.

  187. 187
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    You’re the one who attacked me for using the word “is” to stave off
    I accused you of abusing the language by saying that any morality that conflicts with your subjective morality is faulty. That is a claim about objective error.

    No, as I’ve explained so many times I lost count, when X judges Y’s moral intuitions to be faulty, that means that the moral intuitions of X are not consistent with the moral intuitions of Y.

    Really: So many times I lost count.

    RDF: How can morality be objective when the choice of what moral code to follow is subjective?
    Answer: The choice of the moral code has nothing to do with the objective nature of the code that is chosen. One can choose an objective code, as I have, or one can choose a subjective code, as you have. Object = the thing chosen.
    Subject = the chooser.

    You subjectively believe that your moral code is objective. I subjectively believe that your moral code is subjective (that is, I believe that you are simply attributing the subjective moral intuitions of human beings to a supernatural being). Both of us, then, subjecively adheres to our own moral judgement. There’s simply no alternative.

    The word “is” implies an objective quality unless it is used in a context in which it refers to something that is subjective by definition.

    Oh, good grief. In that case, when a subjectivist defines a moral judgement to be a subjective intuition, then when a subjectivist says rape is immoral, it is perfectly consistent usage of the word “is” according to your rule!!!

    I know that no matter how many times I show how this whole “is/seems” tactic you’ve chosen is an utter debacle, you still won’t admit it. But I’m tired of it, so here’s a deal: I won’t bring up your harebrained ideas about is/seems again if you promise to stop asking me what a subjectivist means when they say something is immoral or that one’s moral intuition is faulty. Do we have a deal?

    RDF: If Aristotle is merely describing our aesthetic inuitions, how does that show beauty is objective?

    SB: Aristotle is not describing our aesthetic intuitions. He is describing the object to which are aesthetic intuitions attach.

    Fine (sigh): If Aristotle is merely describing the object to which our aesthetic intuitions attach, how does that show beauty is objective?

    Beauty is not something that is decided upon. It is something that it recognized and appreciated for what it is. The works of Mozart, Bach, and Chopin are all objectively beautiful.

    You describe some things about music that most (but not all) people subjectively enjoy – how does that make these pieces of music objectively beautiful? Say somebody says that the most beautiful music is that which consists of only one note played in different timbres and volumes. You disagree and insist that music needs structure, tension, resolution… these are all just your subjective opinions! Does God come down and provide the arbitration here? (hint: No, He doesn’t).

    Your imperial decree that beauty is objective is simply wrong.

    RDF: If humor is objective, who decides what is funny?
    The anatomy of a joke is the set up and the surprise. That is the objective component.

    What are you trying to say here? That anything with a setup and a surprise is objectively funny? You mean like a gruesome murder mystery with a twist?

    But there is also the subjective element present in the fact that not everyone is equally amused by any given joke.

    Ok, so after all this you’re admitting that whether or not somebody finds something funny or not is entirely subjective. Good grief.

    The taste of food is totally subjective.

    Something makes me say “funny”, and you say that’s objective. Something makes me say “yummy”, and you say that’s subjective. You say this as though you are the one who decides what is subjective and what is objective. Who gave you that authority?

    Let’s hear how this is an infallible, unchanging, objective guide to moral behavior, Stephen. Is this how you act?
    I answered your questions @168, and followed with a few of my own. It was lost in the mix of long posts. What is your response?

    Here is my response again: Consider involuntary servitude of various types, the selling of one’s children for monetary gain, raping women, beating slaves and treating them and their children as property, and genocide. If one believed that these actions could be in some circumstances morally justified, then one can easily find confirming passages in the Bible (including those I’ve quoted). Since you (like me) find these actions morally repugnant, it follows that one cannot rely on the Bible as an objective source of morality. Your judgement of these actions do not come from an objective reading of the Bible; rather, they come from your moral intuition.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  188. 188
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @StephenB:
    The “new golden ratios” were established by asking people about their perception of attractivity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....164846.pdf

  189. 189
    Mark Frank says:

    The discussion of which things are objective and which subjective gives me a chance to have another go at a point I have tried to make many times.  Stephenb writes:

    That is the case with taste, which refers directly to the taster (subjective). It is not the case with beauty.

    I am sure that this reflects an over-simple view of objective and subjective.   There are some properties that are objective – if some thing is large and spherical it has those properties independently of any human reaction or perception.  There are some properties that are subjective – as Stephen says – if I say something tastes horrible then this is a reflection of my reaction to it. It doesn’t matter what it is actually made of.  It is my experience that decides whether that statement is true.  But there are also a vast range of descriptions which fall between the two extremes – funny, disgusting, obscene, awesome.  When most people have similar reactions to broadly similar circumstances then it is not necessary or useful to decide whether the circumstances or the reaction is the defining feature. The concept implies both.  A couple of features of concepts of this type:

    * Not everyone will react in the way same to the same circumstances although most people will, or most people in a specific culture.   There will always be people or cultures with unusual reactions – who don’t find Chaplin funny or don’t find eating rats disgusting. This can lead to rather tedious disputes over whether some thing is “really” funny or “really” obscene but also to much more significant disputes when something rides on the accepted description e.g. will the film be banned for obscenity. This doesn’t change the fact that the concept usually implies a loose set of objective circumstances.  We know the kind of thing we expect to happen in a funny film.

    * There are often arguments or additional facts which can change people’s reactions: “If you know it is a satire of Barack Obama then you realise it is funny”.It is not just unreasoned opinion.  You can educate people into changing their reaction with additional detail or reasoning. That doesn’t change the fact that the concept usually implies a certain human reaction.  Funny things are things that have the potential to make people laugh. In the end there is always a subjective element.

    It seems to me blindingly obvious that both aesthetics and ethics fall into this intermediate category.  If something is beautiful then it will very likely have the features Aristotle proposes but it must also lead to at least some people getting a certain kind of pleasure looking at it to merit the word “beautiful”.  Aristotle’s piece can be taken as advice on what to look for to get aesthetic pleasure based on vast experience. It cannot be  a complete  definition of “beautiful” as that leaves out the human pleasure that is part of the concept. 

    Similarly with ethics – although ethics introduces another element – as well has having a certain kind of reaction to human suffering we also want others to stop inflicting it.  As vj wrote back in  #72 – there must a prescriptive element to moral concepts. But it doesn’t need an elaborate metaphysical justification.  That is just what the concept includes. If I say something is evil then that includes:

    * My abhorrence of it

    * My belief I can get others to share that abhorrence

    * An exhortation to stop it

    * Some idea of some of the features of it – e.g. inflicts human suffering or similar

    That is the role that word plays in our society and none of those features is, by itself, a defining feature.

  190. 190
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    Ok, so after all this you’re admitting that whether or not somebody finds something funny or not is entirely subjective. Good grief.

    No. You don’t understand. The act of reacting to humor is always subjective. The thing that is reacted to is objective.

    If Aristotle is merely describing the object to which our aesthetic intuitions attach, how does that show beauty is objective?

    Aristotle is describing that attributes of beauty. Nothing more. He is not describing the intuition. The attributes are objective; the intuition is subjective. They are connected.

    What are you trying to say here? That anything with a setup and a surprise is objectively funny? You mean like a gruesome murder mystery with a twist?

    I am not trying to say anything. I am saying it. The set up and the surprise are the structure and the form. That is what is objective. It doesn’t follow from there that “anything with a set up and a surprise is funny.” That is a total non-sequitur. It means that most things that are funny involve a set up and a surprise. If A, then B doesn’t mean If B then A.

    Something makes me say “funny”, and you say that’s objective.

    No, not even close.

    Something makes me say “yummy”, and you say that’s subjective.

    No, not even close.

    You say this as though you are the one who decides what is subjective and what is objective. Who gave you that authority?

    It’s not a question of authority. It’s a question of knowledge. I understand objectivity and subjectivity. You don’t.

  191. 191
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: Did you take time to look here — already linked in 154 above (i.e. “Even . . . “) — to see how what was “new” failed, and what worked worked because — overlooked by the proposers — it was implicitly using the “old”? Where also, if we all go out and look at the waning crescent Moon on the morrow of the 45th anniversary of the Moon walk, we will all agree that it is there [i.e. here mutual agreement reflects the objective reality, it does not disprove it] . . . and that it is a classic icon of beauty(Just as an iconic point, the human body manifests phi and its cognates in manifold ways. But beauty is not simply “mix in phi and stir.” There is symmetry and proportion, harmony, balance and highlighting and just enough variation that it is not merely mechanical but artistic. An excellent example of beauty is the equation: 0 = 1 + e^i*pi, which works by using balance, economy, coherence, surprise, unity, and more, with the “still waters run deep” phenomenon also at work.) KF

  192. 192
    StephenB says:

    SB: So, I put it to you. You have no money, no prospects, and no governmental agency to save you. (I assume that you know that state-sponsored welfare did not exist in those days). Your children are starving. You know someone who, for a fact, does not abuse children, and he offers you a contract similar to conditions that we know characterize as indentured servitude. Your children must work seven years for this master, at which time they will be set free (if they want to be.)

    What does your subjective moral code command you to do? Is it slow death by starvation or indentured servitude? Provide your answer and your reasons to support it. Also, explain how your morality differs from the Biblical exhortation to treat everyone in those circumstances humanely. Also, tell me what any of this has to do with rape?

    RDFish

    Consider involuntary servitude of various types, the selling of one’s children for monetary gain, raping women, beating slaves and treating them and their children as property, and genocide. If one believed that these actions could be in some circumstances morally justified, then one can easily find confirming passages in the Bible (including those I’ve quoted). Since you (like me) find these actions morally repugnant, it follows that one cannot rely on the Bible as an objective source of morality. Your judgement of these actions do not come from an objective reading of the Bible; rather, they come from your moral intuition.

    What the hell kind of an evasion is that. I asked you to provide a rational answer to four relevant questions:

    What does your subjective moral code command you to do in this situation? Is it slow death by starvation or indentured servitude?

    Provide your answer and your reasons to support it.

    Also, explain how your morality differs from the Biblical exhortation to treat everyone in those circumstances humanely.

    Also, tell me what any of this has to do with rape?

  193. 193
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @kf:
    Yes. I’m sorry for the confusion. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new or an old ratio. I and StephenB were talking about perception and objectivity. So this is the significant part of the posting:

    The “new golden ratios” were established by asking people about their perception of attractivity

  194. 194
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Pardon, but the deceived and depraved can agree in error and even great wrong. In short, agitprop and similar techniques can work and lies and great wrongs can be entrenched — such as in our time the mass slaughter of tens and hundreds of millions in total of the unborn, as though to be out of sight is to be out of rights.

    That challenge of spreading then entrenched evil backed up by mass support and often state power is a major lesson of history.

    Then, we face the challenge of reformation vs the use of revolutionary or reactionary force — both of which all too often slip into might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’ Where also, as one philosophically trained you must know of one of the challenges of moral relativism, that because it tries to ground ought in social support, it implies that the lone reformer is necessarily wrong until s/he has garnered enough support to suddenly become right.

    Yet another sign of its incoherence.

    In fact, the great reformers have pointed to fundamental principles and iconic test cases that the prevailing opinions and institutions violate. Then, they have called for moving from wrong to right. And in those appeals, they have been right, not perverse or thwarting of fundamental purposes embedded in our nature. They have called us to be in better harmony with what we ought to be, not twisted distortions thereof. (This speaks straight to some cynically promoted pseudo-reforms of our time, e.g. notice an end-state revealing remark here on one of the current “progressivist” agendas.)

    The fundamental challenge remains:

    1: We, manifestly are under moral government . . . even those who object to the binding nature of ought as rooted in an objective standard try to justify themselves.

    2: This implies that OUGHT, is grounded, it is not merely convention or mutual agreement.

    3: There must be an answer to the IS-OUGHT gap.

    4: Such an answer must start at the foundation of the world, and so also of our worldviews.

    5: across many centuries, and through much contention, it remains that there is but one serious candidate to be an IS capable of bearing the weight of ought . . . the inherently good, Creator God, a maximally great and necessary being.

    6: As a consequence, those who reject such a being as root of reality and of our nature thus purpose thus also the criterion for that which is proper to our nature(whether dressed up in a lab coat or not) invariably eventually end up in implying that might and/or manipulation make ‘right.’

    7: So, while they cannot escape the force of OUGHT stamped in our natures — we are morally governed creatures after all — they consistently end up in incoherence or absurdities when they address grounding of OUGHT.

    8: Where, in particular, lab coat clad materialistic views end up undermining the essence of humanity, both reason/rationality and morality.

    9: Haldane sums up on the first in a nutshell (and there are many more elaborate and detailed expositions of the same all too well warranted essential point):

    10: Boiled down, neural networks like other processor architectures [even if they can be accounted for in terms of FSCO/I on blind incremental evolutionary processes . . . which is in fact highly dubious to the point of being maximally implausible] run into the barrier and gap that computation on blind cause effect mechanisms is not self-aware, responsibly reasoning and deciding contemplation.

    11: I will cite Dawkins’ summary as presented in Sci Am in 1995, on the undermining of moral foundations inherent in lab coat clad evolutionary materialism:

    Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 – 85.]

    12: There are many other manifestations of this same pattern of thought, this amorality. And, all of them boil don to this, 2350 years ago, Plato was right in his basic analysis of evolutionary materialism and where it ends, why, in The Laws, Bk X — the same analysis that has been so studiously avoided by evolutionary materialist advocates in and around UD, for years now:

    Ath. . . . [The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [ –> In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    On the subject of tyranny, I think we need to ask the ghosts of over 100 million victims of such factions in power over the past 100 years, and the ghosts of dozens and hundreds of millions of the unborn slaughtered in the womb in our time on the most flimsy of excuses. (And onlookers, when you hear or see those who advocate for or enable such schemes in high dudgeon over those who dare differ with their agendas, indulging in well poisoning attacks such as this by new atheist dean Dawkins and the like, please, bear in mind the history of the past 100 years as moaned out by those ghosts and the current pattern of events and agendas backed up by state consensus and agitprop.]

    KF

  195. 195
    JWTruthInLove says:

    Btw.:

    Marquardt’s Phi mask: pitfalls of relying on fashion models and the golden ratio to describe a beautiful face.
    http://link.springer.com/artic.....007-9080-z
    http://www.femininebeauty.info...../marquardt

  196. 196
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: If we often perceive things accurately, and have nothing in the stakes that warps our views, we will often reflect the underlying objectivity, like going out and seeing the waning crescent moon in the sky here as I speak. So, to seek out the consensus views of people will often reflect that objective reality. However, the point of the note I linked was, there is a gross error in the novelty, as can be seen, watch the vid. And insofar as the novelty reflects what is right, the classic phi ratio lurks. That reflects a pattern where ratios, proportions, balances, symmetry, harmony [think, horribly clashing sounds or colours by contrast] and well judged highlights and variations that make the cumulative entity not merely mechanical, are all part of beauty. KF

  197. 197
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT, this is off on a tangent relative to this thread, but maybe you do not know that the golden ratio is a widespread pattern of beauty, connected to Fibonacci’s series, and many other things — classically, it appears in the log spiral, e.g. cf here . . . notice how it emerges from the Fibonacci series and connects to the squares pattern, etc — and how the aha reaction we have on seeing this hidden unity is also an aesthetic response. It is not just the Marquadt mask or some arbitrary ratios, it is much broader, and What I point to is not just the ratio 1.618 and things tied to it, but the wider context of symmetry, harmony, unity, well chosen diversity etc as elements of beauty. Beauty is not merely subjective, there is a reason why an ill-kept garbage dump is not beautiful, but an eyesore and worse. By contrast, there are ever so many examples that illustrate the same pattern, even the beauty of a mathematical expression such as Euler’s result, 0 = 1 + e^i*pi. KF

  198. 198
    kairosfocus says:

    OOPS, forgot to actually cite 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..

    KF

  199. 199
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: Just for reference, note this on composition in drawing. KF

  200. 200
    StephenB says:

    JWT:

    The “new golden ratios” were established by asking people about their perception of attractivity…

    Don’t be misled by the word “establish” in this context. People’s perceptions reflected the reality of the new golden ratios, but those perceptions did not cause the ratios to be what they are. The new golden ratios are objective just as the old golden ratios were objective; people’s perceptions of and reactions to those ratios are subjective.

  201. 201
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    * Not everyone will react in the way same to the same circumstances although most people will, or most people in a specific culture. There will always be people or cultures with unusual reactions – who don’t find Chaplin funny or don’t find eating rats disgusting. This can lead to rather tedious disputes over whether some thing is “really” funny or “really” obscene but also to much more significant disputes when something rides on the accepted description e.g. will the film be banned for obscenity. This doesn’t change the fact that the concept usually implies a loose set of objective circumstances. We know the kind of thing we expect to happen in a funny film.

    There will always be some disagreement about what is funny in a general sense or even about how funny it is. This is doubly true across cultures. In each individual case, however, the cause of the laughter will be the form and structure of the humor (or message as the case may be) and it will be objective; the reaction will be subjective. It is not an oversimplification to bring out that point. There is no mid-point entity between the subject and the object. Indeed, they are connected and can overlap to some extent. That is why even when everyone agrees that three presenters were all funny, there will be some disagreement about which one was the funniest.

  202. 202
    Mark Frank says:

    #201 SB

    In each individual case, however, the cause of the laughter will be the form and structure of the humor (or message as the case may be) and it will be objective; the reaction will be subjective.

    The cause of something having a bad taste may be the chemicals in the food. That doesn’t mean that to say it is foul-tasting is to refer to those chemicals.

    Of course human reactions to events and objects are in general caused by characteristics of those events and objects – chemicals lead to bad-taste, comic timing leads to humour, suffering leads to compassion, the use of the golden ratio leads to aesthetic pleasure. Those characteristics exist independently of the people and so the fact that they are there is an objective fact. That’s trivial.

    But words like beautiful, good, funny and foul-tasting don’t just mean that those objective characteristics are present. They also express the subjective reaction. Otherwise you are in the daft position of proposing that it is an empirical discovery that people laugh at funny things when it is clearly part of the meaning of the word “funny”.

  203. 203
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @StephenB:

    People’s perceptions reflected the reality of the new golden ratios, but those perceptions did not cause the ratios to be what they are.

    I’m sorry, I’m puzzled by your statement. The study says:

    Participants made paired comparisons of attractiveness (…)

    If the participants had perceived attractiveness in a different way, the ratios would have been different.

    If the measured ratios don’t establish the objective ratios, how does one know to what extent the measured ratios reflect the objective ratios? (Meaning: How does one establish the objective ratios?) Does the question make sense to you?

  204. 204
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    OK, there has been perhaps a modicum of progress in our usual surfeit of miscommunication.

    Let’s look at all these examples: beautiful music, delicious food, funny jokes, morally good acts. In each case, we can identify certain objectively recognizable features that allow us to identify all of these things. Music theory describes how music moves us (we like resonance not dissonance, don’t change keys too often, …), culinary arts describe how food delights us (don’t mix too many spices in a single dish, desserts should not contain pickles and ice cream together…), psychologists help us understand what sorts of things are funny (defying the expectation of the setup, pointing out unspoken embarrassing truths about our bodies…), and descriptive moral theory describes aspects of morally good acts (don’t hurt people, be honest…).

    But what we are talking about here is the reason behind our judgements: why we experience resonant music as beautiful, why we don’t find bitter ice cream to be delicious, why we find embarrassing truths to be comical, and why feel that being honest is moral. We can imagine a world in which none of these rules hold, where we listen to dissonant music and find it beautiful, hear someone reading the phone book and find it to be funny, and watch as people rape their enemy’s wives and consider that to be moral.

    If I decided that dissonant music was beautiful, you would disagree, but there would be no objective way to decide who was right. Likewise pickles and ice cream, likewise funny phone books, and likewise moral rape. All of these judgements are subjective, even though we can point to objective characteristics of the things we’re judging and claim that those characteristics support our judgement.

    It seems that you would like to put humor, beauty, and morality in one category of “objective”, and put deliciousness in another category of “subjective” – perhaps because you can’t think of objective things that make people find one dish appetizing and another unpalatable. But the salient issue here in our discussion of morality is this: Just because certain objective features correlate with most people’s experience, there is nothing that explains why those features correlate except to say “that is the way human beings tend to experience these things”.

    I could declare that Arnold Schoenberg’s Guide to Musical Composition is the objective standard for what music is beautiful, but you may disagree. You can declare that the Bible is the objective standard for what acts are moral, and I may disagree. In the end, all of these choices are subjective.

    Now, the salient question is this: Why do you hold that merely identifying some particular set of rules describing what we find funny, beautiful, moral, etc. makes some sort of difference, since that is merely another subjective choice? If you find Native Indian music beautiful and I don’t, we are having a subjective disagreement based on our aesthetic intuitions, and the fact that you could point to some book that explains why it is beautiful doesn’t change my aesthetics. If you find selling children for money justified and I don’t, we are having a subjective disagreement based on our moral intuitions, and the fact that you can point to religious scripture that explains why it’s ok is irrelevant to me.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  205. 205
    RDFish says:

    Thanks to Mark Frank for excellent clarifications on the matter.

  206. 206
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The recognition and affirmation of the truth about various things, where it can be shown with certainty – is an objective moral norm.

    Prove it? Well, that norm is required in order to prove anything.

    Why is is a moral norm? Because acknowledging the truth of things is a responsibility that follows from freedom. Recognizing and admitting the truth is not a process reducible to chemical or physical laws – it’s an immaterial, non-physical process.

    So what? Ok, that’s the point of the thread. Within materialism, there is no reason to accept or admit the truth about anything. Actually, there can be no falsehood since that is a value judgement made about aspects of reality and physical/material reality does not contain values within it.

    When Metalmark moths disguise themselves as spiders, they are not telling lies. The illusion they create is “the truth for them” – it’s what they do by nature.

    One could say, “we tell the truth because there are benefits in doing so”. But there are a lot of cases where telling the truth comes with many disadvantages, including the loss of one’s own life, and obviously therefore does not have survival value in those cases.

  207. 207
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Here are my subjective thoughts regarding selling children and abortion. It is surely wrong to let children suffer. If a couple conceives a child without a reasonable expectation that they can feed it, then they have done something immoral. Once that wrong has been done, what is the best way to deal with it moving forward?

    Selling the child is wrong – one shouldn’t profit from one’s misdeeds, so I don’t think the Bible has that correct at all. Having the child and then killing it is wrong, because it’s immoral to murder innocent children. Stopping a zygote from turning into a baby isn’t wrong, because a zygote isn’t a person. Killing a baby as it is being born is wrong, because a baby is a person. Somewhere between the time there is a zygote in the fallopian tube and there is a baby in the birth canal, purposefully destroying it becomes wrong. When that moment is remains a matter of difficult judgement and controversy, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

    Perhaps you will say that a zygote is a person, but that doesn’t ring true to me. You might say the zygote is a potential person, merely waiting for nourishment and uterine support, but to me sperm and egg cells are then potential people too, just waiting for the other half of the DNA, etc. You may rejoin that it is wrong to destroy sperm and egg cells, but I don’t agree about that.

    The point here is that your objective moral code doesn’t make this judgement any more objective. We are both taking similar moral intuitions and trying to apply it to borderline cases, and coming up with different conclusions, and objective moral codes have nothing to do with it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  208. 208
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Phin: You only say this because you’ve already ruled out the possibility of an all-knowing God with the power to reveal what is right such that it can be known with objective certainty.

    RDF: It’s not that I’ve ruled it out; I simply observe that people don’t generally agree about gods and their rules, so all that remains a matter of subjective choice. Happily, though, eveyone agrees in the main about most moral issues.

    Great! If you haven’t ruled it out, then you’ll agree with me that it might not necessarily be subjectivity all the way down and that there might yet be hope for those who long for objective certainty. It might be too early to give up the search for objective truth. It might be premature to declare that there are no objective truths to be found.

    Phin: And yet you treat your personal subjective intuitions precisely as though you know them with objective certainty.

    RDF: No, I’ve been very clear about this, so I think you’re being a bit obstinate. Read what I’ve said and you’ll see this isn’t the case. What I’ve said is that since there is no way to objectively verify what is the moral course of action, we are all left to our moral intuitions.

    No, I’m not being obstinate at all. I’m merely stating what I see. You have not been clear at all. Sure, you’ve stated that you are only relying on your moral intuitions. But then you’ve also made statements as though you are objectively certain of their truth. In other words, the statements you’ve made and how you’ve phrased them are indistinguishable from how one who believed them with objective certainty would make the same statements.

    I am right (morally compelled) to intervene in others’ behavior based on my subjective moral intuitions.

    There is nothing else for us to judge by….

    It’s not just authority, it is an obligation. And it’s not just me, it’s everybody.

    If someone thinks that torturing puppies is aligned with their moral intuition, then there is something terribly wrong with their moral intuition…

    He is wrong. He is wrong to torture puppies, and if his moral intuition actually is that this action is right then his moral intuition is wrong…

    Nobody ought to define their own morality…

    Metaphysical naturalists, just like everyone else, ought to do what their moral intuition tells them is right.

    Oughts and musts are compelled by our subjective moral intuition. There is nothing else to go on…

    I say it is immoral, period.

    There is only one way…

    There is only one way? Though, obviously in a much different context, aren’t Christians often accused of being narrow-minded for saying something similar? Christians say this as though objective certainty is a reality. As if it’s not just their opinion or their feeling or their perspective or their religion or otherwise something subjective that originates in their fallible mind. They say it as though it necessarily applies to and obtains for others and not just themselves. They say a lot of things as though objective certainty is the reality in which we live. So, how do you say the things you say differently?

    “I say it is immoral, period.” Indeed. And you say it exactly like a Christian or other person believing in the objective certainty of their statement would say the same thing. This is why I say that you treat your personal subjective intuitions precisely as though you know them with objective certainty. If not, then how would you treat your personal subjective intuition that “He is wrong. He is wrong to torture puppies,” differently if it were, instead, an objective certainty? How would one distinguish between your treatment of the two or your statements regarding the two?

  209. 209
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Let’s look at all these examples: beautiful music, delicious food, funny jokes, morally good acts. In each case, we can identify certain objectively recognizable features that allow us to identify all of these things. Music theory describes how music moves us (we like resonance not dissonance, don’t change keys too often, …), culinary arts describe how food delights us (don’t mix too many spices in a single dish, desserts should not contain pickles and ice cream together…), psychologists help us understand what sorts of things are funny (defying the expectation of the setup, pointing out unspoken embarrassing truths about our bodies…), and descriptive moral theory describes aspects of morally good acts (don’t hurt people, be honest…).

    OK. Good.

    But what we are talking about here is the reason behind our judgements: why we experience resonant music as beautiful, why we don’t find bitter ice cream to be delicious, why we find embarrassing truths to be comical, and why feel that being honest is moral. We can imagine a world in which none of these rules hold, where we listen to dissonant music and find it beautiful, hear someone reading the phone book and find it to be funny, and watch as people rape their enemy’s wives and consider that to be moral.

    I agree with the general theme in the first half of the paragraph, but the second half seems unrelated since we are attempting to describe the world as it is rather than how it could be. Still, let us continue.

    If I decided that dissonant music was beautiful, you would disagree, but there would be no objective way to decide who was right. Likewise pickles and ice cream, likewise funny phone books, and likewise moral rape. All of these judgements are subjective, even though we can point to objective characteristics of the things we’re judging and claim that those characteristics support our judgment.

    Yes, all the judgments are subjective. The act of judging is solely a subjective phenomenon. It is precisely this point that dramatizes the difference between the subject and the object. The act of judging moral rape, for example, is subjective and the principle upon which that judgment can be made is objective, that is, the objective moral law. In a very loose fashion, we can make the comparison with humor. The act of evaluating or reacting to a joke is subjective; the form and structure of the joke is objective.

    This does not mean, however, that everything in the arts is perfectly analogous to everything in the moral realm. Quite the contrary. Yes, the subject/object relationship is shared in every case, but the nature of that relationship can be quite different. In the case of beauty, for example, the subject does not overlap with the object. The perceiver of physical beauty (the subjective element) cannot influence the form of that which is beautiful (the objective element). In the case of humor, however, it is quite different. The subject can overlap with the object. Members of an audience (individual subjects) can respond to humorist’s act, contribute to it, or even undermine it. So the subject/object dynamic is always in play, but the relationship between the subject and object can vary greatly from genre to genre. To find differences among them is, in no way, to discredit the reality of the objective realm or the subjective realm.

    It seems that you would like to put humor, beauty, and morality in one category of “objective”, and put deliciousness in another category of “subjective” – perhaps because you can’t think of objective things that make people find one dish appetizing and another unpalatable.

    I am not putting humor, beauty, and morality in one category. On the contrary, I have pointed out several times that these genres, though they lend themselves to subject/object analysis, cannot be lined up and analyzed perfectly in such a horizontal fashion. Yes, comparisons do help to illuminate the principles involved if they are not taken to far, but you can always find ways in which the analogies fail. Indeed, you will recall that it was for that reason that I objected vehemently to the intrusion of beauty, humor, and taste into the discussion of morality. It was not my idea.

    But the salient issue here in our discussion of morality is this: Just because certain objective features correlate with most people’s experience, there is nothing that explains why those features correlate except to say “that is the way human beings tend to experience these things”.

    Obviously, we disagree on this one, at least at some level. The symmetry and proportions found in beautiful music (or in a beautiful person) do cause the subject to respond. The principles inherent in the natural moral law do, unless our psychic has been injured, cause us to feel good when we are kind and feel bad when we are unkind.

    I could declare that Arnold Schoenberg’s Guide to Musical Composition is the objective standard for what music is beautiful, but you may disagree. You can declare that the Bible is the objective standard for what acts are moral, and I may disagree. In the end, all of these choices are subjective.

    There has been no disagreement over the fact that our choices are all subjective. It is the form, structure, organization, or content of the thing chosen (not cluster of things chosen) and the fact that it is outside the subject that makes it objective. Schoenberg’s guide to music is a little more complicated, though, since it contains both objective and subjective elements. In one sense, its main theme may be just one man’s subjective opinion. In that sense, it is not outside the subject. On the other hand, it may contain objective truths, such as the relationship between music and mathematics. It is a cluster of things and, for that reason, not amenable, in my judgment, to subject/object analysis.

    In principle, a holy book could, I suppose, be a cluster of collective subjective opinions that may not be true and not worthy of belief. It seems to me that it would be subjective unless it is divinely inspired, that is, unless the message comes from above (God) and contains infallible, objective truths. If it comes from below (someone person or group trying to play God), it would be subjective and prone to serious error—unless and until it introduces objectively true principles. It can be a hit and miss proposition.

    Thus, the question would be, how does one determine whether or not the holy book in question is worthy of belief (or objectively true). I will be happy to take up that subject at some future time.

    .

    Now, the salient question is this: Why do you hold that merely identifying some particular set of rules describing what we find funny, beautiful, moral, etc. makes some sort of difference, since that is merely another subjective choice? If you find Native Indian music beautiful and I don’t, we are having a subjective disagreement based on our aesthetic intuitions, and the fact that you could point to some book that explains why it is beautiful doesn’t change my aesthetics.

    I agree that taste is subjective. However, that taste can depend on a great many things other than the inherent beauty of lack of beauty in the music, including such things as cultural formation, talent, and exposure. It takes time to develop an appreciation of certain kinds of beauty because its highest form is often found in subtle elements, such as what has been judiciously left out.
    One could say the same thing about the beauty of a well-written paragraph. It is an objective fact that some writers are objectively better than other writers. That is why the GRE exam scores a writers performance in objective terms, the maximum score being 6.0.

    Now it is true that the person or persons who evaluate these tests are, in some measure, providing their subjective opinion and are subject to a margin of error in their analysis. A Grad school applicant who deserves a 6.0 may only receive a 5.5 and vice versa. That is because the evaluator’s taste can become a factor. However, that difference is usually slight and not decisive enough to make or break an academic career. No one who deserves a score of 6.0 will likely receive a 3.5 and no one who deserves a score 3.5 will likely receive a 6.0. The reason for that is because good writing leaves clues about the analytic and creative sensibilities of the writer. Some are simply better at it than others.

    Even so, many people cannot distinguish a good writer from a great writer, and some cannot even distinguish a good writer from a bad writer. So it is with music and several other genres related to the arts. Objective beauty exists, but not everyone gets it. Meanwhile, tastes about which of the things that are objectively beautiful are the most beautiful will always differ.

    I must say, though, that this has been one of your better efforts. You did make a sincere attempt to address and absorb the subject matter, and the framework with which you expressed you opinions did, in my opinion, lead to a reasonable exchange.

  210. 210
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Selling the child is wrong – one shouldn’t profit from one’s misdeeds, so I don’t think the Bible has that correct at all.

    Clear enough. Selling a child is always wrong under any circumstances. The Bible is, therefore, wrong to tolerate it. I will assume that this is your answer to my question.

    I had asked what you would do if you had to choose between the prospect of selling your child into indentured servitude (not chattel slavery) or allowing your child to starve to death. That was the decision many had to make in Biblical times and the Bible does not condemn that decision.

    I agree with the Bible’s position on this matter. Obviously, you disagree. I can only conclude, then, that you would allow a child to starve to death rather then sell it into indentured servitude. I disagree with your moral priorities, but I thank you for your answer.

  211. 211
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb #209

    For the avoidance of confusion – you began the comment “Mark” but it was clearly addressed to RDFish – although I agree with pretty much everything he writes.

  212. 212
    StephenB says:

    Mark, OK. Thanks. My comments should have been written to RDFish.

  213. 213
    StephenB says:

    To RDFish, My comments @109 should have been written to you. However, my assessment is the same. I think it is the best post you have written on the thread.

  214. 214
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Great! If you haven’t ruled it out, then you’ll agree with me that it might not necessarily be subjectivity all the way down and that there might yet be hope for those who long for objective certainty.

    Not really – even if there was a supernatural being who created the world, I don’t see why that means that His moral judgement is correct.

    Sure, you’ve stated that you are only relying on your moral intuitions. But then you’ve also made statements as though you are objectively certain of their truth.

    No, I haven’t.

    In other words, the statements you’ve made and how you’ve phrased them are indistinguishable from how one who believed them with objective certainty would make the same statements.

    As I’ve explained endlessly here, when a moral subjectivist says that rape IS wrong, it means that rape contradicts their subjective moral intuition, not that it contradicts some sort of objective moral standard. Just like when you say “This pie is delicious”, you mean that you subjectively find it delicious, not that it meets some objective standard for deliciousness.

    Though, obviously in a much different context, aren’t Christians often accused of being narrow-minded for saying something similar?

    My quote was “There is only way way – we each judge morality of ourselves and others based on our moral intuitions”. I don’t think that is being narrow minded – I’m open to somebody explaining how there might be some other way. But I’ve never had anyone explain to me how we can objectively know which of the different supposedly objective moral codes we are supposed to follow, and neither can anyone explain to me why the code of, say, the Bible is any more objective than some other code.

    So, how do you say the things you say differently?

    In my view, we each have undeniably have abiding moral intuitions. We can either choose to follow these moral intuitions, or we can instead decide that some scripture or text represents an objective moral code, and choose to follow that. To me, that choice is just another subjective intuition. That’s why I say there is no privileged, objectively correct morality – we all have no choice but to follow our intuitions. Moreover, it’s clear to me that people don’t actually rely on the Bible to decide what they think is right. Do you really refrain from torturing puppies because of something in the Bible? And if the Bible said otherwise, you could see yourself doing that? I don’t think so.

    If not, then how would you treat your personal subjective intuition that “He is wrong. He is wrong to torture puppies,” differently if it were, instead, an objective certainty? How would one distinguish between your treatment of the two or your statements regarding the two?

    There is no difference – that’s my point. There is no objective morality, so when you say “It’s wrong to torture puppies” and I say the same thing, we mean the same thing for the same reason – that we both have involuntary moral intuitions that this behavior is reprehensible.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  215. 215
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    The act of judging moral rape, for example, is subjective and the principle upon which that judgment can be made is objective, that is, the objective moral law. In a very loose fashion, we can make the comparison with humor. The act of evaluating or reacting to a joke is subjective; the form and structure of the joke is objective.

    I think this analogy is instructive. There are all sorts of things that we find funny, and not all of them share any particular structure. Judging by YouTube, many people think that getting hit in the testicles with a golf ball is funny, or a cat falling into a bucket. The point I’m making is this: There is no analysis of the structure of humor that is anywhere near comprehensive enough to capture what people actually find funny – or not funny. Instead, we just have to listen to jokes and watch YouTube videos and find out if it strikes us as funny (aligns with our comdedic intuitions, you might say) or not.

    Likewise morality: There is no standardized moral code that is anywhere near comprehensive enough to capture the range of moral dilemmas we encounter. Instead, we just have to decide for ourselves, subjectively, what is right in any particular situation. (That doesn’t mean that it isn’t helpful to understand what other thoughtful people have said about difficult moral issues, including reading religious scripture).

    Indeed, you will recall that it was for that reason that I objected vehemently to the intrusion of beauty, humor, and taste into the discussion of morality. It was not my idea.

    Well, then, you force me to remind you out that the reason these things came up was because you didn’t understand how using the word “is” did not necessarily indicate an objective quality – particularly after morality was repeatedly defined to be subjective. But please let’s not revisit that.

    The symmetry and proportions found in beautiful music (or in a beautiful person) do cause the subject to respond.

    We respond to much more than symmetry and proportions – so many combinations of factors, in fact, that no analysis of beauty can fully capture why we think some things are beautiful and not others.

    The principles inherent in the natural moral law do, unless our psychic has been injured, cause us to feel good when we are kind and feel bad when we are unkind.

    I call this “subjective moral intuition” rather than “natural moral law”, but yes, that’s right.

    In principle, a holy book could, I suppose, be a cluster of collective subjective opinions that may not be true and not worthy of belief. It seems to me that it would be subjective unless it is divinely inspired, that is, unless the message comes from above (God) and contains infallible, objective truths.

    You think that what all people ought to do is to study the Christian Bible and follow it as a moral guide. Other people think that what all people ought to do is to study the Koran (or Book of Mormon, or some other scripture) and follow it as a moral guide. If these books contradict (and they do), then they cannot logically all be full of infallible objective truths. But which of them – if any – contain infallible objective truths? The answer is subjective opinion. And worse yet, many holy books are very old, and talk about historical contexts that have little resemblence to the situations we face today. Thus, anyone trying to use ancient scripture as a moral guide is forced to subjectively interpret what they read, extrapolating and subjectively adapting to modern situations.

    What all that means is that your moral code is exactly as fallible and lacking objective justification as mine. So I think one shouldn’t claim that one particular holy book is right and everyone else’s is wrong. I don’t think one should say their religious belief is priviledged over all others. Rather, I think we should all say that everyone’s moral intuitions have the same status. Virtually all individuals from all cultures agree on most moral issues (rape, kidnapping, murder, theft, cheating, torture, lying, etc are wrong), and so we collectively judge people who violate these rules.

    It is an objective fact that some writers are objectively better than other writers. That is why the GRE exam scores a writers performance in objective terms, the maximum score being 6.0.

    So the fact that various human beings judge the writing of another human being and gives them a score makes that objective? How about some human beings judge the morality of another human being – why isn’t that objective? How about if we give out numeric scores, where 6.0 is maximally good? Would it be objective then?

    You have described the writing evaluations as being objective, but using the same judging methods for moral issues, you believe, would be subjective. Why?

    Now it is true that the person or persons who evaluate these tests are, in some measure, providing their subjective opinion and are subject to a margin of error in their analysis. A Grad school applicant who deserves a 6.0 may only receive a 5.5 and vice versa. That is because the evaluator’s taste can become a factor. However, that difference is usually slight and not decisive enough to make or break an academic career. No one who deserves a score of 6.0 will likely receive a 3.5 and no one who deserves a score 3.5 will likely receive a 6.0. The reason for that is because good writing leaves clues about the analytic and creative sensibilities of the writer. Some are simply better at it than others.

    Again, the same as moral judgement using subjective moral intuition. Someone who thinks it’s ok to sell one’s children may be judged more harshly by one evaluator than another. But by and large moral evaluators do agree – rape, murder, and so on are universally thought to be wrong.

    While you consider the evaluation of writing skills to be objective, it is all just a matter of human opinion what constitutes good writing in the first place. You think that “it would all be subjective unless it is divinely inspired” when it comes to morality – but there is no divinely inspired handbook of good writing for undergraduates.

    I must say, though, that this has been one of your better efforts. You did make a sincere attempt to address and absorb the subject matter, and the framework with which you expressed you opinions did, in my opinion, lead to a reasonable exchange.

    Your preceding post dropped the attacks and tried in good faith to answer the questions I’d posed. As always, my policy here is tit-for-tat, and as soon as anyone is willing to debate politely I immediately do the same.

    RDF: Selling the child is wrong – one shouldn’t profit from one’s misdeeds, so I don’t think the Bible has that correct at all.
    SB: Clear enough. Selling a child is always wrong under any circumstances. The Bible is, therefore, wrong to tolerate it. I will assume that this is your answer to my question.

    That’s right.

    I had asked what you would do if you had to choose between the prospect of selling your child into indentured servitude (not chattel slavery) or allowing your child to starve to death. That was the decision many had to make in Biblical times and the Bible does not condemn that decision.

    Why wasn’t there an option to refrain from having children unless one had the means to keep them from starving? Why wasn’t there an option to give the child away, but not profit from the selling of one’s children?

    Today, many families also face financial hardship and hunger, but we would expect them to (a) refrain from having children in this condition, but if they did then (b) put the child up for adoption if they couldn’t feed them. If we allowed the selling of children, I except that some families would have children just to profit from them.

    Say you saw a news report where these people had no job or money but kept having children anyway, and then selling them to rich people as indentured slaves that might be beaten with a rod because they were property. I’m sure you would find this reprehensible.

    I agree with the Bible’s position on this matter. Obviously, you disagree.

    Yes, I strongly disagree – the idea of making money by selling your children is deeply repugnant to me.

    I can only conclude, then, that you would allow a child to starve to death rather then sell it into indentured servitude. I disagree with your moral priorities, but I thank you for your answer.

    Again, I would do neither. What about you?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  216. 216
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb and RDFish
     
    A small contribution.
    The relationship between rules of writing or musical composition of whatever and beauty is fascinating and throws a lot of light on morality.  I guess we all agree that there is an excellent (but not perfect) correlation between something conforming to these rules and aesthetic enjoyment.  Stephen says that some things are objectively more beautiful in the light of these considerations.  You could interpret this two ways.  If you simply mean that some things conform to the rules more closely than others – fine.  If you mean that there is another property beauty which the object has more of – independent of human responses – then I have to disagree.  You cannot dissociate the concept of beauty from the human response and still have the same concept. However, what you can have is a reasoned discussion based on the rules and use the rules to change people’s aesthetic response.  So in theatre, which is the art I understand best, you can explain that one precise gesture is more powerful than lots of indefinite gestures – and someone may come to appreciate that and this may change there assessment and enjoyment of a performance.  But if they do not find it more powerful there is no further place to take the place the discussion. In the end it comes down to finding a common human reaction on which you can base the discussion. This illustrates what I mean when I say (repeatedly) that subjective does not mean trivial or whimsical.  There can be extensive rational debate about a subjective issue.

  217. 217
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Phin: Great! If you haven’t ruled it out, then you’ll agree with me that it might not necessarily be subjectivity all the way down and that there might yet be hope for those who long for objective certainty.

    RDF: Not really – even if there was a supernatural being who created the world, I don’t see why that means that His moral judgement is correct.

    A transcendent being could give us a transcendent standard at the very least. A creator can say why he created a particular thing a particular way and what his design was for the creation. This at least gives him a leg up on creations that try to tell other creations that they must or must not do particular things based solely on the personal feelings of one of the creations.

    So, again, to contrast:

    I require that other autonomous beings (having no more or less moral authority than I do) modify their behavior to the point that they are compelled to comply with my demands based solely on personally-held, admittedly fallible, and, ultimately, randomly constructed (from indifferent matter) subjective intuitions that I fully recognize they (and, perhaps, the entire universe) might not share.

    vs.

    I require that beings that I’ve created modify their behavior to the point that they are compelled to comply with my demands based solely on my authority as their creator and my insight as their designer on how they ought best to function, though I fully recognize they (and, perhaps, the rest of the entire universe) might not agree.

    Again, interfering with a free agent always feels a bit icky to me, at least until put up against the kinds of atrocities that free agents have historically visited on the world, but is there really any question that the latter formulation has a stronger claim on the behavior of others than the former?

    As I’ve explained endlessly here, when a moral subjectivist says that rape IS wrong, it means that rape contradicts their subjective moral intuition, not that it contradicts some sort of objective moral standard.

    And as others have endlessly corrected you, the term “subjective” isn’t one that you get to redefine however you like. When a moral subjectivist says that rape IS wrong, they’ve misspoken and should rightly be corrected. The best that a moral subjectivist can say is that rape SEEMS wrong, or that rape FEELS wrong, or that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, rape is wrong. Without the qualifiers, they are speaking as though they are moral objectivists.

    There is no difference – that’s my point. There is no objective morality…

    That’s a neat trick: Deny objective morality so that you can pretend your subjective reality is the same thing. I suppose its the only rhetorical trick left for you to deny that you treat your own personal subjective intuitions as though they were objective truth. We appear to be dangerously close to throwing logic out the window and resorting to denying the laws of non-contradiction or other such sophistry all for the sake of propping up an absolutely bankrupt, but wholly self-serving and convenient, view on morality.

    It is clear now that you’ve merely tried to redefine objective morality as subjective moral intuition. Without this redefinition, there is no there there. But this won’t work. The IDEAS behind the words will always resist this kind of redefinition so that you will always have to rely on silly and transparent denials of those IDEAS just to tread rhetorical water.

  218. 218
    LarTanner says:

    “The best that a moral subjectivist can say is that rape SEEMS wrong, or that rape FEELS wrong, or that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, rape is wrong. Without the qualifiers, they are speaking as though they are moral objectivists.”

    One would hope that enough people would see and feel things the same. Heck, they may even make rape against the law, even in the absence of some clear, transcendent prohibition written in the sky.

    (The number of all-caps words in the quote indicates the speaker’s reluctant acceptance that the position of the opponent probably makes better sense.)

  219. 219
    vividbleau says:

    MF

    Can I confirm I understand this. It seems rather fundamental. Are you saying there is no objective basis for choosing between moral codes? I believe that is true – but I am surprised to hear it from you.

    Hi Mark I would like to take a shot at this.

    Surprise I agree with you. I think there is an objective moral code but I cannot objectively prove this to be the case. I ASSUME tht an objective moral code must exist and I think my assumption rests on solid ground however I cannot “objectively” prove it. Does that make any sense?

    I also agree with RDF in that my moral code is subjective.

    Vivid

    Vivid

  220. 220
    StephenB says:

    RDF:

    Why wasn’t there an option to refrain from having children unless one had the means to keep them from starving? Why wasn’t there an option to give the child away, but not profit from the selling of one’s children?

    You mean why didn’t they abort? Not everyone is willing to kill a child in the womb and pretend that it is not a child. I marvel at the mindset of those who feign deep concern over the welfare of children even as they support the practice of dismembering them or scalding them to death in order to prevent their birth.

    In any case, you appear not to understand the historical circumstances. The selling of oneself or a member of the family was an established way of paying debts that could be paid no other way. It had nothing to do with “profit.” Your use of that word constitutes an attempted rhetorical trick.

    Today, many families also face financial hardship and hunger, but we would expect them to (a) refrain from having children in this condition, but if they did then (b) put the child up for adoption if they couldn’t feed them. If we allowed the selling of children, I except that some families would have children just to profit from them.

    There were no such agencies in those days—no welfare state, not adoption agencies. You are trying to change history again.

    …..”and then selling them to rich people as indentured slaves that might be beaten with a rod because they were property. I’m sure you would find this reprehensible”.

    This is another attempted rhetorical trick. Indentured servitude is not chattel slavery. It does not involve the practice of treating people like a piece of meat or beating them with rods.

    Again, I would do neither. What about you?

    I would do neither unless I had no other choices available. However, if my only two choices were to sell my children into indentured servitude for seven years (not chattel slavery) or let them starve, I would choose the former.

    So the question is this: What would you do under those same circumstances. Keep in mind that it isn’t a question about whether or not your children will starve. They are already starving. So, what do you do?

  221. 221
    Phinehas says:

    LarTanner:

    One would hope that enough people would see and feel things the same. Heck, they may even make rape against the law, even in the absence of some clear, transcendent prohibition written in the sky.

    One could hope. Some might not hope. I suppose it depends on their personal, subjective intuitions. In the end, as it pertains to law, might will probably make right.

    (The number of all-caps words in the quote indicates the speaker’s reluctant acceptance that the position of the opponent probably makes better sense.)

    My use of all caps merely reflected RDF’s, “When a moral subjectivist says that rape IS[sic] wrong…” Of course, if you’ve got nothing substantive to say, complaining about format will have to do, I suppose.

  222. 222
    Phinehas says:

    Stephen:

    This is another attempted rhetorical trick. Indentured servitude is not chattel slavery. It does not involve the practice of treating people like a piece of meat or beating them with rods.

    Indeed. Perhaps the closest comparison in modern society would be volunteering to serve in the Armed Forces. Many people serve a certain number of years in order to pay off school debts. In return, the Armed Force takes on the responsibility of feeding and equipping the recruit and basically “owns” them until their service is completed. In the not-so-distant past, this form of indentured servitude wasn’t always voluntary! Barbaric, eh?

  223. 223
    StephenB says:

    Phinehas:

    And as others have endlessly corrected you, the term “subjective” isn’t one that you get to redefine however you like. When a moral subjectivist says that rape IS wrong, they’ve misspoken and should rightly be corrected. The best that a moral subjectivist can say is that rape SEEMS wrong, or that rape FEELS wrong, or that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, rape is wrong. Without the qualifiers, they are speaking as though they are moral objectivists.

    Well stated. Of course, as we know, words do not have meanings for our dialogue partners. The idea is to use them to obfuscate and misdirect. So we get nonsense something like the following:

    “There is no such thing as objective morality, because there is no IS to morality. Even so, “I am a moral subjectivist, and I am telling you that slavery IS wrong, it doesn’t just SEEM wrong. That distinction is important because slavery IS really bad stuff.

    At least, that is my position unless you dare to remind me of the hard distinction that I just made, at which time I will be happy to inform you that there is no real distinction between “is” and “seems” after all because “is” can be subjective. My steak is tasty. Have a nice day.”

    This is what passes for intellectual sophistication in the 21st century.

  224. 224
    Phinehas says:

    Stephen:

    Exactly. That’s what I’m getting in a nutshell.

    “There is no real distinction between ‘is’ and ‘seems’ because there really is no ‘is’ there is only ‘seems.’ [Never mind that it might only seem there is no ‘is.’] So, whenever I say ‘is’ you should read ‘seems’ ’cause that’s what I mean.”

    “What? Why don’t I just use ‘seems’ instead to avoid all the confusion? Because torturing puppies IS wrong!”

  225. 225
    Mark Frank says:

    Phinehas, Stephenb

    When a moral subjectivist says that rape IS wrong, they’ve misspoken and should rightly be corrected. The best that a moral subjectivist can say is that rape SEEMS wrong, or that rape FEELS wrong, or that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, rape is wrong. Without the qualifiers, they are speaking as though they are moral objectivists.

    On the contrary, this is the kind of thing only an objectivist can reasonably say about rape. To say that rape seems wrong is to imply I might be mistaken which implies there some external condition to check my statement against. An objectivist might reasonably say rape seems wrong because e.g. they might have misinterpreted the natural moral law and actually rape was OK. A subjectivist might reasonably say it about something where they were unsure of all the relevant facts (e.g. not giving access to the bodies of MH17) but not of rape.
    To say something is wrong is not to assert a fact about it but to censure it. Moral language is prescriptive (as the philosopher R.M. Hare explained so clearly in The Language of Morals). Two people can know all  the relevant facts about about something and one assert it is wrong and the other assert it is right.  They are not disagreeing on something that can be observed or calculated. They are using speech to condone or censure – to get people to feel and act in certain ways.  You guys need to read more linguistic philosophy then you would get out of this trap of treating all language as describing when it does so much more.

  226. 226
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Once more into the gap.

    But I’ve never had anyone explain to me how we can objectively know which of the different supposedly objective moral codes we are supposed to follow…

    But I have explained to you how we could objectively know which moral codes to follow among many other things: Revelation.

    You (fallible accidental construct that you believe yourself to be) think that you’ve had a subjective intuition (whatever that means) convincing you that torturing puppies IS wrong to the point that you believe so with a strength that appears very much like that of objective certainty. But I think you should be open to the idea that your subjective intuition about torturing puppies isn’t really your thought at all, but is God’s thought embedded in your psyche in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a preference or an opinion or a human perspective at all, because it isn’t.

    You may rejoinder that there is no real way to know the difference because we are all trapped in subjectivity all the way down. But I answer, yet again, that it is only an a priori insistence that there is no God or that he cannot embed objective truth into our psyche that is keeping you trapped in subjectivity in the first place. I say that the strength with which you know that it is wrong to torture puppies is a small, but important point of evidence (not proof) that objective certainty exists, that revelation exists, and that God exists.

  227. 227
    Phinehas says:

    MF:

    On the contrary, this is the kind of thing only an objectivist can reasonably say about rape. To say that rape seems wrong is to imply I might be mistaken which implies there some external condition to check my statement against. An objectivist might reasonably say rape seems wrong because e.g. they might have misinterpreted the natural moral law and actually rape was OK.

    Read @226 above to see why this is wrong.

  228. 228
    Daniel King says:

    Sorry for butting in, but this statement by Phinehas strikes me as so inane that I have an irresistible urge to analyze it:

    But I answer, yet again, that it is only an a priori insistence that there is no God or that he cannot embed objective truth into our psyche that is keeping you trapped in subjectivity in the first place.

    This presupposes the combination of a theology positing a certain law-giving god and a rationalist philosophical claim that humans are born equipped with certain kinds of innate knowledge. Anyone not already informed about those theological and philosophical claims could not be guilty of stubbornly resisting them. Nor should anyone who finds those claims unwarranted be faulted for not accepting them.

  229. 229
    Daniel King says:

    I will add that all humans are trapped in the subjectivity of every value judgment they make, but adherents of the theology/philosophy espoused by Phinehas don’t realize it or are conditioned to deny it.

  230. 230
    StephenB says:

    Mark:

    To say something is wrong is not to assert a fact about it but to censure it.

    So it is just a coincidence that four people on this thread thought that it means exactly what it says and not what you say that it means?

    Definition

    censure:

    “to express severe disapproval of (someone or something), typically in a formal statement.”

    If I say that murder is wrong, I am not saying that it is wrong for me, nor am I simply expressing personal disapproval. I am saying that murder is wrong for everyone. That is the plain meaning of the words.

    Moral language is prescriptive (as the philosopher R.M. Hare explained so clearly in The Language of Morals).

    All that nonsense comes from Kant, who believed that morality is not “without” but “within. Why would I accept the word of a philosopher who tries to uphold such a non-thinking tradition.

    Two people can know all the relevant facts about about something and one assert it is wrong and the other assert it is right.

    Everyone, except those whose psychic has been injured, knows that it is wrong to hate, lie, cheat, slander, murder, and commit adultery. If there is any disagreement, it is only because they don’t understand or refuse to accept all the extended applications and implications of each of those commandments that reason dictates. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why subjectivists attack reason. They would prefer not to face the truth or be bound to it. They would rather create their own alternate reality and bind themselves to a moral code that they find personally convenient.

    You guys need to read more linguistic philosophy then you would get out of this trap of treating all language as describing when it does so much more.

    I am familiar with your tradition, but you are not familiar with mine. Accordingly, it is you that needs to catch up on your reading. Begin with J. Budziszewski

  231. 231
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank, LarTanner, and RDFish. All we’re missing is Reciprocating Bill.

  232. 232
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    If I say that murder is wrong, I am not saying that it is wrong for me, nor am I simply expressing personal disapproval. I am saying that murder is wrong for everyone. That is the plain meaning of the words.

    You still fail to understand how to reason like a Darwinist.

    Murder is wrong for everyone, unless it isn’t.

  233. 233
    kairosfocus says:

    DK (attn SB):

    Pardon, but our subjectivity simply means that we are self-aware, rationally contemplative agents . . . something that inherently cannot be adequately explained on GIGO-limited mechanical computation based on cause-effect links in procesors; even as — per Leibnitz — the logic of a mill is not explained through gears grinding away at one another.

    It simply is not the opposite of objectivity.

    That which is objectively so, has real, and warranted existence, it is not merely a perception . . . a figment of our imagination. Nor does this require physical, empirical manifestations as such.

    Numbers starting from the empty set corresponding to cardinality zero, {} –> 0, {0} –> 1, etc, can be built up as a purely mental exercise and indeed in this way one can construct a world model which would have a credible reality in itself as such a construct; which can then be manifested on a software stage as a simulated world. There are many aspects of such that are self-evidently true, and much more that can be shown to be necessarily so, once certain premises obtain. To make a new cosmos like that that would have physical existence would be a case of “go get your own dirt,” starting doubtless with go get your own energy.

    It seems, the confusion at work pivots on there being an assumed case of nothing but subjectivity riding on blind mechanical causal chains.

    Thus, the matter in discussion needs to be addressed at worldviews level.

    A quick trip to Crick’s 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis will suffice:

    “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.

    Philip Johnson, in his 1995 Reason in the Balance, has aptly 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.”

    In short, we have here yet another manifestation of the self-referential incoherence of evolutionary materialism. This view, never mind the lab coats, is simply not a serious worldview. (No wonder the so called New Atheists have latterly largely resorted to well-poisoning arguments by half-truths, cultural myths and the like. That such sophomoric appeals to rage have become bestsellers speaks volumes about the mindset of our time, and none of it good.)

    Nope, we can safely return to the proper and longstanding distinction SB has underscored: X seems to be the case to me is categorically distinct from X is the case.

    And, on matters of morality, I must repeat, even the attempts above by materialists to justify themselves shows just how true is the point that we are morally governed creatures who find ourselves bound by the force of OUGHT. This points to the reasonable issue of a grounding IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT.

    For which, there has long been exactly one serious candidate: the inherently good, creator God who is a necessary and maximally great being.

    Where, as Plato showed in The Laws BK X, 2350 years ago . . . which keeps being studiously ignored . . . evolutionary materialism ever ends up in radical relativism and amorality, opening the way to nihilist factions:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [ –> In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    The difference is that over the past 150 years or so, by dressing up in the lab coat, materialism has come across more persuasively to many.

    But, fundamentally, that is by begging the question through cultural influence and institutional dominance, as Lewontin so clearly exemplifies in his 1997 NYRB article, Billions and billions of demons:

    . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [And if you have been taken in by the assertion that such is “quote mined” kindly cf. the linked wider context and notes.]

    Our time needs to stop, reflect, turn back and start over again on a sounder footing for both mind and morals.

    KF

  234. 234
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Let us go back to the concrete case raised above, the murder of an eight year old girl by a man who thought her guilty of the capital crime of breathing while being Jewish:

    [Mohammed Merah] chased an 8-year-old girl [Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the principal of a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France] into the courtyard [of the school], caught her by her hair and raised a gun to shoot her. The gun jammed at this point and he changed weapons from what the police identified as a 9mm pistol to a .45 calibre gun, and shot the girl in her temple at point-blank range. The gunman then retrieved his moped and drove off.

    I hold that this is wrong, not merely that it meets with my disapproval. I hold that Merah — who thought himself justified in “retaliation” against Jews in France for real or imagined crimes of Jews in Israel — was wrong, and should have known he was wrong.

    If we have reached a point where in order to preserve a favoured worldview we have a blurring of the difference, we see exactly what Plato warned against in action.

  235. 235
    REC says:

    “[Mohammed Merah] murdered Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the principal of a Jewish day school…..”

    I’m certain it was Mohammed’s adherence to metaphysical naturalism, and not the objective morality that come from belief in the one true Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity (the people of the God of the book) that led him to think this was the proper action. If only he had faith and the transcendent objective morals that come with it, unlike, say, Eric Harris.

    KF, If this example proves anything, it is that there are mentally ill persons of all persuasions.

  236. 236
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb:

    So it is just a coincidence that four people on this thread thought that it means exactly what it says and not what you say that it means?

    Of course it says what it means. We are all using the same common English words. The question is what does it mean? Accurately describing meanings in non-circular terms is hard – even for commonly used words.

    If I say that murder is wrong, I am not saying that it is wrong for me, nor am I simply expressing personal disapproval. I am saying that murder is wrong for everyone. That is the plain meaning of the words.

    Sure. And if I censure an action I am censuring everyone from doing it.  That is plainly what I am doing.  Somewhere along the line you have to incorporate the prescriptive element, as vj pointed out. To make a moral statement is not just to describe the state of affairs it is also logically linked to action.  Someone who says “rape is evil but that is no reason for trying to prevent it” just doesn’t know how to use the word “evil”. You have never come to grips with this.

    Everyone, except those whose psychic has been injured, knows that it is wrong to hate, lie, cheat, slander, murder, and commit adultery. If there is any disagreement, it is only because they don’t understand or refuse to accept all the extended applications and implications of each of those commandments that reason dictates. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why subjectivists attack reason. They would prefer not to face the truth or be bound to it. They would rather create their own alternate reality and bind themselves to a moral code that they find personally convenient.

    Why do you choose ethical examples on which there is almost universal agreement? Actually adultery is bit different – in many societies where marriage was arranged as a matter of convenience it was considered acceptable practice – at least for men – they can’t all have had their psychic injured.  But let’s take topics which there is clear disagreement:  practising homosexuality or using animals for scientific experiments. In these cases you can know all the relevant facts and still disagree on whether it is right or wrong.  (And stop telling me why I have my beliefs. You are not a psychologist and you know nothing about me.) 

    I am familiar with your tradition,

    So what did you think of The Language of Morals? Do you understand that the meaning of words can be something other than descriptions of external affairs? 

    But you are not familiar with mine. Accordingly, it is you that needs to catch up on your reading. Begin with J. Budziszewski

    I could always learn more but we were discussing subjectivism.

  237. 237
    Mark Frank says:

    I hold that this is wrong, not merely that it meets with my disapproval. I hold that Merah — who thought himself justified in “retaliation” against Jews in France for real or imagined crimes of Jews in Israel — was wrong, and should have known he was wrong.

    The first part of this sentence is a standard move in this particular debate. Take some issue on which there is almost universal agreement that it is wrong and then emphasise that is REALLY WRONG and not just mere disapproval or whim. This is argument by moral pressure. It makes it look as though any attempt to challenge the objectivist view of ethics is also condoning behaviour we all find unacceptable.  In fact there is a world of difference between mere disapproval and passionate condemnation based on reasons and a confidence that almost everyone else also condemns that behaviour. But we have been over this so many times …..

    More interesting is the final phrase  “and should have known he was wrong”. If “wrong” is an objective attribute of an action then why is someone culpable for failing to know it applies?  They might have failed to notice that particular aspect of the action or have been a bit slow in working it out or made a mistake in their deductions.  On the other hand it makes perfect sense if you recognise that moral language is prescriptive. To say “you ought to have known it is wrong” is simply a way of reiterating your condemnation and possible also condemning your lack of sensitivity.

  238. 238
    kairosfocus says:

    REC:

    Pardon, but I think a re-think is in order.

    I think a direct observation is necessary: has anyone — other than you — suggested that being religious means that one cannot descend to murder?

    On fair comment, no.

    (That is, you have set up and knocked over a strawman.)

    Here is the apostle James on the matter:

    James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear . . . 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.[NET]

    The correct issue is not merely to believe in God, but to repent from “dead works” as a part of coming to trust in God — leading to a pattern of living that manifests the “fruit” of repentance.

    As, should be well known to one and all but is not in a day where there are all too many that insistently try to redefine belief in God as delusional, blind, irrational belief. Which of course easily lends itself to irrational behaviour, a perception that then reinforces the well-poisoning patterns of thought that have been so widely promoted by the so-called New Atheists.

    In fact, the proper understanding of Faith in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is close to “well-founded trust that manifests itself in confident action on the promises of God, further shaped by the moral requisites of right relationship with the Holy, Just and Good God — involving turning from wrongdoing and evil.” (I suggest you see here on for a 101 on the inescapable intertwining of reason and belief in the roots of a worldview, including self-evident first principles of right reason that must be taken on trust to begin to think straight. Boiled down, as finite, fallible minds with bounded rationality, we cannot but begin from a faith-point in our thinking and living; the real issue is which faith stance we take, why. Similarly, here on will help you understand the specific warrant for faith in God in light of the Gospel. Make sure to watch the video. If you wish to critique Judaeo-Christian thought and ethics, do kindly first make a diligent effort to correctly understand the foundations.)

    And, I should also point out that while Islam clearly intends to be addressing the same God of Judaeo-Christian theism, precisely because it sees itself as correcting such [and in so doing makes some unfortunate errors that can be seen for instance in Q 9:29 ff and elsewhere] there are sufficient differences in the Islamic understanding that should make one pause before simply conflating the three. There are links, but the three are sufficiently diverse that (particularly in regards to Islam) the differences can be material.

    Going back to the specific example, it shows what happens when one refuses to acknowledge the essential equality and moral worth of one’s fellow human being. Where also, murderous behaviour is not simply equatable with mental illness. By far and away most people who are mentally ill are not murderously hateful. Let us not mischaracterise them by painting with a broad brush that splatters far and wide.

    That, too, is prejudice.

    And, those who professionally assess people on whether they are criminally insane, mark a distinction between being mad and bad. It is possible to be mad but not bad, and to be bad but not mad. It is even possible to distinguish how a mad person can be also bad. To be bad in the relevant sense is to willfully, knowingly choose the wrong when one knew or should have known better. Harris knew better, and so did Merah. Those who failed to provide adequate protection at the two schools also should have known better, too. (Nor is this just a matter of “guns.” Bombs and knives are also quite relevant; indeed there was a horrific knife attack in China. And yet, here, I have not the slightest concern that people routinely sharpen machetes “back and belly” for agricultural use. Judaeo-Christian ethics are sufficiently pervasive in the community that the thought of attacking and massacring those in a school as an undifferentiated mass to make some twisted demonic statement is simply not on the radar screen. If there begins to be a penetration of forces and trends that undermine that consensus, I would then take a different view.)

    What is material to the actual issue on the table is, first, that it is self evident that Merah, like Harris, did what was wrong and a violation of fundamental rights tied to the inherent dignity of the human person.

    That is undeniable, apart from the sort of absurdities and word twisting rhetorical gymnastics that are unfortunately seen above in this thread.

    The horrible reality of rights and of wrongs in violation of such then highlights that we are under moral government, under the force of OUGHT.

    This means that we need to recognise the need for a foundational IS in the world capable of bearing the weight of ought. For which, again — after 2350 years of debate on the record — there is but one serious candidate: the inherently good, Creator God who is a necessary and maximally great Being.

    Attempts to found morality on the arbitrary will of a god fail — where the Euthyphro dilemma has a strictly limited point. Attempts to found it on social consensus and the twists and turns of the tactics of the spinmeisters pushing agendas fail. Attempts to found it on one’s subjective sense of what is right fail. Attempts to derive it from blind chance and mechanical necessity acting on living matter through time fail.

    So, we face the stark choice between God, the inherently good as the foundational IS that grounds OUGHT, and the ultimately amoral credo, might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    But, so stark is that choice that many will insist on finding a third way.

    Which, on the logic involved, will inevitably fail.

    And in particular, the moral bankruptcy of Harris’ evolutionary materialism was on the record 2350 years ago in the work of one of the top ten writers of our civilisation. (Do you not wonder why the text I have cited above is so little known? Shouldn’t that give us pause? Or, has the level of thought in our time fallen so far?)

    Yes, in our day we are not prone to think in terms of roots and foundations. But that does not make such unimportant.

    Yes, one can behave in general in a moral way, even if one rests on a foundation that cannot ground ought. And one who can access that foundation can do awful things.

    Neither of these is relevant to what is crucially on the table: first, that we do need to ground OUGHT, and second what happens in a culture when we systematically undermine the grounding of ought.

    But then, Santayana long ago warned that while those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat its worst chapters, by and large we refuse to learn from history. Marx adds, that this explains why history repeats, to the point of sad farce.

    The problem is, the lessons of history — often bought with the hard, hard price of blood — are so often unpalatable, challenging and uncomfortable, even demanding.

    So, maybe there is a point to the view that we often prefer comfortable delusions to hard, prickly realities.

    Which constantly repeated pattern and its consequences, again, is one of those hard-bought lessons of history.

    But, this time around will there be enough widows and mothers left to cry the rivers of tears that are coming?

    KF

  239. 239
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Pardon an observation.

    The difference between X is right/wrong, and X SEEMS right/wrong to me/us is quite clear enough and non-circular.

    The pivotal issue is whether (a) we actually are under the moral government of OUGHT, or that (b) this only appears so, in a world where there is in fact no world-foundational IS capable of bearing the weight of ought.

    The by far and away consensus of humanity over the ages and today, is that we indeed are under moral government, including among leading lights of civilisation.

    To speak on the premise of that consensus, then, is not question begging; once there is no knock-down counter-argument that is sound. Of such, we can find nowhere the faintest trace, never mind the lab coat clad self-refuting declarations of a William Provine:

    Naturalistic evolution [= evolutionary materialism] 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 . . . [2nd annual Darwin Day address U Tenn, 1998]

    The obvious point is that the five listed conclusions are CONSEQUENCES of a prior commitment to evolutionary materialism, which has been imposed while dressed up in the lab coat. But in fact, immediately, if we have no responsible freedom, we can have neither minds nor morals, and this is patently counter-factual and absurd. That is why it is so stoutly resisted by the ordinary, reasonable person. And so, the implication of the a priori of materialism that there is no foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, becomes moot.

    As Haldane ling since warned:

    “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.]

    Instead, if anything, we must note that when advocates of evolutionary materialism seek to justify themselves by making morally grounded arguments and assertions, they directly imply that they too are under such moral government.

    So, what is under test is not really the consensus of the race — a consensus shown by how common quarrels are and by what they try to do: show the other party to be in the wrong — but rather schemes of thought that imply that such a consensus on a major aspect of mind, is delusional. (Which BTW immediately raises the implication of general delusion in the human mind; which is self referentially undermining of rationality.)

    What is under test, is a system that implies that might and manipulation make ‘right.’ Namely, evolutionary materialism, as has been so exposed 2,350 years past and still standing.

    I therefore respectfully but firmly suggest that you need to ponder that fatal foundational crack and other similar cracks.

    KF

  240. 240
    EugeneS says:

    Kairosfocus, colleagues,

    I was asked how an upper bound on the amount of functional complexity was computed for biological systems (140 bits or, equivalently 10^40 organisms). Even though I know the principle of the calculation, I could not answer in enough detail. I was wondering if there was a post specifically about this. What I’d like to know in particular is assumptions regarding the maximum replication rate etc.

    I remember seeing a video by Kirk Durston where he explained this but I would not be able to find it now quickly enough.

    Many Thanks!

  241. 241
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Selensky, I think that may be a bit hard to find, what is easily to hand is that there is a 500 – 1,000 bit threshold based on atomic resources. I suggest that such a limit would be set by time available, generation lifespans, with bacteria dominant — what, 20 minutes? — and planet scale resources for reasonable solar system spans; perhaps constrained by amount of available carbon in the observed cosmos (the only observed cosmos). KF

  242. 242
    EugeneS says:

    KF,

    Thanks anyway!

  243. 243
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I’m certain it was Mohammed’s adherence to metaphysical naturalism, and not the objective morality that come from belief in the one true Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity (the people of the God of the book) that led him to think this was the proper action. If only he had faith and the transcendent objective morals that come with it, unlike, say, Eric Harris.

    Murder, in terms of objective morality, is the deliberate killing of a person who is innocent. So, killing in self-defense or enemies wartime is not murder per se. In the example given, based on Islamic moral principles, Jews are considered as enemies and there’s the historic warfare in the Holy Land between Muslim and Jew.

    From a Christian perspective(and probably the majority of non-Christians in the West), the incident is an obvious immoral act — going against common moral norms.

    But I wouldn’t call that a violation of objective moral norms. The young girl was not perceived as innocent since she was considered an enemy of Islam. If, however, the killer shot her simply for the sake of killing someone, with no regard to her religion or race – that would be a crime against the objective moral order.

    For metaphysical naturalism, however – there can’t be any objective moral first principles. There can’t be a sense of innocent or guilty really either — since there is no purpose that any human being has for existence. There are no eternal consequences or justice for acts committed either. Killing of a Jewish girl like that could be considered “good” by evolutionary standards, if one race decided to eliminate all others.

    To argue against Islamic ethical codes requires a comparative study of the Koran and Mohammed’s claims to try to understand if he had an authentic revelation from God.

  244. 244
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: We are talking about an eight year old girl, resident in France and probably a French citizen. She was not a combatant or on a battlefield acting as a child soldier or one in the direct logistics train or the like. Nor, was she in the position of collateral damage during a legitimate military operation targetting a legitimate military target, awful though that is — I recall here, the awful decision Eisenhower had to make to bomb the very same country of France to prepare the way for the D-Day invasion seventy years ago, with the issue of the development of nukes and rockets that could carry them obviously lurking in the background. This shy little girl was just there at her dad’s workplace thousands of miles from any zone of active conflict, when a terrorist showed up presuming to have the power to be judge, jury and executioner on the capital crime of breathing while being Jewish; not in Israel, but in France. He chased her down, caught her, put a first gun to her head and tried to fire — it jammed. He took out a second gun to kill her. It is as if God gave him a second chance to think again on what he was doing, but he was too taken up with his hate and blood lust; having already killed several adults. This was murder, pure and simple. And, the case is held up as a yardstick of the shedding of patently innocent blood. That case is not on trial, we are on how we respond to it. KF

  245. 245
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Selensky, maybe this is what you want? I found it on a Google search. KF

  246. 246
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Selensky, please note Durston at comment 95. KF

  247. 247
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Hi KF
    I’m certainly not defending the action, so that’s not the point. I have a Christian perspective so my morality is informed both by the objective moral law and Christian revelation. It seems much of what you wrote is written from a Christian perspective, but we can’t call Christian revelation part of an objective moral norm.

    I was looking at the system of ethics that provided moral reasoning. In this case, Islamic teaching. But you could look at metaphysical materialism also. Would the killing be justified under a materialistic ethics? Yes, it would be — for reasons I gave.

    The same with Islam. You gave the example of non-combatants (and also what happened in WWII where Christian/American leaders dropped bombs on civilians). The Just War theory is a Christian construct. It doesn’t apply in Islam. Non-believers are considered guilty.
    One area I’m not sure about is whether the age of the non-believer is a moral factor in Islam. If so, then that would have been a violation of conscience to kill an 8 yr old.

    As far as revenge killing, again – it’s a Christan concept to love one’s enemies, turn the cheek and leave revenge to God. It’s not part of Islam where justice is supposed to be given to enemies. The same could be true for atheism where there’s only justice in this life, so revenge would be logically justified.

    The terrorist, in this case, could have believed it was his mission to kill enemies of Islam. I think a lot of them do think and act that way. I think the problem is with the first principles because you can’t argue from the action itself, given that Islam calls for the destruction of enemies for the glory of Allah.

    It is as if God gave him a second chance to think again on what he was doing, but he was too taken up with his hate and blood lust; having already killed several adults. This was murder, pure and simple. And, the case is held up as a yardstick of the shedding of patently innocent blood.

    Certainly innocent by my standards. But in some parts of the Muslim world, as a Christian, I would be considered guilty as an unbeliever, for example. In my view, I haven’t done anything wrong. But I would still be subject to harrassment or even a command to “convert or die”.

    My polnt here is that the way to solve this problem is not with reference to an individual act but in reference to the quality of the moral code that allows for such things. That’s where it gets difficult. Can it be shown that Islam is flawed as a basis for morality? In my view, that many Muslims insist that the Koran teaches a “religion of peace” and they denounce violence is evidence of a problem, since that seems to contradict what the Koran teaches and what other Muslims believe. To me that looks like a flaw in consistency.

    That case is not on trial, we are on how we respond to it.

    Again, I hope you don’t think my analysis of this incident was in any way an attempt to justify or rationalize it on my part. I was attempting to look at the moral norms and sort out what would apply in all cases. As I mentioned, if the killer used absolutely no reasoning in deciding to kill a child, it would be a more obvious case of a violation of objective moral norms. The fact that he could reference a moral or religious code makes it more difficult.

  248. 248
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: Even in Islam, the age at which accountability seems to be accorded is above eight years old. KF

    PS: In evaluating Islam’s revelatory claims, a material factor would be getting basic claims straight, especially regarding core teachings of the Judaeo-Christian tradition one purports to expose as distorted tot he point of disqualification, and to correct and restore to pristine condition. While such is afield of this blog’s focus, that raises sobering concerns, cf basic notes here, for instance. (And, do pardon ruffled feathers if any out there, I am responding on a point of fact.)

  249. 249
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    But I wouldn’t call that a violation of objective moral norms. The young girl was not perceived as innocent since she was considered an enemy of Islam. If, however, the killer shot her simply for the sake of killing someone, with no regard to her religion or race – that would be a crime against the objective moral order.

    The objective moral law in concert with reason, from which “just war” theory is derived, informs us about how to recognize a true enemy, when we can morally use military force against that enemy, and how we must conduct ourselves under those circumstances.

    In some cases, religious zealots fail to use objective morality and reason to discern a true enemy from a “perceived” enemy or to know how to treat the enemy in an appropriate way. Many of the Islamic ethic codes, for example, militate against the inherent dignity of the human person by failing to recognize that they are made in God’s image.

    That, by the way, is another of the many problems with subjectivism, which relies solely on perceptions and feeling rather than objective morality and reason. Rather than change their behavior to fit the moral norm, subjectivists seek to change the moral norm to justify their behavior.

  250. 250
    Silver Asiatic says:

    StephenB

    The objective moral law in concert with reason, from which “just war” theory is derived, informs us about how to recognize a true enemy, when we can morally use military force against that enemy, and how we must conduct ourselves under those circumstances.

    Ok, but I don’t think one can arrive at the just war theory from the objective moral law and reason alone. It’s a set of moral norms that is highly informed by Christian revelation. From a Catholic view also, for example, it’s not part of defined moral teaching – it’s still somewhat speculative. The objective moral law cannot be that specific and make subtle distinctions. It just gives the “moral basics” which can guide any person who doesn’t have religious revelation. For Christians, Christ revealed God’s moral law which is something more than anyone could discover through the objective moral law alone.

    So, when giving examples of the objective moral law that everyone must adhere to, the examples have to be the most obvious or even extreme examples. That way, even atheists who do not accept any religious revelation must be bound to the basics of the moral law.

    In some cases, religious zealots fail to use objective morality and reason to discern a true enemy from a “perceived” enemy or to know how to treat the enemy in an appropriate way. Many of the Islamic ethic codes, for example, militate against the inherent dignity of the human person by failing to recognize that they are made in God’s image.

    It’s a good point about dignity but I’m arguing that the religious revelation informs the moral understanding. If a person is faithful to their understanding of Islam, then that results in a different moral code than a Christan view. I don’t think one can point to reason alone to explain why non-revenge, for example, is a morally correct action. Christianity offers several counter-intuitive moral codes which align perfectly with reason, but which would be impossible to derive from reason alone. Something like killing heretics had to be understood from Christian revelation (theology) and not from the objective moral law.

    Rather than change their behavior to fit the moral norm, subjectivists seek to change the moral norm to justify their behavior.

    Yes, exactly – and with regards to materialism, moral norms can be created or discarded to match any kind of behavior. There is no law giver and so there is no final accounting or justice.

  251. 251
    Silver Asiatic says:

    SA: Even in Islam, the age at which accountability seems to be accorded is above eight years old. KF

    Ok, thanks. For me that’s a key point, it makes all the difference. The killer would have been violating Islamic ethics and therefore had nothing to base his violent action on. So he was a law unto himself – which is exactly what materialism would have everyone be.

    In evaluating Islam’s revelatory claims, a material factor would be getting basic claims straight, especially regarding core teachings of the Judaeo-Christian tradition one purports to expose as distorted tot he point of disqualification, and to correct and restore to pristine condition.

    I follow where you’re going with this and I fully agree. I’m aware of what you’re referring to. For me, I’d have to investigate the metaphysical or theological foundations (of something like Islam), because in many cases the objective moral law does not tell us enough about the nature of each act. If an act can be justified by a religious revelation, then we have to look at the source and quality of that revelation. That’s a much harder task. In other cases, it’s more obvious – stealing from an innocent person to destroy them and enhance one’s own wealth is an obvious violation of objective morals. No religious teaching conflicts with that. None could because it would be so irrational and illogical it would lead only to chaos and anarchy.

  252. 252
    Mark Frank says:

    That, by the way, is another of the many problems with subjectivism, which relies solely on perceptions and feeling rather than objective morality and reason. Rather than change their behavior to fit the moral norm, subjectivists seek to change the moral norm to justify their behavior.

    I despair that after so many thousands of words of explanation Stephenb can write such utter rubbish. There is the usual false dichotomy between “perceptions and feelings” and “objective morality and reason”. And where he got the idea that subjectivists seek to change their moral norms to justify their behaviour I cannot imagine. Not from observing subjectivists – that’s for sure.

  253. 253
    LarTanner says:

    “For me that’s a key point, it makes all the difference. The killer would have been violating Islamic ethics and therefore had nothing to base his violent action on.”

    I submit that it doesn’t make all that much difference to the victim.

  254. 254
    Daniel King says:

    Mark Frank:

    And where he got the idea that subjectivists seek to change their moral norms to justify their behaviour I cannot imagine.

    It takes no imagination to recognize that claim as a standard rhetorical device that helps some brands of theists support their (subjective) need to feel morally superior to non-theists (or members of other sects)

  255. 255
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I submit that it doesn’t make all that much difference to the victim.

    Of course. That’s the point of this thread. From an atheist/materialist perspective, there’s no real difference between life and death and no reason why any individual should or should not live. As well understood, the death of any person, or of the whole human race might be considered good or bad depending on any subjective opinion — although in a purposeless existence even that doesn’t make sense.

    Whereas from a theistic perspective, how and why she died would make a quite a lot of difference to the victim since the soul lives on and faces judgement.

  256. 256
    Silver Asiatic says:

    And where he got the idea that subjectivists seek to change their moral norms to justify their behaviour I cannot imagine. Not from observing subjectivists – that’s for sure.

    Subjectivists create moral norms for themselves. They don’t look to comply with a moral standard outside of their own. In order to create moral norms for themselves, they had to change them. At one time they didn’t have the norm, and then later they did.

    Whether they changed the norm to justify behavior is irrelevant since the very same person who created the norm, is the person who justifies, rewards or condemns.

    It’s interesting – a subjectivist creates a moral norm for oneself. “I will never do XYZ.” Then the same person violates the norm. So this person then condemns his or herself. Ok, but is there any appeal process? 🙂

    “Hey, self – don’t condemn me, that moral norm is too strict and poorly defined. It doesn’t take into consideration circumstances.”

    Any lawyer knows how this works. There’s always a loophole.

    But in this case, the lawmaker, judge, attorney and the defendant are the same person.

    There’s obviously a conflict of interest. 🙂

    It’s not a question of who will win (the hard-line lawmaker or the slippery defendant) but who “should” win.

    What if the moral norm, created for oneself, really is unrealistic or unjust?

    Are we going to believe that a subjectivist will not change it just because the lawmaker/self created it? Then wouldn’t that be an injustice done by the lawmaker?

    This just goes in endless loops. An unjust/just lawmaker, an innocent/guilty law-breaker, a loophole seeking/honest attorney for the defense and a judge who can/can’t interpret the law.

  257. 257
    kairosfocus says:

    DK & MF: Perhaps, you have overlooked or forgotten the well-known known impact of cognitive dissonance whereby it pulls attitudes to track behaviour that may at first be quite uncomfortable? Including also the well known pattern of the benumbed conscience? As well as the problem of social support and peer pressure? These and linked concerns that can degrade moral praxis and behaviour of individuals, families, organisation members and communities are well known and often quite problematic, so I find your dismissive rhetoric about “rhetoric” quite out of place. The truth is, evolutionary materialism has in it no foundational IS capable of bearing the weight of ought AND a 2350 year old on the record history of degradation of moral behaviour, leading to sobering concerns for at least that long. Further, in our day, the aggressive new atheists have spent the past decade on a global well-poisoning initiative targetting especially the Judaeo-Christian theistic tradition, which through the hundreds of years of examples of prophets, reformers, confessors and martyrs, has a strong tradition of moral upliftment and peaceful resistance to entrenched evils, equipping people with the moral fibre to stand against the tide. I think you should pause and think about the pattern of dots you are inviting us to connect, in an age where in the early 1970’s ever so many had qualms about the rising tide of the ongoing abortion holocaust but were led through the same forces above, to turn around to supporting flimsy slogans about choice and reproductive rights. As a result of the overall pattern we have an ongoing holocaust that has cost hundreds of millions of unborn children their lives in this past generation, and has benumbed the consciences of a generation in a sea of bloodguilt. That such an age is proceeding now to dismantle marriage and family, and worse, is no great surprise. I tremble for our civilisation. KF

  258. 258
    Daniel King says:

    KF:

    God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers…

  259. 259
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    Ok, but I don’t think one can arrive at the just war theory from the objective moral law and reason alone. It’s a set of moral norms that is highly informed by Christian revelation. From a Catholic view also, for example, it’s not part of defined moral teaching – it’s still somewhat speculative. The objective moral law cannot be that specific and make subtle distinctions. It just gives the “moral basics” which can guide any person who doesn’t have religious revelation.

    Good. Yes, I agree with you on mpst points:

    Granted, the objective moral law alone cannot suffice, because it is too general to cover the more complicated moral issues. It must be used on concert with reason, and is, as it turns out, inextricably tied to reason.

    Granted, the more explicit expression of the natural moral law is revealed in the Christian scriptures, as we find in the Ten Commandments and other places.

    I would hasten to add, though, that the natural moral law is, as J Budziszewski reminds us, built in to the deep structure of the human intellect, though it is incomplete and less explicit than revealed truths. The natural moral law is just that: it is about human nature and not about human constructs or social conventions. Yes, revealed truths can illuminate it and make it more explicit, but it exists independent of divine revelation.

    This point dramatizes the poverty of the subjectivist position. Advocates of reason and the natural moral law recognize two obvious facts: there are some things that they want to do and shouldn’t do, and there are some things that they should do and do not want to do. Accordingly, they can exercise discipline and make sacrifices to bridge the gap between where they are and where they ought to be. Among other things they can learn to acquire virtues and rid themselves of vices.

    Subjectivists cannot make this moral calculation because their code is based on feelings and personal convenience. They cannot distinguish a good impulse from a bad impulse. Good and bad mean nothing to them. Accordingly, virtues are likely to be undeveloped and vices are likely to be left uncorrected. For them, there is no gap between where they are and where they ought to be because, for them, there is no “ought to be.”

  260. 260
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Great post, StephenB.

    J Budziszewski

    I read his “What we can’t not know” just recently. Truly superb.

  261. 261
    kairosfocus says:

    DK: FYI, FTR to point out that genuine faith requires penitence and that it has a track record of laying a basis for resistance to the slide down the cliff is not to pretend to sinless perfection. All I can do beyond that is again invite you to rethink on a sounder basis. KF

  262. 262
    kairosfocus says:

    SA & SB: I think there is a sampler here. KF

  263. 263
    vividbleau says:

    DK

    KF:

    God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers…

    What a cheap shot. Obviously you do not understand the Christian gospel.
    It is not KF that thinks he is better than you it is exactly the other way around.

    One of the most profound sayings of Jesus refers to this very thing. Jesus never had issues with “sinners”. The only time we read about Him being angry was when He was dealing with the religious and self righteous .

    You see He says that He did not come for the healthy rather He came for the sick. I am sure KF would agree that because we are sick, we are “sinners” we need to rely on the righteousness of another.

    No no it is not KF who thinks he is more righteous than you it is the exact opposite .

    Vivid

  264. 264
    Mark Frank says:

    #256 SA

    Subjectivists create moral norms for themselves. They don’t look to comply with a moral standard outside of their own. In order to create moral norms for themselves, they had to change them. At one time they didn’t have the norm, and then later they did.

    Whether they changed the norm to justify behavior is irrelevant since the very same person who created the norm, is the person who justifies, rewards or condemns.

    Subjectivism is  not a choice about how to conduct yourself morally.  It is a philosophical theory about what is going on when people behave morally.  As a subjectivist I believe that everybody’s moral behaviour is at core based on their personal feelings – that includes you, Stephenb, and KF.  You just don’t realise it because you haven’t thought it through (I don’t blame you. It is hard. It has taken me 40 years to be completely clear about it).  So, just like you, I have moral standards which have a lot in common with yours and partially arise from my Christian heritage.  Like you, and all theists, I have been guilty of interpreting those standards in a way that is “convenient” for what I want to do for other reasons. That is weakness of the will. We all suffer from it.  But I have concluded that in the end those standards cannot be deduced from some ultimate foundation – they are based on the moral aspects of human nature and while the vast majority of humans have a lot in common when it comes to their moral nature there are significant differences for which there is no ultimate way of deciding.

  265. 265
    Mark Frank says:

    #263 VB

    If you want to decide if KF thinks he is morally superior to evolutionary materialists I suggest you read what KF writes not what Jesus wrote.

  266. 266
    Mark Frank says:

    #265 correction

    “I suggest you read what KF writes not what Jesus said.”

  267. 267
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    With all due respect, this is now a well-poisoning game.

    You full well know that you have long studiously taken the stance NOT to read what I have written, doubtless preferring to read those who maliciously frame me the better to well poison. That’s sad, and it should stop.

    Now, you know that I disagree with evolutionary materialism, holding it — along with some fairly distinguished company starting with Plato in The Laws Bk X 360 BC — inescapably self referentially incoherent and unable to ground either a credible, knowing mind or morality.

    I do so for cause, let me again cite Haldane, a leading light of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, for an in a nutshell:

    “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.]

    . . . and Wm Provine in his U Tenn. 1998 Darwin Day keynote speech:

    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 . . .

    I take these to be quite clear admissions against interest on the record.

    In the former case, we see a distancing from the implications of lab coat clad evolutionary materialism. In the second, we see an outright admission that never mind the lab coats evolutionary materialism has no foundational IS that bears the weight of OUGHT. When this is compounded by the declaration that responsible rational freedom is dead, killed by drowning in a sea of blind chance and mechanical necessity, this is immediately an erasure of moral responsibility (which he then tries to put in a favourable light by pretending to penal reform, apparently not realising C S Lewis’ warning on where turning prison into compulsory “therapy” at the hands of powers whose moral basis has been undermined leads). He also inadvertently undermines mind, as without freedom to choose reasonably, rational contemplation is dead. But, as I recently argued, that is a necessary consequence of trying to collapse rational contemplation into blindly mechanical computational processing in some architecture or another.

    I have argued — again, in a tradition that traces back to Plato — evo mat therefore inherently opens the door to those who manipulate based on undermining of both.

    If I am actually wrong, it would be quite easy to refute me.

    First, show how mind emerges from meat and escapes the GIGO-driven computation vs contemplation gap. Otherwise evo mat thinkers will be trying to get North by going West.

    Second, show the evo mat worldview foundation IS that grounds OUGHT as the principle of moral government, without reducing to amoral, nihilism-inviting absurdities such as might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’

    At this stage, after several years, it is quite clear that there are no sound answers to these two challenges forthcoming from Evo Mat advocates.

    Otherwise, they would have long since made them and such would be trumpeted from the rooftops, would be in every web discussion, and would be in every textbook.

    I will only touch on the further point that per both reliable and widely tested empirical observation and analysis of blind search of configuration spaces, FSCO/I — functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information — is a highly reliable sign of design as pivotal causal factor. Which points to the origin and body plan level diversity of cell based life as crucially tracing to design (though, as has been on the record since Thaxton et al in the early 1980’s, this is consistent with an advanced molecular nanotech lab and does not in itself necessitate design of life by intelligence beyond the observed cosmos), and also the fine tuned physics of our cosmos that so obviously sets the stage for cell based life. (This last obviously does point to a designer of tremendous knowledge, power and skill beyond our cosmos.)

    I hardly need to say how, as insistent policy sustained in the teeth of abundant evidence and direct correction, this design view has been willfully, even maliciously and consistently caricatured by many who should know better. NCSE et al and “Creationists in cheap tuxedos” etc come easily to mind. Sir, with all due respect, that pattern marks moral bankruptcy at movement level among anti-ID activists.

    For pointing out such, as you know, I and others have been made a target by outright hate and slander sites run by people you have chosen to hang with elsewhere; including people pursuing outing tactics against my family whom I have reason to believe . . . shared with the police FYI . . . may be unhinged and potentially violent. As should be very evident from what they have been doing.

    I have stood up to that, especially when ugly mafioso-style threats were made against uninvolved family including minor children and other relatives who have not the slightest involvement.

    Which, BTW, is intellectual hostage-taking: we know where you and those you care about are and we can hurt them, in crude and subtle ways, not least by trying to make sure that a web search will come up with dog whistle or outright red flag signals. You and yours will not get into OUR institutions, buster.

    Or, have you forgotten, MF, the notorious slaughter of the dissidents?

    Perhaps, my memory fails but I cannot recall any time when you have stood up to such ugly tactics among those on your side [I can at least say a bit better for EL, though she has fallen into enabling behaviour].

    But then, what is really being insinuated above, is a subject-switching strawman caricature designed to divert discussion to the theme KF is a pretended morally superior hypocrite, isn’t it: to analyse morals and mind in a way that looks to the reality of OUGHT and its requiring a grounding IS that bears its weight, is now being twisted into a caricatured claim to moral superiority.

    FYI, FTR, and as has been on record in core Christian teachings since Ep. Rom 57 AD, the basic point is that we ARE morally governed with the voice of conscience, as a deposit of our nature, so regardless of worldview we will have moral insights. However, such can be distorted and manipulated for instance through cognitive dissonance and linked peer pressures — the point that obviously provoked this latest wave of personalities as seen above, which you decided to pile on with. Where also the same classic Christian text explicitly undermines any and all pretence to moral superiority, including all of us as sinners.

    On that subject, since you demand it: as a twelve year old boy, I publicly, in tears, identified myself as a guilty sinner a just subject of God’s wrath. I have had no reason to change that opinion of myself since, any moral growth I have had the blessing to have had is by grace through penitent faith and not in accord with my just desserts. Where, a fair assessment is, I have been a particularly difficult case for grace to work on. But if Paul, the self-confessed worst of sinners is among the chief trophies of transforming grace, there is hope for me yet.

    But, all of that is off on a red herring side track, led away to ad hominem soaked strawman caricatures set alight to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise the atmosphere.

    The central, pivotal, worldview foundational issues that we are ever so prone to get distracted from are right there, still needing a sound answer from the evo mat side.

    I therefore ask you, please, please, please — more is at stake than you imagine — rethink the moral and intellectual consequences of evolutionary materialism.

    And yes, the ongoing holocaust of 50+ million unborn babies killed in the USA and hundreds of millions globally across the past generation under false colour of law empowered by the most flimsy excuses, is one of the most telling cases in point. It is capital proof, if we needed one, of how we have arrived at a high-tech neo-barbarian, morally bankrupt moral dark age and need to stop and think hard lest we take the world over a cliff.

    Poison the well (I here point, again to the New Atheism movement that lies behind so much of the approach we have seen in recent years) and fault-find or caricature or ridicule the messenger (the list is long, let’s just point to the penumbra of attack sites that surround UD etc) tactics are not going to soundly address that challenge.

    There is a serious worldview foundational issue on the table, let us take it seriously and address it on the merits.

    I trust that we can now lay aside toxic tactics and return to a focus on the merits.

    I will, finally, say this for myself. I have spoken, fundamentally, out of a sense of duty to the truth and the right, not out of any pretence to have cornered the market on either.

    And, we can all then see for ourselves the real balance on the merits:

    a: If I am grossly misinformed and in blatant error, it will be easy for MF et al to correct, deriving mind from meat and finding a materialistic foundational IS that grounds OUGHT without absurdity.

    b: If there is no sound materialist answer at a, the implication will emerge from absence of such an answer.

    c: If this is studiously ignored, silence will speak louder than words can.

    d: if instead, we see further well-poisoning, twisting, caricaturing and studious obfuscation, that too will speak by what it implies . . . no answer on the merits let us shoot at the messenger.

    KF

    PS: Onlookers, on this specific matter you may wish to read here on to see what I have actually had to say, in outline at 101 level.

  268. 268
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let me clip FTR, using Wikipedia testifying against interest for convenience (though my awareness of the issues long predates the existence of the WWW):

    Cognitive Dissonance:

    >> In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort[1] experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction.[2]

    Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed. His basic hypotheses are listed below:

    “The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance”
    “When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance”[1] . . . . Cognitive dissonance theory is founded on the assumption that individuals seek consistency between their expectations and their reality. Because of this, people engage in a process called dissonance reduction to bring their cognitions and actions in line with one another. This creation of uniformity allows for a lessening of psychological tension and distress. According to Festinger, dissonance reduction can be achieved in four ways:[1]

    Attitude: “I am going on a diet and will avoid high fat food”
    Behavior: Eating a doughnut or some other high fat food

    1. Change behavior/cognition

    (Ex: Stop eating the doughnut)

    2. Justify behavior/cognition by changing the conflicting cognition

    (Ex: “I’m allowed to cheat every once in a while”)

    3. Justify behavior/cognition by adding new cognitions

    (Ex: “I’ll spend 30 extra minutes at the gym to work it off”)

    4. Ignore/Deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs

    (Ex: “I did not eat that donut. I always eat healthy.”) >>

    Peer pressure:

    >> Peer pressure is influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform the group norms. Social groups affected include membership groups, in which individuals are “formally” members (such as political parties and trade unions), or social cliques in which membership is not clearly defined. They may also recognize dissociative groups with which they would not wish to associate, and thus they behave adversely, in ways concerning that group’s behaviors . . . . Peer conformity in young people is most pronounced with respect to style, taste, appearance, ideology, and values.[3] Peer pressure is commonly associated with episodes of adolescent risk taking (such as delinquency, drug abuse, sexual behaviours,[4] and reckless driving) because these activities commonly occur in the company of peers.[2] Affiliation with friends who engage in risk behaviors has been shown to be a strong predictor of an adolescent’s own behavior.[5] Peer pressure can also have positive effects when youth are pressured by their peers toward positive behaviour, such as volunteering for charity [6] or excelling in academics.[7] The importance of peers declines upon entering adulthood.[8] [–> I suggest, rather, that the pressure to conform becomes more subtle] . . . .

    The Third Wave was an experiment to demonstrate the appeal of fascism undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones with sophomore high school students attending his Contemporary History as part of a study of Nazi Germany. The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. Jones, unable to explain to his students how the German populace could claim ignorance of the extermination of the Jewish people, decided to show them instead. Jones started a movement called “The Third Wave” and convinced his students that the movement is to eliminate democracy. The fact that democracy emphasizes individuality was considered as a drawback of democracy, and Jones emphasized this main point of the movement in its motto: “Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride”. The Third Wave experiment is an example of risk behavior in authoritarian peer pressure situations.[10][11]

    It is one useful tool in leadership. Instead of direct delegation of tasks and results demanding, employees are in this case, induced into a behaviour of self-propelled performance and innovation, by comparison feelings towards their peers. There are several ways peer pressure can be induced in a working environment. Examples include training and team meetings. In training, the team member is in contact with people with comparable roles in other organizations. In team meetings, there is an implicit comparison between every team member, especially if the meeting agenda is to present results and goal status.[12] >>

    Something tells me some bells should be ringing now. KF

  269. 269
    Silver Asiatic says:

    #264 Mark, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your explanation.

    Subjectivism is not a choice about how to conduct yourself morally. It is a philosophical theory about what is going on when people behave morally.

    I’ve been interpreting subjectivism as the idea that each person establishes his/her own moral norms. So, morality is what one creates for oneself, versus the idea that moral norms are external to the person. But I can see your view on it also. The key word above is ‘choice’. That’s really what morality comes down to.

    As a subjectivist I believe that everybody’s moral behaviour is at core based on their personal feelings – that includes you, Stephenb, and KF.

    Following on the above – morality is about choice. In this case, it appears that subjectivism has us choosing to follow our feelings. But clearly, we often have to choose against our feelings. That’s what moral courage is all about — choosing against fear or the desire for comfort.

    But that’s kind of beside the point. Eventually, the subjectivist either has to have a moral code or else morality is just some shifting sense of following one’s feelings. If it’s a moral code, where does it come from? In my view, it is created by the subjectivist for the subjectivist. If it’s just shifting ideas based on what one is feeling at any moment, then there are no consistent moral norms.

    I guess, at the heart of what you believe is the notion that one’s feelings are something stable, clear and certain enough upon which to base a moral standard. I think experience shows, though, that feelings change change rapidly and they’re often not an accurate indicator of the truth of things. Fear, for example, can cause strange thinking. When a moral norm is fixed and external to the person (“God does not want me to do this”) — then feelings have to be fought-against. Fear, desire for pleasure, greed, lust, anger … these are all common feelings. When the moral law is fixed though, we strive to overcome those feelings.

    But I have concluded that in the end those standards cannot be deduced from some ultimate foundation – they are based on the moral aspects of human nature and while the vast majority of humans have a lot in common when it comes to their moral nature there are significant differences for which there is no ultimate way of deciding.

    Ok, I think what you said is perfectly consistent with a belief in an objective, natural moral law. We look at “the moral aspects of human nature” and discover certain norms that virtually all humans accept. I think this goes against the idea that our morals come from our personal feelings though. In fact, I think you’re pointing to an objective moral code, based on what we find in human nature, and not a subjective one. If we choose an action because “it’s the truly human thing to do”, then the code that is built into our nature forms the moral standard.

    If we choose the action that with no intention to comply with an external standard, then that is subjectivist. We do it for our own reason — and our reasons can change based on the situation or our feelings at that moment.

    When we discover the natural moral law and use it as a moral standard, I think we have to wonder where it came from. Also, what purpose does it serve? I think it’s also very clear that in the majority of human life we see the moral law pointing to recompense – justice, which cannot be realized in this life. Can we totally reject notions of spirituality and after-life while at the same time accepting that humans have a moral nature? What really happens when we go against the moral law that is built into us. Yes, we have bad feelings but is there something more to it that that?

  270. 270
    Mark Frank says:

    #269 SA – interesting – your opinions about morality may well be closer to mine than Stephenb’s opinions!  You are being misled by his gross caricature of subjectivism.

    The key word here is “feelings”. That suggests something temporary, whimsical and without logical justification – as theists are fond of putting it – like our taste in ice-cream.  I am talking about deep-seated drivers in our make-up as people which are often shaped at least in part by rational and logical reasoning such as compassion, a desire for justice, and loyalty. For example almost all humans have a deep-seated and permanent desire to limit the suffering  of those close to us, culture and logic extends that desire to those we do not know and even to other species. There are similar desires for fairness and the keeping of commitments (such as promises and oaths). Of course we also suffer from drivers to be selfish (and also to value the short term at the cost of the long term) and we have to have the moral courage to overcome these alternative drivers if we are to be moral. That’s no different to your moral philosophy. We all sometimes behave less well than we ought to and struggle to do the right thing.

    You are concerned about where moral codes come from. “Moral code” suggests a book of rules. Will you settle for moral principles? Our principles are caused by many things – our genes, culture, upbringing, reasoning and specific life-experiences.  Some people on this forum believe they are implanted by God.  That is irrelevant.  Subjectivism is not about the cause. It is about the justification. It is perfectly consistent to be a subjectivist and adopt the natural moral law as a set of moral principles.  What subjectivism is saying is that whatever principles you adopt and whatever the cause of you doing that – there is no ultimate justification.  If you keep on challenging your principles eventually you run out of justifications.  The theist might end up saying they are god-given or fulfil the ultimate purpose of a human being – but such a person still has to deal with the response –  why is it good to do what God has given or to fulfil the purpose of a human being?  The subjectivist recognises that  in the end you have no further recourse but to simply to say that is what I deeply believe to be right and wrong (and if you disagree then we are fundamentally different types of creature).  But in practice it is almost always possible to take the debate forward by finding some principles or situations on which we agree and working from there. We are talking about final justifications not spur of the moment fancies.

    Ok, I think what you said is perfectly consistent with a belief in an objective, natural moral law. We look at “the moral aspects of human nature” and discover certain norms that virtually all humans accept. I think this goes against the idea that our morals come from our personal feelings though. In fact, I think you’re pointing to an objective moral code, based on what we find in human nature, and not a subjective one. If we choose an action because “it’s the truly human thing to do”, then the code that is built into our nature forms the moral standard.

    This more or less expresses what I am trying to say.

    Following by good questions.

    Also, what purpose does it serve?

    Why does it need a purpose?

    I think it’s also very clear that in the majority of human life we see the moral law pointing to recompense – justice, which cannot be realized in this life. Can we totally reject notions of spirituality and after-life while at the same time accepting that humans have a moral nature?

    Absolutely.  That may be the key difference between us.  On the far too few occasions when I am moral I do so because of those deep-seated drivers acting in this life on earth. Stephenb would suggest he is only moral because of something external which will reward or punish him in the after-life. (Actually I am sure he is a decent chap who would be quite prepared to throw the natural law out of the window if confronted by a large claim on this compassion which was inconsistent with it)

    What really happens when we go against the moral law that is built into us. Yes, we have bad feelings but is there something more to it that that?

    Quite a lot of bad things in addition to feeling badly about it. Loss of respect from others. No reasonable argument against those who would do us harm. Weakening of moral behaviour in others as we set a bad example. And so on.

  271. 271
    StephenB says:

    Mark to SA

    The key word here is “feelings”. That suggests something temporary, whimsical and without logical justification – as theists are fond of putting it – like our taste in ice-cream. I am talking about deep-seated drivers in our make-up as people which are often shaped at least in part by rational and logical reasoning such as compassion, a desire for justice, and loyalty.

    You have just described something that defines our common human nature, which would be consistent with my view. Human nature is, by definition, objective. However, you are equivocating again because you don’t really believe that there is any such thing as “human nature” or any such thing as the morality of human nature.

    For example almost all humans have a deep-seated and permanent desire to limit the suffering of those close to us, culture and logic extends that desire to those we do not know and even to other species It is their “nature” to be that way. There are similar desires for fairness and the keeping of commitments (such as promises and oaths). Of course we also suffer from drivers to be selfish (and also to value the short term at the cost of the long term) and we have to have the moral courage to overcome these alternative drivers if we are to be moral. That’s no different to your moral philosophy. We all sometimes behave less well than we ought to and struggle to do the right thing.

    You contradicted yourself again by saying “the right thing.”That is a clear reference to objective morality. By contrast, your real philosophy holds that there is no such thing as “the right thing.” The only way a subjectivist can try to make sense is to temporarily abandon his philosophy.

    You are concerned about where moral codes come from. “Moral code” suggests a book of rules. Will you settle for moral principles? Our principles are caused by many things – our genes, culture, upbringing, reasoning and specific life-experiences.

    The issue is this Are those principles in keeping with our human nature? Are they right for all of us? If they are not right for all of us, then they are not moral principles. They are only arbitrary ideas about how some of us might behave.

    Some people on this forum believe they are implanted by God. That is irrelevant. Subjectivism is not about the cause. It is about the justification. It is perfectly consistent to be a subjectivist and adopt the natural moral law as a set of moral principles.

    Again, this is a misuse of words. An individual cannot create his own natural moral law because he cannot create nature. Nature, by definition, precedes him just as the natural moral law precedes him. Accordingly, you cannot reasonably allude to “a” natural moral law. By definition, only “the” natural moral law can exist.

    What subjectivism is saying is that whatever principles you adopt and whatever the cause of you doing that – there is no ultimate justification.

    That’s right. Subjectivism cannot be rationally or morally justified. It can only be arbitrarily asserted.

    The theist might end up saying they are god-given or fulfil the ultimate purpose of a human being – but such a person still has to deal with the response – why is it good to do what God has given or to fulfil the purpose of a human being?

    Is that supposed to be a hard question? In this context, good is defined as that which fulfills the purpose of a human being and is consistent with his nature. If a human being has no purpose, there can be no such thing as a “good” act. That should be obvious. What is a good anything? A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pen is one that writes. Can a pen be a good can opener. No. If you try to use a pen to open a can, you will fail to open the can and you will ruin the pen. If the pen and the can opener have no purpose, neither can either of them be “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” They just are. Morality for humans defines those acts that are consistent with their nature and purpose. If a human being forget his nature and tries to act like an animal, he will not only fail to achieve his end, he will ruin himself in the process.

    The subjectivist recognises that in the end you have no further recourse but to simply to say that is what I deeply believe to be right and wrong (and if you disagree then we are fundamentally different types of creature).

    You are repeating yourself. We have already established the point that the subjectivist can provide no rational justification for his philosophy.

    But in practice it is almost always possible to take the debate forward by finding some principles or situations on which we agree and working from there.

    The problem is over those things about which we disagree.

    We are talking about final justifications not spur of the moment fancies.

    Yet you have stated that you cannot provide a rational justification

    Stephenb would suggest he is only moral because of something external which will reward or punish him in the after-life.

    Once again we must establish the meanings of the words we are using. I practice morality to the extent that I behave in ways that are consistent with my human nature and purpose. If there is no such thing as human nature and purpose, then there can be no such thing as a moral act. In that case, all actions would be amoral and purposeless.

  272. 272
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    The key word here is “feelings”. That suggests something temporary, whimsical and without logical justification – as theists are fond of putting it – like our taste in ice-cream. I am talking about deep-seated drivers in our make-up as people which are often shaped at least in part by rational and logical reasoning such as compassion, a desire for justice, and loyalty.

    You have just described something that defines our common human nature, which would be consistent with my view Human nature is, by definition, objective.. However, you are equivocating again because you don’t really believe that there is any such thing as “human nature” or any such thing as a morality of human nature.

    For example almost all humans have a deep-seated and permanent desire to limit the suffering of those close to us, culture and logic extends that desire to those we do not know and even to other species It is their “nature” to be that way. There are similar desires for fairness and the keeping of commitments (such as promises and oaths). Of course we also suffer from drivers to be selfish (and also to value the short term at the cost of the long term) and we have to have the moral courage to overcome these alternative drivers if we are to be moral. That’s no different to your moral philosophy. We all sometimes behave less well than we ought to and struggle to do the right thing.

    You contradicted yourself again by saying “the right thing.”That is a clear reference to objective morality. By contrast, your real philosophy holds that there is no such thing as “the right thing.” The only way a subjectivist can try to make sense is to temporarily abandon his philosophy.

    You are concerned about where moral codes come from. “Moral code” suggests a book of rules. Will you settle for moral principles? Our principles are caused by many things – our genes, culture, upbringing, reasoning and specific life-experiences.

    The issue is this Are those principles in keeping with our human nature? Are they right for all of us? If they are not right for all of us, then they are not moral principles. They are only arbitrary ideas about how we might behave.

    Some people on this forum believe they are implanted by God. That is irrelevant. Subjectivism is not about the cause. It is about the justification. It is perfectly consistent to be a subjectivist and adopt the natural moral law as a set of moral principles.

    Again, this is a misuse of words. An individual cannot create his own natural moral law because he cannot create nature. Nature, by definition, precedes him just as the natural moral law precedes him. Accordingly, you cannot reasonably allude to “a” natural moral law. By definition, only “the” natural moral law can exist.

    What subjectivism is saying is that whatever principles you adopt and whatever the cause of you doing that – there is no ultimate justification.

    That’s right. Subjectivism cannot be morally justified. It can only be arbitrarily asserted.

    The theist might end up saying they are god-given or fulfil the ultimate purpose of a human being – but such a person still has to deal with the response – why is it good to do what God has given or to fulfil the purpose of a human being?

    Is that supposed to be a hard question? In this context, good is defined as that which fulfills the purpose of a human being. If a human being has no purpose, there can be no good. That should be obvious. What is a good anything? A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pen is one that writes. If you try to use a pen to open a can, you will fail to open the can and you will ruin the pen. If the pen and the can opener have no purpose, neither can be “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” They just are. If a human being tries to act like an animal, he will not only fail to achieve his end, he will ruin himself in the process.

    The subjectivist recognises that in the end you have no further recourse but to simply to say that is what I deeply believe to be right and wrong (and if you disagree then we are fundamentally different types of creature).

    You are repeating yourself. We have already established the point that the subjectivist can provide no rational justification for his philosophy.

    But in practice it is almost always possible to take the debate forward by finding some principles or situations on which we agree and working from there.

    The problem is over those things about which we disagree.

    We are talking about final justifications not spur of the moment fancies.

    Yet you have stated that you cannot provide a rational justification for your position.

    Stephenb would suggest he is only moral because of something external which will reward or punish him in the after-life. (Actually I am sure he is a decent chap who would be quite prepared to throw the natural law out of the window if confronted by a large claim on this compassion which was inconsistent with it)

    Once again we must establish the meanings of the words we are using. I practice morality to the extent that I behave in ways that are consistent with my human nature and purpose. If there is no such thing as human nature and purpose, then there can be no such thing as a moral act. In that case, all actions would be amoral and purposeless.

    What really happens when we go against the moral law that is built into us. Yes, we have bad feelings but is there something more to it that that?

    So now it is back to “the” moral law. Whatever happened to “a” moral law? What happens is this, Mark: When you describe your philosophy of “a” moral law, the holes in your argument become apparent, so the only solution is for you to temporarily revert back to common sense and acknowledge “the” moral law, until the heat is off, at which time you can, once again, revert back to “a” moral law.

  273. 273
    Mung says:

    kf @ 267, 268.

    Well said.

    In fact, given evolutionary materialism, what is the point of arguing for or against anything?

    Imo, they should just keep their mouths shut except to eat.

  274. 274
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: More on peer pressure from Wiki:

    An explanation of how the peer pressure process works, called “the identity shift effect”, is introduced by social psychologist, Wendy Treynor, who weaves together Leon Festinger’s two seminal social-psychological theories (on cognitive dissonance, which addresses internal conflict, and social comparison, which addresses external conflict) into a unified whole. According to Treynor’s original “identity shift effect” hypothesis, the peer pressure process works in the following way: One’s state of harmony is disrupted when faced with the threat of external conflict (social rejection) for failing to conform to a group standard. Thus, one conforms to the group standard, but as soon as one does, eliminating this external conflict, internal conflict is introduced (because one has violated one’s own standards). To rid oneself of this internal conflict (self-rejection), an “identity shift” is undertaken, where one adopts the group’s standards as one’s own, thereby eliminating internal conflict (in addition to the formerly eliminated external conflict), returning one once again to a state of harmony. Even though the peer pressure process begins and ends with one in a (conflict-less) state of harmony, as a result of conflict and the conflict resolution process, one leaves with a new identity—a new set of internalized standards.[14]

    Sounds familiar?

    Mix in desensitisation through glamourising and drumming in the formerly outrageous and outliandish. Add, jamming out of those few lone voices in the wilderness who dare object or say the Emperor is only pretending to be wearing gorgeous robes, and see how soon we have conversion — even mass conversions.

    Hey presto, early C21 society just swum into sharp focus.

    KF

  275. 275
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung:

    WJM of this blog put it in a real keeper, I slightly adapt:

    If you do not acknowledge the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not admit the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If you do not recognise libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not accept morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place.

    But, mouth noises are useful for manipulation, no . . . ?

    KF

  276. 276
    LarTanner says:

    “In fact, given evolutionary materialism, what is the point of arguing for or against anything?”

    There doesn’t need to be a point. Illustration: Every single post of yours and KF’s, ever.

  277. 277
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    It is perfectly consistent to be a subjectivist and adopt the natural moral law as a set of moral principles.

    No it isn’t. The natural moral, which law binds everyone, is inconsistent with subjectivism, which binds no one.

  278. 278
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mark,

    #269 SA – interesting – your opinions about morality may well be closer to mine than Stephenb’s opinions! You are being misled by his gross caricature of subjectivism.

    I think I agree with StephenB because I view subjectivism in the same way. Moral principles are left to the individual to create and there is no accountability or justification from an external source. But I will admit that your explanation is somewhat different from that.

    The key word here is “feelings” … I am talking about deep-seated drivers in our make-up as people which are often shaped at least in part by rational and logical reasoning such as compassion, a desire for justice, and loyalty.

    Ok, maybe desires or convictions would sound better than feelings … but in any case, what you’re describing is not just passing emotions. So, that’s good. We might call it “conscience”. But if the conscience forms a moral standard, which we can’t go against without consequences, then there is an ultimate justification here. We see human nature, and moral principles are universal, plus we discover them by feelings (or conscience). This is objective morality. We are accountable to something other than our own arbitrary decisions. There is a standard – in fact, I think you’re saying that we don’t choose it. The moral standard exists.

    For example almost all humans have a deep-seated and permanent desire to limit the suffering of those close to us, culture and logic extends that desire to those we do not know and even to other species. There are similar desires for fairness and the keeping of commitments (such as promises and oaths). Of course we also suffer from drivers to be selfish (and also to value the short term at the cost of the long term) and we have to have the moral courage to overcome these alternative drivers if we are to be moral. That’s no different to your moral philosophy. We all sometimes behave less well than we ought to and struggle to do the right thing.

    Since I fully agree with all of that (very nicely explained also), then I think that’s a big problem for your position. 🙂 If we unpack it a bit, there are some issues to look at. Yes, we have a “deep seated” desire. You used a very significant word also: “permanent”. I can’t imagine how someone could deny this. It’s universal in human experience. So, we head along a path. “Culture and logic extends the desire” – it goes beyond ourselves. The same is true with “fairness” – it extends beyond.
    But then you abruptly cut off this thought-journey. You don’t want to “extend” to where logic and culture obviously take us.

    Can we really argue that spirituality is not a “deep seated human desire”, universally present? We see it in morality, clearly. It’s obvious. Why not see the same thing in the spiritual longing of mankind? The same is true with our extension of compassion, and especially fairness. If we can extend ourselves to desire justice, why not accept that human life does continue on in the spiritual life? It’s not like that is a totally bizarre idea that nobody ever believed before. Again, it’s so widespread as to be a “characteristic of human nature itself”. We have a moral sense, we also have a spiritual sense and sense of God. Why accept the one and not the others?

    Our principles are caused by many things – our genes, culture, upbringing, reasoning and specific life-experiences. Some people on this forum believe they are implanted by God. That is irrelevant. Subjectivism is not about the cause. It is about the justification. It is perfectly consistent to be a subjectivist and adopt the natural moral law as a set of moral principles.

    Ok, but I think the act of “adopting” a set of moral principles is a choice. We make that choice for a reason – and you gave some reasons for that already. We could choose all sorts of moral codes. We could choose Islamic ethics, or Catholic ethics, or we could build our own set of moral norms based on some first principles – even on something like hedonism (“I want as much fun as I can get before I die”).

    Now, if you’re saying “we choose a moral code for subjective reasons”, ok, sure. But that’s a lot different from saying “my moral code itself is subjective”. In the one case, you have your own reason for choosing principles which you did not create. You choose to follow God, or to become a Nazi or whatever. In the other case, you make up your own moral norms. The subjectivist in that case is not accountable to an external moral authority.

    such a person still has to deal with the response – why is it good to do what God has given or to fulfil the purpose of a human being?

    That’s the question, yes. “Why is it good?” If there is no ultimate purpose to life, then a person can never know if it is good or not. The only measure of goodness, perhaps, would be some kind of evolutionary “progress” – but we know even that doesn’t work because evolution doesn’t know or care if we live or die. We can’t judge if any of our actions is “good”. Should I help a person who is suffering? We don’t know. It’s possible that helping him will make many things worse – cause more suffering, etc.

    As a personal note, I think you’re importing a lot of your past Christian ideas into your current thought. You’re seeing a lot of values and qualities in life that really only make sense in a theistic world, where there is purpose, good and evil, reward and punishment.

    But the reason it is good to do what God wants is because God is the author and source of all good, and God created us with a purpose. That’s why he created the moral norms, and why he wants us to fulfill them. The more we fulfill our true nature as human beings, the more goodness (and therefore happiness) we have. We achieve the purpose of our life. Evil is that which takes away from our being — immorality goes against our nature and our fulfillment. God made it that way since he is also the author of all being and the fullness of being.

    Why does it need a purpose?

    Moral norms need a purpose because we make rational decisions to follow them, sometimes at a great cost. Again, its a question of choice. How do we know that we should not fight against our moral nature? We could say that there are bad consequences or we feel bad, but why are those accurate indicators of what we should do? If the moral code has a purpose, then we know it directs us to what is good.

    That may be the key difference between us. On the far too few occasions when I am moral I do so because of those deep-seated drivers acting in this life on earth. Stephenb would suggest he is only moral because of something external which will reward or punish him in the after-life. (Actually I am sure he is a decent chap who would be quite prepared to throw the natural law out of the window if confronted by a large claim on this compassion which was inconsistent with it)

    I don’t think it’s fair to Stephen to say “the only” reason he acts morally is for a future reward. Plus, if he did throw away a law, it would be for a higher law of compassion, for example.
    But more importantly, it wouldn’t seem right that you’d do a moral act simply because there are deep-seated drivers in you. This would mean that you really didn’t make a decision. But we don’t view life that way. When a person makes a courageous moral act, we know it took some effort. It was a decision based on thoughts – justified by a moral sense.
    Now you might say “I don’t act morally for a reward or fear of punishment”, but it doesn’t seem that way, see the following …

    SA: What really happens when we go against the moral law that is built into us. Yes, we have bad feelings but is there something more to it that that?

    MF: Quite a lot of bad things in addition to feeling badly about it. Loss of respect from others. No reasonable argument against those who would do us harm. Weakening of moral behaviour in others as we set a bad example. And so on.

    It seems to me that these are reasons for acting morally. They’re negative consequences. The opposite are rewards. “I didn’t do that so I could retain respect from my friends”. That’s a reward for good behavior. “If I did that, I would give a bad example” … that’s fear of negative consequences (punishment).

    That’s pretty basic and, again, universal in human life.
    But what about when nobody is looking?
    What about “when I can get away with it”?

    Sometimes we won’t lose respect and we won’t be a bad example. Sometimes, doing the moral thing causes us to lose respect and be considered a bad person.

    So this is where we’re looking to a higher authority — something more than public opinion or sometimes even more than the opinion of friends and family.

    So that’s where subjectivism doesn’t make sense. We’re answering to something outside of ourselves. We’re being judged, not by public opinion but by a spiritual value. That’s what our conscience is pointing to.

  279. 279
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb

    You have just described something that defines our common human nature, which would be consistent with my view Human nature is, by definition, objective.. However, you are equivocating again because you don’t really believe that there is any such thing as “human nature” or any such thing as a morality of human nature.

    What makes you think I do not believe in human nature? I have gone to some length to explain that is exactly what I think causes us to behave morally.

    What do you mean the morality of human nature? Do you mean a morality caused by human nature? Or justified by human nature? Or what? I certainly believe our moral behaviour is caused by human nature. As you know I don’t believe there is an ultimate incontrovertible justification for morality – but it doesn’t matter so very much because we accept many imperfect justifications as part of our human nature.

    You contradicted yourself again by saying “the right thing.”That is a clear reference to objective morality. By contrast, your real philosophy holds that there is no such thing as “the right thing.” The only way a subjectivist can try to make sense is to temporarily abandon his philosophy.

    Do we have to go over this all over again?  By “right thing” I mean what I condone with good (but not ultimate) reason.  This is exactly what you mean except you mistakenly think your reason is ultimate.  You can go on telling me that I mean something else but it won’t change that.

    The issue is this Are those principles in keeping with our human nature? Are they right for all of us? If they are not right for all of us, then they are not moral principles. They are only arbitrary ideas about how we might behave.

    That is a very Kantian idea but it is not a definition of morality it is your idea of what is moral (and one I largely share) – but it is not an ultimate justification and not part of the definition of “moral”.

    Again, this is a misuse of words. An individual cannot create his own natural moral law because he cannot create nature. Nature, by definition, precedes him just as the natural moral law precedes him. Accordingly, you cannot reasonably allude to “a” natural moral law. By definition, only “the” natural moral law can exist.

    Uh? Please reread what I wrote. I didn’t write anything about creating the natural moral law and I referred to the natural moral law not a natural moral law.

    That’s right. Subjectivism cannot be morally justified. It can only be arbitrarily asserted.

    I have written repeatedly that subjectivism is a theory about the nature of morality. It is not itself a guide to how to behave morally. It is not the kind of thing that can be justified.  It is simply the assertion that there is no ultimate justification for whatever moral principles you happen to adopt.  Those moral principles will almost certainly be far from arbitrarily asserted although there can be no ultimate justification for them.  I am really running out of ways to explain this. Is it so very hard to understand?

    Is that supposed to be a hard question? In this context, good is defined as that which fulfills the purpose of a human being.

    Of course if you wish to define “good” as meaning “X” then I can’t quarrel with your assertion that to be good is to be X.  However, it is not the common English use of the word “good” and provides no reason for doing what is “good” in your sense.

    If a human being has no purpose, there can be no good. That should be obvious.

    I am sorry I don’t find that at all obvious.

    What is a good anything? A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pen is one that writes. If you try to use a pen to open a can, you will fail to open the can and you will ruin the pen. If the pen and the can opener have no purpose, neither can be “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” They just are. If a human being tries to act like an animal, he will not only fail to achieve his end, he will ruin himself in the process.

    You are using “good” in the sense of “effective”. But when we use good in the moral sense we don’t mean that. It is nothing but a rather crude play on words. 

    You are repeating yourself. We have already established the point that the subjectivist can provide no rational justification for his philosophy.

    Yet again you are failing to understand that subjectivism is a theory about the nature of morality – not a moral principle itself. It holds that no one, including you as a theist, can provide an ultimate justification for your morality. On the other hand most people, including you and I, can provide partial rational justifications.

    Yet you have stated that you cannot provide a rational justification for your position.

    Yes – that was an error – I should have said deep justifications not final justifications.  I have said many times that it is possible to provide reasons for moral positions – just not ultimate ones.

    Once again we must establish the meanings of the words we are using. I practice morality to the extent that I behave in ways that are consistent with my human nature and purpose. If there is no such thing as human nature and purpose, then there can be no such thing as a moral act. In that case, all actions would be amoral and purposeless.

    I was addressing why you practice that morality.

    So now it is back to “the” moral law. Whatever happened to “a” moral law? What happens is this, Mark: When you describe your philosophy of “a” moral law, the holes in your argument become apparent, so the only solution is for you to temporarily revert back to common sense and acknowledge “the” moral law, until the heat is off, at which time you can, once again, revert back to “a” moral law.

    Actually I never referred to “a” moral law at any point! In this case I was assuming that when SA was talking about the natural moral law he was talking about those aspects of human nature that  cause (not justify)us all to be moral to some extent.

  280. 280
    vividbleau says:

    MF

    #263 VB

    If you want to decide if KF thinks he is morally superior to evolutionary materialists I suggest you read what KF writes not what Jesus wrote.

    No I dont think so however I certainly can understand why you might think this.

    I think KF recognizes that ideas have consequences as I am sure you are concerned with as well. What is the logical consequence of an idea? Where does it ultimately lead? These are the things that I think stoke KF’s fire.

    For instance in a prvious thread I said that I thought you and people like you are a danger to science, it was concerning another topic (something coming from nothing> No I dont want to go there and neither do you:)

    Actually I did you a diservice it is not you that poses a threat it is your ideas that I think poses the threat.I apologize for not making that distinction. However ideas do have logical conclusions and they tend to over time, hundreds of years in some cases, hit that logical destination.Thats what I think KF is addressing and he is not the only one.

    You see that as “moral superiority” when actually it is concern about the consequences of ideas.

    MF

    Yet again you are failing to understand that subjectivism is a theory about the nature of morality – not a moral principle itself. It holds that no one, including you as a theist, can provide an ultimate justification for your morality.

    This is good but unclear. What would be needed in order to provide an ultimate justifiation for morality? You say no one can provide it why is that?

    Vivid

  281. 281
    Acartia_bogart says:

    280 comments, but it still comes down to one side that says you can’t have morality without a god, and the other that says this is nonsense.

    Much of what we call “moral behaviour” is nothing more than the behaviour necessary to live in a social environment. What we have seen over the last century is a slow weeding out of the behaviours based on superstition rather than that needed to survive and thrive in a group situation. In my mind, this is for the good. Although I think that I am in a minority amongst present company.

  282. 282
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid: Ideas have consequences, but the consequences often advance one funeral at a time. That is, the logic takes time, often a generation or a few, to work through. And, I am haunted by Santayana’s warning on refusing to learn lessons of history (in a context of having lived through the consequences and collapse of a particularly virulent form of evolutionary materialism up close and personal, Marxism). Where, too often the lessons of History were bought with the most precious currency of all — blood. KF

    PS: If MF et al had accused me of being extremely pessimistic, I would say, yes, and for good reason.

    PPS: I find it interesting that with a straight up challenge on the merits regarding foundational matters on the table, we are seeing various forms of evasion, strawman stereotyping and the drearily familiar like. The matter is simple — they have a straight up challenge on the merits, so they should answer it.

  283. 283
  284. 284
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    What do you mean the morality of human nature? Do you mean a morality caused by human nature. Or justified by human nature? Or what?

    The morality of human nature is exactly what the words indicate. It is a set of moral laws that determine what kinds of behavior are good or bad for humans. I don’t know how it could be more obvious.

    I certainly believe our moral behaviour is caused by human nature.

    We are discussing what the morality of human nature is, not what human nature is alleged to cause.

    As you know I don’t believe there is an ultimate incontrovertible justification for morality – but it doesn’t matter so very much because we accept many imperfect justifications as part of our human nature.

    Don’t you realize what you are doing? You are, once again, using the language of objective morality. What is an imperfection if not a failure to reach an objective standard of perfection?

    Do we have to go over this all over again? By “right thing” I mean what I condone with good (but not ultimate) reason.

    Again, you are misusing words. The word “right,” in a moral context, has nothing to do with what is “condoned.” It means what it means.

    Definition:
    Right
    –morally good, justified, or acceptable.
    “I hope we’re doing the right thing”
    synonyms: just, fair, proper, good, upright, righteous, virtuous, moral, ethical, honorable, honest; More
    lawful, legal
    “it wouldn’t be right to do that”
    antonyms: wrong, unjust

    • 2.
    true or correct as a fact.

    SB: If a human being has no purpose, there can be no good. That should be obvious.

    I am sorry I don’t find that at all obvious.

    I am sorry that you hold that position since it is, indeed, obvious.

    SB: What is a good anything? A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pen is one that writes. If you try to use a pen to open a can, you will fail to open the can and you will ruin the pen. If the pen and the can opener have no purpose, neither can be “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” They just are. If a human being tries to act like an animal, he will not only fail to achieve his end, he will ruin himself in the process.

    You are using “good” in the sense of “effective”. But when we use good in the moral sense we don’t mean that. It is nothing but a rather crude play on words.

    It is not a play on words, which is why I provided several examples to dramatize the point. Good, in a moral context, cannot be rationally separated from purpose and nature. How would you define a good can opener? How would you define a good pen? How would you define a “good” anything?

    SB: Yet you have stated that you cannot provide a rational justification for your position.

    Yes – that was an error – I should have said deep justifications not final justifications. I have said many times that it is possible to provide reasons for moral positions – just not ultimate ones.

    That is just another attempt to have it both ways. The word “deep” suggests that you can justify your position and the word “final” indicates that you cannot.

    I justify my morality on the grounds that humans have a nature and a purpose. Accordingly, a good act is one which reflects that purpose and a bad act is one which frustrates it. That is a very solid justification. I don’t have to dance through a fog of “deep” vs “final.” If I isn’t final, it isn’t deep.

    I was addressing why you practice that morality.

    Do you mean what are my motivations? It is the only way to be happy (in this world or the next). Subjectivism does not lead to happiness. It only leads to confusion. Happy people are virtuous people

  285. 285
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Just to remind of the challenge:

    _______________

    >> I disagree with evolutionary materialism, holding it — along with some fairly distinguished company starting with Plato in The Laws Bk X 360 BC — inescapably self referentially incoherent and unable to ground either a credible, knowing mind or morality.

    I do so for cause, let me again cite Haldane, a leading light of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, for an in a nutshell:

    “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.]

    . . . and Wm Provine in his U Tenn. 1998 Darwin Day keynote speech:

    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 . . .

    I take these to be quite clear admissions against interest on the record.

    In the former case, we see a distancing from the implications of lab coat clad evolutionary materialism. In the second, we see an outright admission that never mind the lab coats evolutionary materialism has no foundational IS that bears the weight of OUGHT. When this is compounded by the declaration that responsible rational freedom is dead, killed by drowning in a sea of blind chance and mechanical necessity, this is immediately an erasure of moral responsibility (which he then tries to put in a favourable light by pretending to penal reform, apparently not realising C S Lewis’ warning on where turning prison into compulsory “therapy” at the hands of powers whose moral basis has been undermined leads). He also inadvertently undermines mind, as without freedom to choose reasonably, rational contemplation is dead. But, as I recently argued, that is a necessary consequence of trying to collapse rational contemplation into blindly mechanical computational processing in some architecture or another.

    I have argued — again, in a tradition that traces back to Plato — evo mat therefore inherently opens the door to those who manipulate based on undermining of both.

    If I am actually wrong, it would be quite easy to refute me.

    First, show how mind emerges from meat and escapes the GIGO-driven computation vs contemplation gap. Otherwise evo mat thinkers will be trying to get North by going West.

    Second, show the evo mat worldview foundation IS that grounds OUGHT as the principle of moral government, without reducing to amoral, nihilism-inviting absurdities such as might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’ . . . .

    And, we can all then see for ourselves the real balance on the merits:

    a: If I am grossly misinformed and in blatant error, it will be easy for MF et al to correct, deriving mind from meat and finding a materialistic foundational IS that grounds OUGHT without absurdity.

    b: If there is no sound materialist answer at a, the implication will emerge from absence of such an answer.

    c: If this is studiously ignored, silence will speak louder than words can.

    d: if instead, we see further well-poisoning, twisting, caricaturing and studious obfuscation, that too will speak by what it implies . . . no answer on the merits let us shoot at the messenger. >>
    _______________

    So far studious silence, or strawman caricature tactics.

    Let’s see if we will instead see a substantial response.

    KF

  286. 286
    Daniel King says:

    vividbleau:

    What a cheap shot. Obviously you do not understand the Christian gospel.

    On the contrary, it’s a shot to the heart.

    Read and learn:

    How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks they are far better than ordinary people. They pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellowmen. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.

  287. 287
    kairosfocus says:

    DK, it seems you have made the error of presuming evolutionary materialist atheism and not addressing the relevant worldview foundation challenges it faces, and have therefore chosen option d — well poisoning by ad hominem laced accusations. I direct your attention to 267 above on matters you need to ponder, including on what you and your ilk have enabled. For, as there is a quite serious issue on the merits on the table [worldview level grounding of mind and morality], a continued policy of well poisoning is tantamount to implying having no answer on the merits but hoping to poison and polarise to confuse the issue. Please think again. KF

    PS: You may find here on, on worldview foundational issues, relevant.

  288. 288
    Mung says:

    Mung:

    In fact, given evolutionary materialism, what is the point of arguing for or against anything?

    LarTanner:

    There doesn’t need to be a point. Illustration: Every single post of yours and KF’s, ever.

    Hilarious. And self-contradictory. As expected.

    Thank you for making my point!

  289. 289
    Mung says:

    kf, I am just finishing up Epistemology.

    The final chapter is so apropos to the current debate. But I am too lazy to type it up. And besides, what would be the point?

  290. 290
    Daniel King says:

    DK, it seems you have made the error of presuming evolutionary materialist atheism and not addressing the relevant worldview foundation challenges it faces, and have therefore chosen option d — well poisoning by ad hominem laced accusations.

    Thank you for your ad hominem accusation. It is telling.

  291. 291
    vividbleau says:

    DK re 286

    Huh???

    Vivid

  292. 292
    Mung says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    280 comments, but it still comes down to one side that says you can’t have morality without a god, and the other that says this is nonsense.

    Are you reading the same comments I am? I see a “side” claiming you can have morality without a god.

    Also, I don’t think you’re framing the debate in the appropriate terms.

    One side claims that you cannot have morality without a ground for morality, and it finds this ground in God.

    The alternatives seem to be:

    Morality is meaningless, it can’t be debated.

    You can have morality without any ground for morality.

    There is a ground for for morality, but it isn’t found in any god.

    What’s your position?

  293. 293
    Mung says:

    Daniel King:

    Thank you for your ad hominem accusation. It is telling.

    Oh, so one OUGHT NOT engage in ad hominem? Why not?

  294. 294
    vividbleau says:

    DK

    Huh??? Is probably not very helpful. I take it your trying to make a point unfortunately I don’t know what it is.

    Vivid

  295. 295
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Let me cite the apostle Paul, laying out the Christian view on conscience and morality:

    Rom 2: 6 He [God] will reward each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness . . . .

    11 For there is no partiality with God. 12 For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. 14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. [NET]

    For the record, I accept this view, and so hold that we are accountable before the light of truth and right we know or should know. As a moderate inclusivist, I hold that if you are “informationally BC” you will be judged by the light you have and what you do with it. Specifically, if by penitence and persistent getting up to move towards the light, you show a heart that responds aright to the revelation written on conscience and in mind and the world around, I find reason to accept that such a one will be received with open arms.

    But for the one who stubbornly turns from the truth and the right he knows or should know . . . cannot not know, in effect, such a one is in a very different position. (Where, I suggest that we would find it helpful to reflect on here on, especially pausing to view the embedded Lee Strobel video.)

    In any case, it should be clear that all along — and I have cited and commented on this text any number of times here at UD so this should be known — my view has been that moral intuitions are evident from our nature as morally governed creatures that are conscious, rationally contemplative and enconscienced. So, regardless of worldviews, certain core principles of morality are naturally evident to all people of sound mind and enough maturity to understand what is at stake.

    As I have so often cited here at UD, the clip from Canon Hooker used by Locke to found his rights discussion in Ch 2 of his second treatise on civil gov’t speaks pretty directly to this:

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

    So, whatever the failings of our worldviews, we have an inner, reasonable testimony that points us to pivotal truth and right.

    Where also, certain yardstick or plumbline moral truths such as the wrong of murder especially of a child, are outright self evident.

    Known to be true, once we understand the matter in light of our experience of the world as hunman beings, ans seen as must-be-so truth on pain of absurdity on attempted denial.

    This means there is a worldview foundational IS that can properly bear the weight of ought.

    And, it is a simple matter of accurate summary to state that after centuries, millennia of debate, the only serious candidate for that given both Hume’s Guillotine and the Euthyphro dilemma argument is the inherently good creator God who is a necessary and maximally great being. If you doubt this, simply put forth another serious candidate that passes these two tests inter alia. (And so, BTW, the attempt above to project arrogant presumption for saying this, fails.)

    I hope the caricature being painted will be withdrawn.

    KF

  296. 296
    kairosfocus says:

    DK, with all due respect, as at now, it very much looks to me that you have found it convenient to lead a red herring away from the issue on the table from BA’s OP on, grounding of morality in an IS capable of adequately supporting OUGHT, and have led away to a strawman caricature which you soaked in ad hominems and set alight with toxic accusations. When I described and corrected what was done, you moved to the next level, of twist-about accusation tantamount to “he hit back first.” I have taken time to explicitly lay out my view on whether men of any given worldview can seek to follow the truth and the right, based on foundational Christian teachings that anyone participating in such a discussion should know. I trust you will now find it in you to acknowledge the point and refocus on the material, crucial issue on the table. Namely, some moral truths are self-evident, so we live in a world where OUGHT is real and must be grounded at worldview foundation level in an IS capable of bearing that awesome weight. I have pointed out in outline some reasons for holding that there is one serious candidate, after centuries: the inherently good, creator God who is a necessary and maximally great being. If you think I am wrong in that estimation, simply put forward another serious candidate. I take it, you know that trying to argue that something like the murder of a child is a matter of subjective feelings or relative beliefs simply opens the door to the nihilist credo, might and manipulation make ‘right.’ I have already pointed out by citing Wiki against interest on how cognitive dissonance and a peer pressure spiral can lead to chaos once such becomes entrenched in a situation. KF

  297. 297
    Eugen says:

    Acartia_bogart

    “Much of what we call “moral behaviour” is nothing more than the behaviour necessary to live in a social environment.”

    I don’t think you can arrive to moral behaviors by reasoning. Some basic knowledge seems to be part of our psyche.

    Here is video of Dawkins embarrassing himself when he tries to reason about morality of eating humans.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGhUDByWdPQ#t=4293

    If you have a strong stomach you can rewind video few minutes for more embarrassment. Is Dawkins the best atheists/materialists have?

  298. 298
    Mung says:

    Aristotle was surely right to insist that the passions as well as the calculative intellect be properly trained.

    – Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, p. 182

    Aristotle knew that properly trained affections are crucial ingredients in our becoming fully actualized moral agents and, for that matter, fully human simpliciter.

    – Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, p. 182

    The constant attempt of the Evo-Mat is to make us less than human.

    The result, of course, is that we become less than moral agents.

    Consider an illustration of Gilbert Harman: if “you round a corner and see a group of hoodlums pour gasoline on a cat and ignite it, you do not need to conclude that what they are doing is wrong; you do not need to figure anything out; you can see that it is wrong.

  299. 299
    StephenB says:

    Mung, I am impressed by the breadth and range of the books that you read. It is unusual to find someone with both feet planted securely in the philosophical and scientific disciplines.

  300. 300
    StephenB says:

    ..breadth and range [of ideas in]…

  301. 301
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb
    It is patently obvious to me you don’t yet understand my position and this is making debate very tedious. I am going to recap the fundamentals of my subjectivist view of metaethics and, depending on your response, probably leave it at that.

    * Subjectivism is a metaethical theory about the nature of morality. It is not a set of moral principles.  It is descriptive not prescriptive and it is compatible with almost any set of moral principles including following the natural moral law. It is very common in ethics to confuse the two.  Utilitarianism does so for example. Is it a (faulty) description or a (reasonably sensible in most circumstances) prescription?

    * The key observation is that whatever moral principles we adopt there can never be an ultimate justification for those principles.  This is goes right back to Hume.  You cannot derive an ought from an is.

    *This is perfectly compatible with supplying reasons for your moral principles.  They just can never be ultimate justifications.  (When I write this you just accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it.  You don’t address whether it is true or not.)

    * The meaning of moral language such as good, bad, ought, right and wrong is best described by describing its role in the human activity of being moral.   It is circular to describe it in terms of other moral language or to reiterate that it means what it means.These activities include praising, blaming, condoning, condemning etc. It is only by recognising this that you can account for the prescriptive element of morality. If you want to define moral words a different way then that is your privilege but you need to recognise that, if you do, they no longer play these prescriptive roles.  There is no longer any reason for doing good or avoiding bad.

  302. 302
    Mark Frank says:

    VB

    What would be needed in order to provide an ultimate justifiation for morality? You say no one can provide it why is that?

    An ultimate justification would be a set of facts from which it logically follows what people ought to do. No one can do that because you cannot derive an ought from an is. To put it more formally: for any given set of facts X that are given as a reason why someone ought to do an action Y it is always logically possible for an objector to say – I agree that X is true but it doesn’t follow I ought to do Y.

  303. 303
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    It is patently obvious to me you don’t yet understand my position and this is making debate very tedious. I am going to recap the fundamentals of my subjectivist view of metaethics and, depending on your response, probably leave it at that.

    On the contrary, I do understand your position. That is why I can rephrase it in rational language in a way that exposes its errors.

    The key observation is that whatever moral principles we adopt there can never be an ultimate justification for those principles. This is goes right back to Hume. You cannot derive an ought from an is.

    You are substituting cliche’s for thought. That comment is one of the most misused quotes in the history of philosophy. You cannot derive an ought from a fact or a set of circumstances (is), but you can certainly derive an ought from the nature of reality (another kind of is). I am describing the second. It should be obvious that what we ought to do depends solely on how the world really is. If the world is purposeless, then there is no ought; if the world has a purpose, then we ought to align ourselves with it.

    Again, If there is a heaven and hell, then we ought to seek the former and avoid the latter. On the other hand, if there is no heaven and hell, then we ought to not worry about it. This is as obvious as a thing can be. Metaphysics always takes logical precedence over ethics. You really ought to burn those books you have been reading. They do not serve you well.

    *This is perfectly compatible with supplying reasons for your moral principles. They just can never be ultimate justifications. (When I write this you just accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it. You don’t address whether it is true or not.)

    I made it clear that morality is grounded in purpose. That is about as solid as a justification can get. Since you don’t accept purpose, you have no personal justification. That doesn’t give you a license for making the false statement that morality cannot be justified.

    The meaning of moral language such as good, bad, ought, right and wrong is best described by describing its role in the human activity of being moral.

    I provided both the definitions of right, wrong, good, and bad (with a dictionary, no less) and explained their role in human activity as a function of human nature and purpose. I also explained how they all tie in to praise and blame.

    It is circular to describe it in terms of other moral language or to reiterate that it means what it means.

    What are you talking about? I provided the dictionary definition of the words I was using. I don’t accept the subjectivist’s novel definitions, which are calculated to obfuscate. I accept dictionary definitions, which are designed to clarify.

    These activities include praising, blaming, condoning, condemning etc. It is only by recognising this that you can account for the prescriptive element of morality.

    You have it backwards. Praise and blame does not define right and wrong. It’s the other way around. Right defines what is worthy of praise and wrong defines what is worthy of blame. Subjectivism gets everything backwards.

  304. 304
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, 301:

    An ultimate justification [of morality] would be a set of facts from which it logically follows what people ought to do. No one can do that because you cannot derive an ought from an is.

    Thank you for drawing out a root issue. I respond:

    1 –> What you assert here is first a demand for “facts,” which normally denotes things evident to the ordinary senses and which are therefore generally acknowledged as known. (This of course opens a selective hyperskepticism escape hatch.)

    2 –> However, the grounding of morality is a worldview foundational exercise so to seek its roots in “facts” is a category error.

    3 –> The pivotal issues are instead: (a) are we bound by OUGHT, and (b) what world-foundational IS would be sufficient to reasonably ground OUGHT.

    4 –> There are some reasonable cases of self-evident moral truths that indicate that we are governed by ought and really do objectively have duties. In this thread, I have given by a case of notorious violation, the example of murder of a child.

    5 –> Where, such a child has no strength, intellectual capacity or eloquence to respond to the real alternative to a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT: might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’ (Which is instantly recognisable as the amoral credo of the nihilist, and a challenge on the table since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, c. 360 BC.)

    6 –> Also, SB’s point applies, that the credible existence of OUGHT as a real binding constraint on our behaviour points to a purpose in our existence, nature and value which is perverted, frustrated or undermined by what OUGHT not to be done. In that sense, what ought not to be done is a violation of our worth, dignity and nature.

    7 –> There credibly is a binding force of ought, and this is inadvertently testified to by the attempts of even those who seek to undermine this, to justify their claims.

    8 –> The issue is, what is a serious candidate.

    9 –> But, along the way, there is an error in what you have said: the assertion that one cannot derive an ought from an is, implies that there is no IS that is inherently moral and foundational to reality.

    10 –> That is, it begs big questions.

    11 –> By contrast, consider the historic candidate to be such an IS that grounds OUGHT, the inherently good Creator God, the root of being, a necessary and maximally great being.

    12 –> On such an IS, ought would be inherent to the root of being and so would pervade the cosmos, including that our existence would be the result of purpose and so would embrace purpose.

    13 –> As such, evil would be a perversion or frustration of that which is in itself good and valuable as the product of the inherently Good. Euthryphro’s dilemma, so-called fails. And also, evil would have no independent existence, it would be the twisting of something rather than a thing in itself.

    14 –> Also, as OUGHT would be intrinsic to the IS of such a Root of being, we would meet the criterion that would lead to there being an inherent bridge of IS and OUGHT right at the foundation of reality. Hume’s “surprize” is answered . . . in fact, per for instance what Canon Richard Hooker pointed out c. 1594 in context, had been answered long before he made it.

    15 –> In a nutshell, our understanding of our own worth and dignity that demands that our rights be respected, imposes on us the mutual recognition that otheres have rights that OUGHT to be respected, starting with life.

    15 –> Arthur Holmes put the matter well:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights. [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72; p. 81.]

    16 –> But, we hear, why should we consider that people have rights at all? The only enduring answer to this has been aptly summarised in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776: “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 . . .”

    17 –> In short, the is-ought gap of ethics points to the question that rights and correlative duties arise from our being equally valuable as creatures of God.

    18 –> So, we have in hand a set of widely acknowledged moral “facts.” Starting with the right to life and the correlative duty to respect life, thence the designation of murder as an evil in violation of that right, and an ultimate perversion and frustration of purpose, reflecting a wanton disregard for the inherent worth and dignity of the human being. OUGHT is credibly real.

    19 –> Such can only be properly answered to by there being a world-foundational IS capable of bearing that awesome weight. An IS that is inherently MORAL and capable of infusing OUGHT into the cosmos.

    20 –> After centuries of debates, there is one serious candidate, the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality and a necessary and maximally great being.

    21 –> If you doubt or would dismiss this, simply provide a serious alternative candidate world-foundational IS that grounds OUGHT and is not subject to the absurdity that might and/or manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth.’ (And yes, I am using the strategy of comparative difficulties in worldview level argument, on factual adequacy, logical/ dynamical coherence and explanatory power.)

    KF

  305. 305
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Onlookers, there are some grave personal accusations and nasty well-poisoning cheap shots that were brought up over the past day or two, which I answered above. Let us note carefully if there is an appropriate response from my accusers, or instead merely a tip-toe away that speaks volumes through its pretence that the matter has not been answered. KF

  306. 306
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Just for clarity, I endorse SB’s response at 302, which is complementary to mine at 303.

  307. 307
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Equally for clarity, I endorse Mung at 292, in reply to A_b.

  308. 308
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: For further clarity, the concept that we are made in the image of God implies a quasi-infinite worth to the individual human being. Hence, Jesus’ famous remark:

    Matt 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. [ESV]

    (And BTW, hence also the utter folly in despising lessons of history that were so often bought at the hard, hard price of blood and tears.)

  309. 309
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung:

    The IVP intro to phil series is wonderful.

    I read the books when they came out in the 80’s with delight, at about the same time as I was digesting Lewis and Schaeffer as well as Trueblood. Not only is Wood on Epistemology excellent, but the earlier epistemology series member by I think it was Wolf, is also good too, from a different perspective . . . I have both.

    Here is a clip from Wood that I think is very relevant to what has been going on in and around UD for some time now:

    Intellectual virtues . . . include character traits such as wisdom, prudence, foresight, understanding, discernment, truthfulness and studiousness, among others. Here too are to be found their opposite vices: folly, obtuseness, gullibility, dishonesty, willful naiveté and vicious curiosity[4], to name a few. Certain excellences and deficiencies, then, shape our intellectual as well as our moral lives. An epistemology that takes the virtues seriously claims that our ability to lay hold of the truth about important matters turns on more than our IQ or the caliber of school we attend; it also depends on whether we have fostered within ourselves virtuous habits of mind. Our careers as cognitive agents, as persons concerned to lay hold of the truth and pursue other important intellectual goals, will in large measure succeed or fail as we cultivate our intellectual virtues . . . . Careful oversight of our intellectual lives is imperative if we are to think well, and thinking well is an indispensable ingredient in living well . . . only by superintending our cognitive life (the way, for example, we form, defend, maintain, revise, abandon and act on our beliefs about important matters) can we become excellent as thinkers and, ultimately, excellent as persons.

    If we fail to oversee our intellectual life and cultivate virtue, the likely consequences will be a maimed and stunted mind that thwarts our prospects for living a flourishing life. [Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, (Leicester, UK: Apollos/IVP, 1998), pp. 16 – 17.]

    Ironically, ethics and epistemology cannot be separated, they are inextricably intertwined and entangled, conjoined twins with a common heart.

    KF

  310. 310
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb
    There is one part of your comment that is worth a response. (Actually I would be more interested in VJ’s response to this if he is watching.)

    I made it clear that morality is grounded in purpose. That is about as solid as a justification can get. Since you don’t accept purpose, you have no personal justification. That doesn’t give you a license for making the false statement that morality cannot be justified.

    I don’t believe that justification works.  But maybe I don’t understand your case well enough.  So I have some questions.

    1) How do you determine what the purpose of a human being is?

    (a ) Who or what has the purpose? A purpose implies someone or something that has the purpose.  Who has a purpose for a human being?  The human being, God, society?

    (b ) Things can have any number of purposes from zero to very large numbers. Which one do you have in mind for human beings?  In my youth there was a vogue for testing people’s creativity by asking them to think of as many purposes as possible for a light bulb or a hammer or some object. Once you got the idea it was possible to produce very long lists indeed.  People can also satisfy  multiple purposes. To live a long time. To propagate the family line. To provide cannon fodder for a ruler’s wars. etc.

    (c ) A possible response from you might be that you are talking about the purpose for which the object was designed.   In that case I ask How do you know what human beings were designed to do? (Bearing in mind some objects turn out to be ineffective for the purposes for which they are designed but very effective for other purposes – think SMS).

    2) Why ought a human being fulfil its purpose?

    Even it is possible to determine a purpose for a human being why is it morally right for a human being to fulfil that purpose? . 

    (a ) Most people do not think it is morally right to fulfil a purpose unless they think the purpose itself is morally right. One of the purposes of guns is to kill people. That doesn’t mean there is a moral imperative to use guns to kill people.  Why is the fulfilling the purpose of a person an exception?

    (b ) How do you refute the person who says –”Yes I understand my purpose is X but I don’t think I ought to do X.”

  311. 311
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: I note that our prime purpose will be locked into our nature and worth, that gives us rights starting with life, liberty and the pursuit of fulfillment of purpose [what “happiness” means], as well as of course things like right to respect of innocent reputation which inter alia means that when you play rhetorical games that willfully distort and smear, you are in violation of rights and purpose. KF

  312. 312
    velikovskys says:

    kf,
    MF: I note that our prime purpose will be locked into our nature and worth,
    that gives us rights starting with life, liberty and the pursuit of fulfillment of purpose [what “happiness” means],

    Sorry to interrupt but that is an interesting idea.What is an example of a prime purpose? I ask because I have been convinced that objective morality is a more coherent system. The rub is since there are competing objective moralities ,what moral system decides which objective morality is adopted?

    as well as of course things like right to respect of innocent reputation which inter alia means that when you play rhetorical games that willfully distort and smear, you are in violation of rights and purpose. KF

    Perhaps taking this as an example, how does your purpose bestow such a specific right?

  313. 313
    Silver Asiatic says:

    1) How do you determine what the purpose of a human being is?

    By observing human nature and “why” about aspects of it. We seek the truth. There are universal characteristics of human life and a hierarchy of values (e.g. “the highest achievements of human nature”).

    We could also start with the negative argument: “Is it possible that human beings have no purpose?” Everything in human life argues against this. So, we must have a purpose. Then through observation and logical analysis we determine what it is.

    (a ) Who or what has the purpose? A purpose implies someone or something that has the purpose. Who has a purpose for a human being? The human being, God, society?

    There’s only one possible answer here. The human being cannot create its own purpose because it didn’t create itself. It received life. Society cannot create a purpose because it was created by human beings. Evolution or natural laws cannot create purpose because they cannot possess an intent or reason.

    (c ) A possible response from you might be that you are talking about the purpose for which the object was designed.

    That’s right.

    In that case I ask How do you know what human beings were designed to do? (Bearing in mind some objects turn out to be ineffective for the purposes for which they are designed but very effective for other purposes – think SMS).

    Look at certain universals. Look at what we recognize as the highest values – what it means to have “lived a good life”. Men and women are praised in every culture for having lived by doing good for humanity and/or God. “Fulfilling human potential”.

    2) Why ought a human being fulfil its purpose?

    It’s the difference between good and evil. Virtue and sin. Love and hate. Praise and condemnation. Reward and punishment.

    Even it is possible to determine a purpose for a human being why is it morally right for a human being to fulfil that purpose? .

    If a human being received life – life is a gift. Through simple justice and fairness, the gift ought to be responded to appropriately and not violated.

    (a ) Most people do not think it is morally right to fulfil a purpose unless they think the purpose itself is morally right. One of the purposes of guns is to kill people. That doesn’t mean there is a moral imperative to use guns to kill people. Why is the fulfilling the purpose of a person an exception?

    Interesting question. You might frame it a different way.
    “How do we know that human beings were created for a good purpose and not an evil one?” Yes, because if humans were created for an evil purpose, then it would be immoral to fulfill that purpose.
    But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a good action, then humans could not have been created for an evil purpose.

    (b ) How do you refute the person who says –”Yes I understand my purpose is X but I don’t think I ought to do X.”

    “Ought” means “have a responsiblity to do it”. The only way we can conclude “I ought to do X” is that X aligns with our nature and purpose.
    “I understand my purpose: to become a better person, achieve more good, make best use of my talents, be a benefit to humanity and the world, but … I ought to damage myself?”

    That it easily refuted because it’s illogical.

  314. 314
    Silver Asiatic says:

    1) How do you determine what the purpose of a human being is?

    By observing human nature and asking “why” about aspects of it. We seek the truth. There are universal characteristics of human life and a hierarchy of values (e.g. “the highest achievements of human nature”).

    We could also start with the negative argument: “Is it possible that human beings have no purpose?” Everything in human life argues against this. So, we must have a purpose. Then through observation and logical analysis we determine what it is.

    (a ) Who or what has the purpose? A purpose implies someone or something that has the purpose. Who has a purpose for a human being? The human being, God, society?

    There’s only one possible answer here. The human being cannot create its own purpose because it didn’t create itself. It received life. Society cannot create a purpose because it was created by human beings. Evolution or natural laws cannot create purpose because they cannot possess an intent or reason.

    (c ) A possible response from you might be that you are talking about the purpose for which the object was designed.

    That’s right.

    In that case I ask How do you know what human beings were designed to do? (Bearing in mind some objects turn out to be ineffective for the purposes for which they are designed but very effective for other purposes – think SMS).

    Look at certain universals. Look at what we recognize as the highest values – what it means to have “lived a good life”. Men and women are praised in every culture for having lived by doing good for humanity and/or God. “Fulfilling human potential”.

    2) Why ought a human being fulfil its purpose?

    It’s the difference between good and evil. Virtue and sin. Love and hate. Praise and condemnation. Reward and punishment.

    Even it is possible to determine a purpose for a human being why is it morally right for a human being to fulfil that purpose? .

    If a human being received life – life is a gift. Through simple justice and fairness, the gift ought to be responded to appropriately and not violated.

    (a ) Most people do not think it is morally right to fulfil a purpose unless they think the purpose itself is morally right. One of the purposes of guns is to kill people. That doesn’t mean there is a moral imperative to use guns to kill people. Why is the fulfilling the purpose of a person an exception?

    Interesting question. You might frame it a different way:
    “How do we know that human beings were created for a good purpose and not an evil one?” Yes, because if humans were created for an evil purpose, then it would be immoral to fulfill that purpose.
    But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a good action, then humans could not have been created for an evil purpose.

    (b ) How do you refute the person who says –”Yes I understand my purpose is X but I don’t think I ought to do X.”

    “Ought” means “have a responsiblity to do it”. The only way we can conclude “I ought to do X” is that X aligns with our nature and purpose.
    “I understand my purpose: to become a better person, achieve more good, make best use of my talents, be a benefit to humanity and the world, but … I ought to damage myself?”

    That it easily refuted because it’s illogical.

  315. 315
    kairosfocus says:

    V_s:

    A good question.

    S-A:

    A good set of points in answer.

    ________________________

    As noted previously, our prime purpose will be locked into our core nature, and will manifest itself in almost every aspect of our lives.

    Think about an intelligent, creative, artistic species that is social, morally governed, and has curiosity hard wired in; in a world that is per fine tuning, set up for discovery and exploration as well as exploiting creative opportunities, and points to its own design.

    What could all of that be telling us?

    KF

  316. 316
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Thanks KF — and also for the reference in #262. That excerpt is relevant to the discussion here. “…the general principles of the natural law are the same for all not only as to rectitude but as to knowledge-that is, that they are not
    only right for all, but also known to all”.

  317. 317
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    How do you determine what the purpose of a human being is?

    “Having discovered why you are disappointed, you take the next step of trying to avoid disappointments entirely. You ask yourself: “What do I desire above all things?” You want perfect life, and perfect truth, and perfect love. Nothing short of the Infinite satisfies you, and to ask you to be satisfied with less would be to destroy your nature. You want life, not for two more years, but always; you want to know all truths, not the truths of economics alone, to the exclusion of history. You also want love without end. All the poetry of love is a cry, a moan, and a weeping. The more pure it is, the more it pleads; the more it is lifted above the earth, the more it laments.

    With your feet on earth, you dream of heaven; creature of time, you despise it; flower of a day, you seek to eternalize yourself. Why do you want Life, Truth, Love, unless you were made for them? How could you enjoy the fractions unless there were a whole? Where do they come from? Where is the source of light in the city street at noon? Not under autos, buses, nor the feet of trampling throngs, because their light is mingled with darkness. If you are to find the source of light you must go out to something that has no admixture of darkness or shadow, namely, to pure light, which is the sun. In like manner, if you are to find the source of Life, Truth, and Love, you must go out to a life that is not mingled with its shadow, death; to a Truth not mingled with its shadow, error; and to a Love not mingle with its shadow, hate. You go out to something that is Pure Life, Pure Truth, Pure Love, and that is the definition of God. And the reason you have been disappointed is because you have not yet found Him!”

    —-Fulton J. Sheen

    How do you refute the person who says –”Yes I understand my purpose is X but I don’t think I ought to do X.”

    You explain that it is an illogical argument. What a thing is supposed to do is inextricably tied to its nature and purpose. If a ball-point pen could talk, would it say, “I don’t think I ought to write, I would prefer to open cans? Would a spoon say, “I don’t think I should serve food to humans, I would prefer to dig post holes. Even so, humans often try to pervert their own nature by acting like animals. If they do it long enough they, become like an animal and lose their power of reason and self control.

  318. 318
    kairosfocus says:

    NB: it’s drearily and sadly familiar to see the studious ignoring of the challenge to ground OUGHT on the table other than with the candidate to beat; and of course, silence also holds on the snide distortions and accusations front (never mind things that set the record straight). Noted for record, a day having now passed. KF

  319. 319
    kairosfocus says:

    SA, welcome, a real treat full of food for thought. KF

  320. 320
    Mung says:

    kf:

    The IVP intro to phil series is wonderful.

    Finished Metaphysics and now Epistemology. I think next it’s on to Philosophy of Religion. I also really enjoy the books by Peter Kreeft.

    StephenB:

    Mung, I am impressed by the breadth and range of ideas in the books that you read. It is unusual to find someone with both feet planted securely in the philosophical and scientific disciplines.

    Thank you.

    I am sure I have far more books accumulated than I can ever read. Know of a good home for a library, lol?

  321. 321
    Mark Frank says:

    SA #314
    I think there is a problem throughout your responses. Recall that my case is that there cannot be an ultimate justification for a moral belief. SB and others propose that the purpose of human beings is the ultimate justification for morality.  If you define purpose or justify purpose in moral terms then it is no longer the ultimate justification.  I think you have done this throughout and marked each place with an ***.  I will expand on that below. 

    By observing human nature and asking “why” about aspects of it. We seek the truth. There are universal characteristics of human life and a hierarchy of ***values (e.g. “the highest achievements of human nature”).***

    By what standard to you judge the “highest achievements”? You cannot define it as fulfils the purpose of the human beings.

    We could also start with the negative argument: “Is it possible that human beings have no purpose?” Everything in human life argues against this.

    I am sorry but I do not find that “everything in human life argues against this”.

    There’s only one possible answer here. The human being cannot create its own purpose because it didn’t create itself. It received life. Society cannot create a purpose because it was created by human beings. Evolution or natural laws cannot create purpose because they cannot possess an intent or reason.

    Oh well – at least you are being clear.  In particular you are not claiming that people have some sort of intrinsic purpose. It is God’s purpose.

    Look at certain universals. Look at what we recognize as ***the highest values – what it means to have “lived a good life”.*** Men and women are praised in every culture for ***having lived by doing good for humanity and/or God. ***“Fulfilling human potential”.

    How do you define what a good life is? What standards to you use assess whether values are the highest?  How do you decide what is good for humanity and/or God?
     

    It’s the difference between ***good and evil. Virtue and sin. Love and hate. Praise and condemnation. Reward and punishment.***

    You are using moral terms as a justification for conforming to God’s purpose.

    If a human being received life – life is a gift. Through simple ***justice and fairness, the gift ought to be responded to appropriately and not violated.***

    You are using another standard “justice and fairness” to justify fulfilling God’s purpose. So God’s purpose is not the ultimate justification.

    Interesting question. You might frame it a different way:“How do we know that human beings were created for a good purpose and not an evil one?” Yes, because if humans were created for an evil purpose, then it would be immoral to fulfill that purpose.But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a ***good action****, then humans could not have been created for an evil purpose.

    Was creating Hitler and the smallpox virus necessarily a good action? Good by what standard?

    “Ought” means “have a responsiblity to do it”. The only way we can conclude “I ought to do X” is that X aligns with our nature and purpose.“I understand my purpose: to become a ***better person, achieve more good, make best use of my talents, be a benefit to humanity and the world,*** but … I ought to damage myself?”

    By what standard a better person?

    That it easily refuted because it’s illogical.

    There is nothing particularly illogical about it – surprising perhaps but not illogical. 

  322. 322
    Mark Frank says:

    it’s drearily and sadly familiar to see the studious ignoring of the challenge to ground OUGHT on the table other than with the candidate to beat

    It is not clear what it mean to “ground OUGHT”. I suspect it means provide some kind of ultimate justification for morality. The subjectivist case is that it is not possible to provide such a justification. So it would be rather strange to rise to the challenge to do so! I have repeatedly made the case that it is not possible above.

  323. 323
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Recall that my case is that there cannot be an ultimate justification for a moral belief. SB and others propose that the purpose of human beings is the ultimate justification for morality.

    MF, neither SB nor I have argued thusly. With all due respect, you have reframed what SB (and I) have argued in a way that is caricaturing. So, I can freely speak and ask that you correctly reframe your summary.

    SB’s point is that the moral framework for a human being is embedded in his or her [prime] purpose; which of course points back to our roots at origins.

    It is our purpose as embedded in our nature that gives us worth and commands respect for rights, also entailing mutual duties tied to such respect. Those duties, e.g. to respect the life, liberty, innocent reputation, etc. are directly connected to providing room for fulfillment of purpose.

    Robbing a child of her life as Merah did in the case cited, is a capital illustration of how evil frustrates or perverts purpose. Where also, it is patent that if X has purpose P, to say but I reject P and wish to pursue Q (which is incompatible) instead is simply to propose to wrench X’s nature out of purpose . . . pointing straight to the nature of evil as the perversion, frustration and privation of good.

    For instance, eight year old Jewish girls in schoolyards on Toulouse France are not for the purpose of getting their brains blown out by Islamist terrorists, nor are Muslim men for the purpose of using skill and strength to make themselves judge, jury and executioner at will for those guilty of the imagined capital crime of breathing while being Jewish. And even if it had been an eighteen year old Jewish woman or an eighty year old one who invited assistance in suicide, that too would have been a frustration of purpose. (There was an actual case in Jamaica of a man who sought a gunman to do a contract killing. Price agreed and payment arrangements made, the gunman — a murderer for hire — asked who. Me. The gunman stopped him and said, you are sick, you need to go to Dr XXXX, a well-known and highly effective counsellor. Even a contract murderer knows better. And yes, this is a real-world case, the man went to Dr XXXX, who helped him. Suicide is a permanent false “solution” to a temporary problem, prompted by a false sense of hopelessness and pointlessness. A classic instance is well known Christian spokesman Ravi Zacharias who, as a struggling teen in High School in his native India, tried to kill himself to get out of the shame of failure. He did not succeed and found a different path, fulfilling himself in life in later decades as a leading, articulate spokesman for the Christian Faith.)

    However, as has been repeatedly pointed out to you, the root of morality in the cosmos — the ultimate source of/grounds for morality — can only be found in the foundations of the world. At any other level, the grounding objection, why A? requiring B, thence C, D etc, can be applied. (I need not detain myself elaborating on why turtles all the way down or turtles in a circle don’t work.)

    The valid part of Hume’s objection, is that the grounding IS must also simultaneously and by its nature ground OUGHT. Given, that cases such as murder vs the right to life point quite plainly to OUGHT being real and binding.

    As has been pointed out but conveniently glided over [cf. above], after many centuries of debate there is but one serious candidate to fill the bill as grounding IS capable of adequately bearing the weight of ought: the inherently good, Creator God who is the root of reality and a necessary, maximally great being.

    If you deny this, simply propose a candidate that is adequate to ground morality (thus, world- foundational) and does not lead to the absurdity, might makes ‘right’ who is not equivalent to such.

    In short, you are invited to the table of comparative difficulties.

    KF

  324. 324
    kairosfocus says:

    MF. for more details kindly cf 304 above. KF

  325. 325
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, simply repeating the mantra that Hume says that you cannot ground OUGHT in IS, does not make that claim right. The issue is, is OUGHT real, which is manifestly so. It therefore must have a basis at world-foundation level capable of adequately supporting it. I have already made the case on what best fills that bill. If you have an alternative that does not reduce to might and manipulation make ‘right,’ let us hear it. There is no IS capable of grounding OUGHT is a case in point of saying OUGHT is groundless which points to might and manipulation make ‘right’ — an absurdity well known as the nihilist’s credo. And, it is not in my view or “intuition” etc either, those end in the same place. KF

    PS: You have also put on the table some insinuations that I have responded to, showing why they are ill-founded and seem to point to well-poisoning, which is an improper move. I think you have an unmet duty of care to address.

  326. 326
    Mark Frank says:

    KF

    You and SB have made this argument many times and I have tried to address it. I may have failed. I may have misunderstood what you are saying. But I certainly have not “studiously ignored” it. What I have done is ignore you personally because I find your writing to be unrewarding (I happened to notice your #318 because it was very brief). Maybe you are confusing the two?

  327. 327
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Above, with all due respect that is exactly what happened when at 304 I took up your posing of the Hume assertion.

    And indeed, you just revealed the same problem. You chose to dismiss the step by step warrant provided (it’s “unrewarding”), in order to pounce on something you could reframe and dismiss while ignoring context. And meanwhile, I have also responded to some well poisoning, and find myself seriously not satisfied with your initial and onward behaviour.

    But then, it is a direct implication of evo mat that if you can get away with it it must be okay.

    Ironically, you have actually provided an in-miniature case on why the opening of the door to “might and manipulation make ‘right’ . . . ” is so dangerous and grounds sobering moral concerns over lab coat clad evolutionary materialism and linked scientism. (Plato’s concerns in The Laws, BK X, c. 360 BC — as are highlighted above, just [as usual] studiously ignored — are plainly on target.)

    KF

  328. 328
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Nor is this an argument assignable to dissmiss-able Internet commenters who can be deemed of little or no credibility by suitable well poisoning and the self-evidently fallacious appeal, we ignored and/or caricatured and dismissed n times which justifies such on the n + 1th iteration. Apart from Plato’s on the record since 360 BC (one of the top ten all time minds) and the correction to Hume’s error on grounding that is obvious, as well as too many historical cases in point of where undermining of moral foundations leads, let me again cite, for instance Holmes from 304:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights. [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72; p. 81.]

    There is a lot at stake, hard bought lessons that we dare not ignore. On pain of yet another monumental, bloodily expensive march of folly.

  329. 329
    Mark Frank says:

    KF – I ignored 304 (and the 5 subsequent comments) because they written by you. I address Stephenb’s argument in some detail in many places e.g. 310. I continue to have what seems to me like a constructive debate with SA most recently in 321. As I say – don’t confuse the fact that I am ignoring you with ignoring the argument that you and SB put forward. Like many people I do not have time to read your many, many comments which are frequently very hard to understand and almost always cannot be addressed without asking for further clarification.

  330. 330
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Plato on the record, c. 360 BC, in The Laws, Bk X:

    _____________

    >>[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne] . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [–> evolutionary materialism, c. 360 BC] . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made. – [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles driven by that nihilistic credo], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . >>

    [NB: he goes on to a cosmological design inference to a world shaped by a good soul (rational, self-moved being), here. Notice, Aquinas’ interesting definition of law relevant to laws of our nature as morally governed creatures: “law is an ordinance of reason made by one who has care of a community.” Where, of course, an ordinance — per Collins ED — is “an authoritative regulation, decree, law, or practice.” The links back to grounding OUGHT in the IS who is the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality, who is a necessary and maximally great being, are plain. Such a being is Reason Himself, and Love himself, who having created creatures and implanted creative reason and testifying conscience that points out that if by nature I require love and respect, I too must render same to those who are my equals in nature, thus teaches and ordains for us that which is for our good. The good is not capricious or independent of the root of reality. Nor, is there a case of an alienation between IS and OUGHT in that root.]
    _______________

    The matter has been on the table for a long time, and the plain implications of evo mat have been known, with cases in point for a long time too.

    The pivot, repeat, is: are we actually bound by OUGHT? (Such as in respect of murder etc.)

    Once, that is so, the rest follows, there is a world-foundational IS capable of bearing that weight. For which there is just one serious candidate. (Notice, the studious silence and/or side tracks and strawman caricatures in reply to the challenge to provide an alternative compatible with evo mat that does not end in might and manipulation make ‘right.’)

    So, we know the choice in front of us, and its consequences.

    If we are under law, if we are morally governed, that points to a lawmaker at the root of reality.

    If not, if we are the result of a blind chance and necessity process in a material reality, we are left to might and manipulation make right, among ever so many other absurdities including, that the self-aware self is a delusion, and the notion that we are able to responsibly contemplate in rational fashion and reason is also a delusion.

    Such, are our choices and consequences.

    I will say this much: obviously, any view that saws off the branch on which we must all sit, is self-refuting.

    So, let us see if the advocates of evolutionary materialism can give us a good reason to accept that they are not sawing off the branch on which we all must sit.

    KF

  331. 331
    StephenB says:

    I address Stephenb’s argument in some detail in many places e.g. 310.

    That’s just silly. I have refuted five our your points. Here they are:

    First, you tried to say that one cannot derive an “ought from an “is” in the context of worldview foundations, and I corrected you with several examples. You had no answer.

    Second, you claimed that morality cannot be justified. I provided detailed examples to the contrary. You had no answer.

    Third, you ignored the point that dictionary definitions of right and good are legitimate and clear while subjective definitions are illegitimate and contrived. You had no answer.

    Fourth, you claimed that Purpose was being defined in moral terms, when the fact is that morality is being defined in terms of purpose. So far, you have not answered that one.

    Fifth, you claimed that praise and blame defines right and wrong. I reminded you that it is the other way around: right defines what is worthy of praise and wrong defines what is worthy of blame. You had no answer.

    I didn’t just pull these points out of a hat. They were responses to your subjectivst philosophy.

  332. 332
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: Just to remind on the issue of grounding the reasonable mind, here — again — is 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.

  333. 333
    kairosfocus says:

    SB: Well summarised. The issue seems to be to caricature, and/or well-poison, and dismiss. At no point is there a serious engagement of the worldview foundation issue. Sad, and sadly revealing in light of Plato’s warning on clever arguments pushing evo mat, dismissing the legitimacy of ought, reducing to might and manipulation make right, thence leading to factions and domineering. We need to ask ourselves some pretty obvious questions, on whether it is sound to yield power to activists and agendas that undermine rationality and right alike, that reject that we have responsible freedom to think, know, and decide, or the right to our lives, liberty, innocent reputation, and more. KF

  334. 334
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephenb #331

    There comes a point when the debate has to stop. We have lives to lead. I am happy to let you have the last word. To be accused of ignoring your arguments when I do so seems a bit rough.

  335. 335
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: with all due respect, you are walking away rather than dealing with the material issues and while leaving a neglected duty to acknowledge and correct a willful smear on the table. Please, think again. KF

  336. 336
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung, I found the phil of Religion book maybe the most impressive of all. There are several others that have been in it over the years, e.g. on the idea of God and it looks like two on phil of sci. I wonder if IVP could be persuaded to do an ebook compendium similar to the collected works of Schaeffer? KF

    PS: Kreeft is a treat, especially his modern Socratic dialogues. The old, original ones from Plato are often good even entertaining, too.

  337. 337
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Thoughts on Critical Thinking:

    “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably and empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking. They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.

    They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so. They strive never to think simplistically about complicated issues and always to consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.”

    ~ Linda Elder, September, 2007

    Food for thought for us all.

    KF

  338. 338
    Mark Frank says:

    KF #335

    “And all agreed that someone should advise you
    To leave the morals of the world alone,
    And worry rather more about your own.”

    The Misanthrope – by Moliere – trans Richard Wilbur

    (Part of Celimene’s speech to the religious prude Arsinoe)

  339. 339
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: I, again, invite you to address the foundational question of warrant on merits, that grounds OUGHT. You have chosen to inject well-poisoning personalities above, I have spoken in answer and on your own testimony you have not been fair minded enough to bother to look. That is your privilege. It is ours, to note what remains clear on the table, on the merits. Good day, KF

  340. 340
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mark,
    I took some time this morning to read through all of your comments on this thread – trying to sort out where we might have a misunderstanding and where I’ve been confused. I will quote from some of your previous responses.

    I think there is a problem throughout your responses. Recall that my case is that there cannot be an ultimate justification for a moral belief.

    I’m looking at the phrase “a moral belief”.
    Are you saying that there cannot be an ultimate justification for any single moral belief?
    Or are you talking about “for an entire system of morals”? or do you mean “for a moral code that covers every possible human act”? Those are three different things.

    If you’re talking about “any single moral act”, then there is one objective justification – “compliance with the truth.”

    The truth exists. Logically, that cannot be denied.
    The truth, although not a moral value, corresponds with what right or correct.
    What is right or correct, corresponds with what is good.
    Since the truth exists, then good exists.
    Since good exists, then a hierarchy of values exist.
    We are morally required to conform to the truth.

    You’re looking for a set of facts that justify a moral act – and there you have it.

    The moral act is “corresponding with the truth”. The set of facts given show that there is an ultimate foundation for that moral act. The fact that the truth exists cannot be logically denied.

    Objections:
    “The truth does not exist”. The classic paradox. Contradictory and self-refuting.

    “I do not have to conform to the truth”. This is also self-refuting. When a person seeks answers about any topic, by asking questions, he has already committed himself to the truth of things. To then claim that there is no responsibility to accept the truth is to contradict the entire rational enterprise.

    A person cannot have a rational discussion if there was no regard for the truth . In order to prove or demonstrate anything, there is a moral requirement to accept the difference between truth and falsehood.

    Here are some of the problems I encountered:

    1. Are you talking about choosing individual moral acts, choosing a moral code?

    It seemed that you were talking about justifying a moral code, but you also offered this:

    You presumably think it is wrong to torture puppies. I have explained that for me to say it is wrong is to express about my feelings about puppies being in pain. No standard is required anymore than you need a standard to state a book is interesting or a film funny. You on the other hand presumably think it is wrong to torture puppies because the act fails to meet some standard. My second question simply asks how do you know that standard is a good one. What standard do you judge the standard against?

    In that case, you’re talking about a single act – torturing a puppy.

    You then explain that “no standard is required” to judge that act – no more than you need a standard to feel that a book is interesting or a film is funny.

    2. Are there “deep seated, permanent desires” which direct our moral values, or are we driven by feelings as in the way we find a film funny? (and I’m not accusing you of minimizing any immoral act but only looking at the foundation of the choice).

    You wrote earlier:

    For example almost all humans have a deep-seated and permanent desire to limit the suffering of those close to us, culture and logic extends that desire to those we do not know and even to other species. There are similar desires for fairness and the keeping of commitments (such as promises and oaths). Of course we also suffer from drivers to be selfish (and also to value the short term at the cost of the long term) and we have to have the moral courage to overcome these alternative drivers if we are to be moral. That’s no different to your moral philosophy. We all sometimes behave less well than we ought to and struggle to do the right thing.

    This is quite a lot different than what you said above. We have a“deep seated and permanent” desire. There are some films that I found to be very funny in the past, and now I don’t find them funny. But that may change the next time I watch the same film. Some directors’ films I don’t find funny while other people do. There’s no objective basis here. I don’t have a justification. There is nothing like a “deep seated, personal desire” to laugh at one film and not another.

    We’ve been discussing this because subjectivism, as many on this thread have argued, is “making up one’s morals for oneself”. It doesn’t recognize a standard to comply with for reasons external to the self. That’s like finding a film funny or a book interesting. There’s no standard. But it’s not like a universal moral sense embedded in human beings that universally recognizes good and evil in certain human acts.

    3. What is subjectivism?

    Wikipedia says: “The most common forms of ethical subjectivism are also forms of moral relativism, with moral standards held to be relative to each culture or society (c.f. cultural relativism), or even to every individual.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_subjectivism
    That’s what we’ve been talking about. The most common form where moral standards, relative to every individual.
    You’ve chosen a different view where subjectivism is not about choosing morals but about finding an ultimate justification.

    4. What does the objective moral law claim?

    The answer here is that it claims only that general moral principles are known by all – not that, by nature alone, we can understand the moral quality of every possible human act. That’s why we look at the most general, universal norms and recognize an objective moral law.

    You seemed to object to this:

    Why do you choose ethical examples on which there is almost universal agreement?
    The first part of this sentence is a standard move in this particular debate. Take some issue on which there is almost universal agreement that it is wrong and then emphasise that is REALLY WRONG and not just mere disapproval or whim. This is argument by moral pressure. It makes it look as though any attempt to challenge the objectivist view of ethics is also condoning behaviour we all find unacceptable. In fact there is a world of difference between mere disapproval and passionate condemnation based on reasons and a confidence that almost everyone else also condemns that behaviour.

    It’s not a debate tactic. The natural moral law deals with general principles. So, it’s right to look for acts that are recognized universally. To expect the natural moral law to give precise answers on every possible human act is to expect more than it claims. Religious revelation, for example, gives greater insights on moral values that philosophy alone cannot reveal. But revelation is not part of a natural moral law known by all.

    5. Are there observable facts that give ultimate justification to moral actions?

    I mentioned above that the existence of truth is a fact that gives an ultimate justification to a moral act.
    “In order to defend or prove my philosophical position, I do not need to have any regard for the truth.”

    That statement is necessarily false. One cannot arrive at a proof of anything without a clear understanding of the difference between truth and falsehood. That’s an ultimate justification for the moral values that follow. There can be no rational discussion – in fact, no reasoning at all, without a regard for the distinction between truth and falsehood. Reason itself is based on this.

  341. 341
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF 321

    By what standard to you judge the “highest achievements”? You cannot define it as fulfils the purpose of the human beings.

    The standard is inherent in human nature. We measure achievements on a scale of values known by all. That’s how we know the difference between a woman who cares for her family and the poor of the community and a woman who kills her husband and children for no other reason the fun of doing so. The human response to those two cases indicates the presence of a scale by which actions can be measured.

    We could also start with the negative argument: “Is it possible that human beings have no purpose?” Everything in human life argues against this.

    I am sorry but I do not find that “everything in human life argues against this”.

    If human beings had no purpose, then it would be wrong to proscribe any possible human behavior. But we do create laws and punish certain behaviors, as if humans had a purpose. Society functions as if human beings had a purpose and not as if humans are as meaningless as any inanimate object.

    Oh well – at least you are being clear. In particular you are not claiming that people have some sort of intrinsic purpose. It is God’s purpose.

    I guess I wasn’t being clear. I didn’t claim anything. I provided three scenarios for the origin of purpose. You either agreed with them or not, I don’t know. But additionally, humans having an intrinsic purpose is not incompatible with God having given humans a purpose.

    You are using another standard “justice and fairness” to justify fulfilling God’s purpose. So God’s purpose is not the ultimate justification.

    I’m not following you here. You asked why it is morally right to fulfill one’s purpose. We answer why something is morally right by explaining the moral responsiblity. “Why is it morally right to feed my children?” The answer that in justice and fairness is certainly correct – that explains the moral responsibility.

    If you’re asking “why are we morally required to do anything at all?” — then that makes this simpler. You would be talking about subjectivism as moral relativism — and thus open to the critique you’ve seen already.

    Was creating Hitler and the smallpox virus necessarily a good action? Good by what standard?

    Again, I’m not understanding. You’re taking a theistic position here. What do you mean “creating Hitler”? If you’re talking about God and what he did or didn’t do — then we could talk about that. But I think you’d have to explain first what you mean by God and what his nature is and what you know about his actions in creation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what you mean.

  342. 342
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    The answer here is that it claims only that general moral principles are known by all – not that, by nature alone, we can understand the moral quality of every possible human act. That’s why we look at the most general, universal norms and recognize an objective moral law.

    Precisely. Thank you. The natural moral law cannot possibly provide a precise solution to every moral problem. If that was the case, we wouldn’t need our conscience to shape our moral intuitions or the virtue of prudence to inform our moral calculations, both of which are required to make a sound moral decision. The natural moral law addresses the universal principle; the virtue of prudence addresses the particular application.

    Religious revelation, for example, gives greater insights on moral values that philosophy alone cannot reveal. But revelation is not part of a natural moral law known by all.

    Exactly right. The conscience, which testifies to the natural moral law, is vulnerable to change: it can be fine-tuned and developed with sound religious instruction, or it can be compromised and silenced with bad teaching and bad behavior. The law, on the other hand, is impervious to change: Error changes; truth doesn’t.

  343. 343
    kairosfocus says:

    SB & SA: It’s probably helpful to highlight a point I cited at 274 above from Wiki:

    ___________________

    >> More on peer pressure from Wiki:

    An explanation of how the peer pressure process works, called “the identity shift effect”, is introduced by social psychologist, Wendy Treynor, who weaves together Leon Festinger’s two seminal social-psychological theories (on cognitive dissonance, which addresses internal conflict, and social comparison, which addresses external conflict) into a unified whole. According to Treynor’s original “identity shift effect” hypothesis, the peer pressure process works in the following way: One’s state of harmony is disrupted when faced with the threat of external conflict (social rejection) for failing to conform to a group standard. Thus, one conforms to the group standard, but as soon as one does, eliminating this external conflict, internal conflict is introduced (because one has violated one’s own standards). To rid oneself of this internal conflict (self-rejection), an “identity shift” is undertaken, where one adopts the group’s standards as one’s own, thereby eliminating internal conflict (in addition to the formerly eliminated external conflict), returning one once again to a state of harmony. Even though the peer pressure process begins and ends with one in a (conflict-less) state of harmony, as a result of conflict and the conflict resolution process, one leaves with a new identity—a new set of internalized standards.[14]

    Sounds familiar?

    Mix in desensitisation through glamourising and drumming in the formerly outrageous and outlandish. Add, jamming out of those few lone voices in the wilderness who dare object or say the Emperor is only pretending to be wearing gorgeous robes, and see how soon we have conversion — even mass conversions.

    Hey presto, early C21 society just swum into sharp focus. >>
    ____________________

    Cognitive dissonance through a gap between initial belief and behaviour one is induced to take up, pulls one to shift initial beliefs and values. Bad company and their rationalisation for their behaviour feeds that process.

    This inter alia means that personal sense and/or group or community consensus are not reliable guides to right and wrong, true and false.

    So, again, we are right back at the need to examine world-foundations, in search of an IS adequate to bear the weight of OUGHT. And, though it obviously angers many today, it remains the case — I am compelled to acknowledge the truth as I have found it (without thereby implying any general claims to perfection of thought and life . . . which it seems I have to say as there is such a tendency to project strawman caricature stereotypes) — that there is precisely one serious candidate, after centuries of debate.

    Namely, the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality and a necessary, maximally great being.

    (If one objects, simply put up a candidate that can ground good without arbitrariness, and also can ground such without reducing right to might and manipulation make ‘right.’)

    It really looks like our choice is Candidate no 1, or else, implicitly the nihilist’s credo; by one way or another. Where of course we can take it to the bank that there are binding OUGHTS such as respect for innocent life.

    A stark choice.

    KF

  344. 344
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: Authentic, sound revelation will lead us aright. There is that which claims to be revelation but which will lead us astray. KF

  345. 345
    Mark Frank says:

    SA – you have been a pleasure to discuss things with so I will keep this up a bit longer but if I stop please don’t interpret it as a rudeness to you (or a concession you are right ). I am simply running out of time.
     

    Are you saying that there cannot be an ultimate justification for any single moral belief?Or are you talking about “for an entire system of morals”? or do you mean “for a moral code that covers every possible human act”? Those are three different things.

    All of these.

    If you’re talking about “any single moral act”, then there is one objective justification – “compliance with the truth.”

    The following sequence about “the truth” is hard to understand.  Can you give an example of a single moral act,  what “the truth” is in this case, and show how this is an ultimate justification for that act.

    In that case, you’re talking about a single act – torturing a puppy.
    You then explain that “no standard is required” to judge that act – no more than you need a standard to feel that a book is interesting or a film is funny.

    That’s true.  I don’t understand your point.

    This is quite a lot different than what you said above. We have a“deep seated and permanent” desire. There are some films that I found to be very funny in the past, and now I don’t find them funny. But that may change the next time I watch the same film. Some directors’ films I don’t find funny while other people do. There’s no objective basis here. I don’t have a justification. There is nothing like a “deep seated, personal desire” to laugh at one film and not another.

    I use “funny” as an analogy to “morally good” because it has some aspects in common but it is an analogy and differs in other respects.  So, as you write, humour tends to be more ephemeral and short term than moral feelings.

    We’ve been discussing this because subjectivism, as many on this thread have argued, is “making up one’s morals for oneself”. It doesn’t recognize a standard to comply with for reasons external to the self. That’s like finding a film funny or a book interesting. There’s no standard. But it’s not like a universal moral sense embedded in human beings that universally recognizes good and evil in certain human acts.

    Those who argue that it is “making up one’s morals for oneself” are wrong.  Subjectivism is about the ultimate justification for morality.  I agree that human beings (almost) universally agree that some acts are evil and others good.  There are also a wide range of acts over which there is much more disagreement – particularly where sex is concerned.

    Wikipedia says: “The most common forms of ethical subjectivism are also forms of moral relativism, with moral standards held to be relative to each culture or society (c.f. cultural relativism), or even to every individual.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_subjectivismThat’s what we’ve been talking about. The most common form where moral standards, relative to every individual.You’ve chosen a different view where subjectivism is not about choosing morals but about finding an ultimate justification.

    Yes. I would not describe myself as a moral relativist.

    The answer here is that it claims only that general moral principles are known by all – not that, by nature alone, we can understand the moral quality of every possible human act. That’s why we look at the most general, universal norms and recognize an objective moral law.

    As I said above – subjectivism is compatible with adopting the natural moral law as a set of moral principles and also with the belief that it expresses moral opinions held by (almost) all of humanity.  As it happens I think that any attempt to codify morality is dangerous but that does not follow from my subjectivism.

    It’s not a debate tactic. The natural moral law deals with general principles. So, it’s right to look for acts that are recognized universally. To expect the natural moral law to give precise answers on every possible human act is to expect more than it claims. Religious revelation, for example, gives greater insights on moral values that philosophy alone cannot reveal. But revelation is not part of a natural moral law known by all.

    My problem was with choosing extreme and obvious moral acts as proof that there is an objective morality.  All it shows is that there are acts on which almost everyone strongly agrees.

    I mentioned above that the existence of truth is a fact that gives an ultimate justification to a moral act.“In order to defend or prove my philosophical position, I do not need to have any regard for the truth.”
    That statement is necessarily false. One cannot arrive at a proof of anything without a clear understanding of the difference between truth and falsehood. That’s an ultimate justification for the moral values that follow. There can be no rational discussion – in fact, no reasoning at all, without a regard for the distinction between truth and falsehood. Reason itself is based on this.

    As I said at the top of this comment – I think this can be clarified through an example.

    The standard is inherent in human nature. We measure achievements on a scale of values known by all. That’s how we know the difference between a woman who cares for her family and the poor of the community and a woman who kills her husband and children for no other reason the fun of doing so. The human response to those two cases indicates the presence of a scale by which actions can be measured.

    We are discussing whether purposes was the ultimate justification.  I was asking by what standard you judge the purpose. It would appear to be something else which is inherent in human nature. It follows that purpose is not the ultimate justification.  The essence of subjectivism is that whatever standard of morality you propose it is always necessary to justify that standard. Hence you have an infinite regress. There can be no ultimate justification.

    If human beings had no purpose, then it would be wrong to proscribe any possible human behavior. But we do create laws and punish certain behaviors, as if humans had a purpose. Society functions as if human beings had a purpose and not as if humans are as meaningless as any inanimate object.

    Uou are assuming the very thing we are debating.  I don’t believe that people need a purpose to be the subject of moral praise and blame and not having a purpose does not make them meaningless.

    I’m not following you here. You asked why it is morally right to fulfill one’s purpose. We answer why something is morally right by explaining the moral responsiblity. “Why is it morally right to feed my children?” The answer that in justice and fairness is certainly correct – that explains the moral responsibility.

    The key question we were debating was does the purpose of human beings (which I take it means God’s purpose for human beings) provide an ultimate justification for morality. You then want to justify that standard (fulfils God’s purpose for human beings) in terms of another standard justice and fairness. It follows that God’s purpose was not the ultimate standard because it was necessary to justify in terms of another.

    Again, I’m not understanding. You’re taking a theistic position here. What do you mean “creating Hitler”? If you’re talking about God and what he did or didn’t do — then we could talk about that. But I think you’d have to explain first what you mean by God and what his nature is and what you know about his actions in creation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what you mean.

    I am exploring the logical implications of your position, not adopting it myself.  You wrote:

    But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a ***good action****

    You didn’t specify what was created or who did it.  You seemed to be claiming that any act of creation of anything by anything is necessarily good.  I provided some apparent counter-examples.

  346. 346
    kairosfocus says:

    SB & SA:

    I think I should elaborate on the issue of mainstreaming of evils, which in the past generation led to the wide acceptance of the ongoing abortion holocaust of a global cumulative total in the hundreds of millions, the rise of a porn-perversion agenda and now destructive distortion of what is left of marriage and family (cf. Masha Gessen here and the Whiteheads on the my genes made me do it thesis, here).

    A couple of generations before, the astute marketing of cigarettes got a good fraction of the world’s population addicted to paper tubes filled with a noxious, toxic weed and ignited in order to inhale the smoke.

    This helps us understand just how dangerous is reliance on social or institutional “consensus” or “leadership” or even “rights” movements to define our understanding of good and evil.

    Let me clip from some of the thoughts that first attracted the ire of some of the more unhinged of the evo mat advocates, who set about a well-poisoning tactic (which makes it, of course soooo convenient to avoid dealing with core matters):

    . . . increasingly, acceptance of “anything goes” amorality on sexual matters seems to be the accepted thing here in the Caribbean and in the wider world.

    Q: Why is that?

    A: Kupelian’s Marketing of Evil Strategy in action:

    1 –> Desensitise to evil (benumb the conscience) by gradually increasing exposure and through glamourisation, making the abnormal, disordered, bizarre and destructive appear to be sympathetic, acceptable or even normal and even attractive behaviour. Once the proverbial camel’s nose is admitted under the tent, pretty soon, the whole beast will be inside; and the former owner of the tent will be shivering out in the dark, cold night.

    2 –> Jam out the messages of those who make objections, by using the classic trifecta rhetorical/propaganda strategy: distract attention from inconvenient truth through red herrings led away to strawman caricatures soaked in slanderous and often cruel ad hominems. Ignite to cloud, choke, and poison the atmosphere, polarising the community against objectors, now increasingly perceived as evil kill-joy hypocrites and threats to “freedom.” (It helps to muddy the waters by conflating liberty with license.)

    3 –> Convert a critical mass into tolerators, supporters and even advocates, by exploiting the perceived moral high ground captured in phases 1 & 2, so that evil is rationalised as if it were acceptable or even good.

    When this is laid out in cold hard terms, it sounds ruthless and mechanical.

    Ruthless it certainly is, but it is not mechanical at all; the desensitisation- jamming- conversion strategy works by so framing issues, ideas, alternatives, views and people that our emotions and impressions pull us to support what we would not otherwise wish to support. And if inhaling smoke from shredded leaves wrapped in paper that at first cause us to get sick can be successfully marketed as a mark of glamour, coming of age and “cool” iconic Marlboro Man manhood — then, sustained for decades in the face of mounting evidence of the deadly diseases that smoking causes — almost anything can be “sold” to us.

    This pattern should be sadly familiar.

    To counter it, we need to insist on addressing foundational matters in foundational terms.

    Are we governed by OUGHT? Or effectively the same, do we have rights to life etc that must be respected due to the inherent dignity of a human being?

    If we have rights, we are under the government of ought. If we are governed by ought, then we can face Hume’s IS-OUGHT gap argument and have an answer. In the root of the world, there is a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

    As I have repeatedly pointed out above and elsewhere (and as has been studiously ignored, or distracted from by a jamming out tactic of twisting into ad hominem laced strawman caricatures), there is exactly one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality, who is a necessary, maximally great being.

    (If you dispute that, simply explain either how we are not under the government of ought, or else how an alternative IS can ground OUGHT, without reducing to the nihilistic absurdity, might and/or manipulation make ‘right.’ [The studious silence here, speaks volumes.])

    Arthur F Holmes has aptly summed up:

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

    R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

    Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments . . . .

    If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights. [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), pp. 70 – 72; p. 81.]

    So, now, we face a stark choice.

    KF

  347. 347
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: We are, of course, all finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed [as I have often noted in and around UD]. Given recent personal attacks and “why don’t you just shut up and go away” rhetorical gambits, I note this as a preface to what follows.

    In so noting and going on to speak, I am simply saying what I am compelled to by the weight of evidence on the merits, out of a sense of duty to speak truth in the face of an apparent juggernaut.

    What I will state and clip will doubtless cut cross-grain to some. Pardon that, sometimes it is necessary to go through what is painful if one is to be healed.

    As a relevant case in point to the just above issue of mainstreaming by manipulation, let me clip Matthew J. Franck, in his May 2011 First Things article, “Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage,” as a case of a slice of the cake with all the ingredients in it. I believe in the power of a related but different illustration throwing a fill-light from the side:

    In the contemporary debate on the future of marriage, there appears to be, amid many uncertainties, one sure thing. Those who publicly defend traditional marriage can count on being denounced as haters, bigots, or irrational theocrats—and perhaps all of these at once . . . . Marriage only between a man and a woman [in the view of activist judges and others] is a mere “tradition” with no claim on our attention when a claim of “discrimination” is made on the other side. All that this tradition has going for it is the “moral and religious views” of its supporters. But the law embodies moral choices, so why is this moral viewpoint illegitimate as the basis of a law? The problem is that it is driven too much by the religious commitments of those who hold it—and so it must be dismissed from public life and relegated to the realm of “private moral choice,” disallowed from enactment as the view of the majority in a democratic society. So toxic is it to hold certain religious views that merely believing them works a “harm” to other people. Those who hold these views must not only be prevented from enacting those views as the will of the democratic majority; they must, to the extent possible, be silenced in the public square. They must . . . shut up . . . .

    But why do some participants in our public debates—not just gay-marriage advocates but “secularists” of all stripes (and not a few religious people)—believe that religiously grounded arguments must be “privatized”? Why do they believe that faith and reason must be separated by an unbreachable wall? And why are some arguments that are presented entirely in terms of rational precepts of morality, without reference to theological presuppositions or claims about God’s commandments, treated as suspect—as “theocratic,” no less—if they draw the same moral conclusions as particular religious teachings on the same subject?

    A partial explanation, offered by the theologian Alister McGrath, is the assumption that religious faith is “invariably blind faith”—unsupported by the evidence of facts available to us, and even contradicted by them. But as McGrath notes, “The simple reality of life is that all of us, irrespective of our views about God, base our lives on beliefs—on things that we cannot prove to be true, but believe to be trustworthy and reliable.” Understood in this way, “faith” is indispensable to all of us, whether we are recognizably “religious” or not. Belief is “not blind,” says McGrath, “it just tries to make the best sense of things on the basis of the limited evidence available.” It is perhaps a touchingly blind faith in the sufficiency of narrow scientific reasoning that fails to recognize this obvious fact of the human condition . . .

    In short, all worldviews have roots in first plausibles which as a body are not subject to further proof. For, turtles all the away down forever is impossible for the finite and fallible, and turtles in a ring is another name for begging the question.

    So, we are in the end looking at finitely remote first plausibles (some of which may be self-evident but that’s never enough to ground a worldview), and at comparative difficulties across alternatives on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power.

    A reasonable faith, a tenable worldview is one that can sit to the table of such comparative difficulties and hold its own in the face of inevitable difficulties.

    And, obviously, the IS-OUGHT gap and the linked issues of rights and grounding of morality and moral government, are at this level.

    It will come as no surprise to the astute reader of this blog that this issue of worldview grounding has been a point of strong exchanges, and that again and again evo mat supporters have been found short of answers.

    For many such, the idea that there are self-evident first principles of right reason is objectionable.

    To them, this apparently seems a tyrannical imposition.

    To us, this is simply facing foundational realities and using them to guide reason. Where, to ignore such is to be irrational, even delusional. (And the title of Dawkins’ notorious and intemperate book, The God Delusion, speaks straight to a classic rhetorical tactic, the twisting about of an issue and projecting it unto the other side, which can then be pounded away at without asking and addressing, but wait, where do my own ideas point, when examined at foundational levels?)

    What I mean, here, is, something like, take a case of a red ball on a table, A. This allows us to see that the world W is partitioned:

    W = { A | NOT_A }

    From this act of recognition, immediately we find the law of identity, non contradiction and excluded middle in action. But, as has played out for weeks at a time, that is somehow viewed as controversial and objectionable. (And no, quantum phenomena do not contradict such laws, the scientists have to rely on the laws to do quantum theory science. It is not wise to saw off the branch on which one must sit.)

    Likewise, we can ask, given A, why? How does it come to be here? And obviously, we can expect, hope or at least try to find a good and sufficient reason for A.

    This is the principle of sufficient reason, in weak form.

    Only a matter of a few weeks ago, much the same circle of objectors were agitated in opposition, especially to the direct corollary, once we examine modes of being — possible vs impossible, contingent vs necessary — namely that a contingent possible being depends on at least one enabling on/off factor, and so are caused. Where also, there are beings that as they have no such dependence, cannot not exist in all possible worlds. Numbers such as 1, 2, 3, . . . and relations such as 2 + 3 = 5, are examples.

    The general impression one receives, is this is an age of determined radical relativism and even subjectivism, and anything that cuts across that is targetted as a threat to the preferred worldview.

    A calmer examination, will show that instead, we are seeing a mass case of irrationality, a manipulated Plato’s cave world.

    Dismissal of first principles of right reason — as we have far too often seen here at UD, is irrational, period.

    It saws off the branch on which we all must sit.

    Similarly, when it comes to whether we are under moral government, the very fact that the objectors are so busily trying to create the perception that we are int eh wrong, are hypocrites and the like, is a testimony that yes, we are under moral government.

    That means OUGHT is patently real and binding.

    Those who misled Eric Harris through Nietzsche etc were in the wrong. (Nor is this the first time that philosophical fallacies have been used to lead youngsters down the path to nihilism. Sometimes, dressed up in the lab coat. But predictably, with terrible consequences.)

    But once OUGHT is real and binding, we live in a world in which there is an IS that is foundational and capable of supporting that awesome weight.

    There is but one serious candidate — eloquently confirmed by the absence of an alternative from the objectors — the inherently good, Creator God, the root of reality, who is a necessary and maximally great being.

    You don’t need to accept this view or argument, and it is your privilege to take up a different one, but then the force of comparative difficulties comes to bear, and you then need to answer as to whether we are in facr under government of OUGHT.

    If not, then the view is patently factually inadequate.

    If so, then you need to give us a different IS that can ground OUGHT, without reducing tot he nihilistic absurdity, might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    And, no this is not a contest over who is nice vs who is a hypocrite etc. It is not about who is nasty or an enabler of nastiness.

    It is far more fundamental: are we under moral government, and if so, what IS grounds OUGHT. And if we are not under moral government, absurdity follows.

    Yes, the choices we face are stark. Perhaps, utterly unpalatable to many.

    That does not mean, they are not real, forced, momentous choices.

    Worldview foundation issues tend to be like that.

    KF

  348. 348
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: As usual, it helps to cite as speaking against general ideological interest and agenda, the Wikipedia site c. Feb 2012,in its article on Laws of Thought:

    The law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are not separate laws per se, but correlates of the law of identity. That is to say, they are two interdependent and complementary principles that inhere naturally (implicitly) within the law of identity, as its essential nature . . . whenever we ‘identify’ a thing as belonging to a certain class or instance of a class, we intellectually set that thing apart from all the other things in existence which are ‘not’ of that same class or instance of a class. In other words, the proposition, “A is A and A is not ~A” (law of identity) intellectually partitions a universe of discourse (the domain of all things) into exactly two subsets, A and ~A, and thus gives rise to a dichotomy. As with all dichotomies, A and ~A must then be ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘jointly exhaustive’ with respect to that universe of discourse. In other words, ‘no one thing can simultaneously be a member of both A and ~A’ (law of non-contradiction), whilst ‘every single thing must be a member of either A or ~A’ (law of excluded middle).

    What’s more . . . thinking entails the manipulation and amalgamation of simpler concepts in order to form more complex ones, and therefore, we must have a means of distinguishing these different concepts. It follows then that the first principle of language (law of identity) is also rightfully called the first principle of thought, and by extension, the first principle reason (rational thought) . . .

  349. 349
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: On the inherent irrationality of evolutionary materialism, via self-referential incoherence: cf. here on, in context for a 101, and on the want of grounding for OUGHT, cf. here on in context.

    On the former, Reppert gives a helpful short summary:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    On the latter, Hawthorne hits the nail on the head, hard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (It’s probably worth noting, too, that when one objects to evils, natural or imposed by human action, one implies that there is a standard by which one can judge good vs evil, and that one OUGHT to do good and eschew or even shun evil. Thus, one implies one of two things: (a) we are under moral government, or else (b) one is manipulating the perception others have that they are under moral government in order to promote radical relativism . . . which last, is tantamount to there being no moral government only might and manipulation make ‘right.’)

  350. 350
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: It is also worth noting on the secondary, twisted nature of evil — the abuse, perversion, frustration or privation of the good. So, for instance, to create, and the capacity creativity are good abilities and actions. But, we may twist them into creating bad things, such as man-traps that capture and maim others such as we are on the twisted logic that we own a forest and (despite the starving of peasant children) that ownership justifies maiming and even killing any who dare trespass, especially if they may poach a rabbit or a fish to feed their family. Where, obviously, there are far less destructive means to deal with poaching and conservation of game. The pivotal evil is, to fail to see comparative values: what is a man profited to gain the world at the expense of his soul — the very thing that makes him more than a brute beast.

  351. 351
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF #345

    you have been a pleasure to discuss things with so I will keep this up a bit longer but if I stop please don’t interpret it as a rudeness to you (or a concession you are right ). I am simply running out of time.

    Thank you – I’ve enjoyed discussing this with you also. I’ll skip a number of responses you gave, in the interest of time – and also because I understand and accept your objections to what I said. You’re looking for a higher-level justification – ultimate justification. So, I’ll jump to that.

    The following sequence about “the truth” is hard to understand. Can you give an example of a single moral act, what “the truth” is in this case, and show how this is an ultimate justification for that act.

    My point is that we can’t be subjectivist in regards to moral issues that require affirmation of the truth.

    * Single moral act/decision: “In every circumstance, whether reasoning with myself or communicating with others, I will always tell a lie.”

    * “The truth” in this case: We cannot morally affirm that act.

    * Ultimate justification: You are looking for facts that ultimately compels a moral act and which make it impossible to logically overturn. In this case, one cannot agree to always tell a lie. Affirming “yes, I will always lie” would have to be a lie – and thus be true, and thus a violation of the moral norm.

    So, subjectivism fails here. We cannot establish a moral principle to always tell a lie (we can strive to always tell the truth though).

    The ultimate justification is logic. The logical process requires an acceptance of the truth. To reject the truth in every case is illogical.

    I am exploring the logical implications of your position, not adopting it myself. You wrote:

    But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a ***good action****

    You didn’t specify what was created or who did it. You seemed to be claiming that any act of creation of anything by anything is necessarily good. I provided some apparent counter-examples.

    Yes, you asked if we could have an evil purpose. So, it’s the creation of purpose in general. Creation, in that sense, as I was referring to it is ex nihilo – bringing something into being.

    So I’m not sure if you think that God created Hitler and/or how you think God did that. Then to what extent you think God is responsible for Hitler’s actions – and why you think that. That would make a big difference on what we conclude about the purpose of things.

  352. 352
    Silver Asiatic says:

    you have been a pleasure to discuss things with so I will keep this up a bit longer but if I stop please don’t interpret it as a rudeness to you (or a concession you are right ). I am simply running out of time.

    Thank you – I’ve enjoyed discussing this with you also. I’ll skip a number of responses you gave, in the interest of time – and also because I understand and accept your objections to what I said. You’re looking for a higher-level justification – ultimate justification. So, I’ll jump to that.

    The following sequence about “the truth” is hard to understand. Can you give an example of a single moral act, what “the truth” is in this case, and show how this is an ultimate justification for that act.

    My point is that we can’t be subjectivist in regards to moral issues that require affirmation of the truth.

    * Single moral act/decision: “In every circumstance, whether reasoning with myself or communicating with others, I will always tell a lie.”

    * “The truth” in this case: We cannot morally affirm that act.

    * Ultimate justification: You are looking for facts that ultimately compels a moral act and which make it impossible to logically overturn. In this case, one cannot agree to always tell a lie. Affirming “yes, I will always lie” would have to be a lie – and thus be true, and thus a violation of the moral norm.

    So, subjectivism fails here. We cannot establish a moral principle to always tell a lie (we can strive to always tell the truth though).

    The ultimate justification is logic. The logical process requires an acceptance of the truth. To reject the truth in every case is illogical.

    I am exploring the logical implications of your position, not adopting it myself. You wrote:

    But the simple fact that the act of creation (bringing something into being) is necessarily a ***good action****

    You didn’t specify what was created or who did it. You seemed to be claiming that any act of creation of anything by anything is necessarily good. I provided some apparent counter-examples.

    Yes, you asked if we could have an evil purpose. So, it’s the creation of purpose in general. Creation, in that sense, as I was referring to it is ex nihilo – bringing something into being.

    So I’m not sure if you think that God created Hitler and/or how you think God did that. Then to what extent you think God is responsible for Hitler’s actions – and why you think that. That would make a big difference on what we conclude about the purpose of things.

  353. 353
    Silver Asiatic says:

    SB 342

    Precisely. Thank you. The natural moral law cannot possibly provide a precise solution to every moral problem. If that was the case, we wouldn’t need our conscience to shape our moral intuitions or the virtue of prudence to inform our moral calculations, both of which are required to make a sound moral decision. The natural moral law addresses the universal principle; the virtue of prudence addresses the particular application.

    That’s very good- thanks. The objective natural moral law is like philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Those arguments show that God exists – but they don’t intent to prove every theological detail about Christianity, for example.

  354. 354
    Silver Asiatic says:

    KF #344

    Yes, once we conclude that God exists, we have to ask about what God has revealed or communicated.

  355. 355
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: For those who think that there isn’t a debate over first principles of reason where objectors to design theory generally are dismissive of such, or if you think that such is a dead issue, kindly cf:

    HERE: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=296&cpage=3

    http://nwrickert.wordpress.com.....ht-reason/

    vs:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ht-reason/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/faq/#LNC

    Nope, the issue is not made up, and it seems quite hard for some to understand that once anything in the cosmos say A is distinct, that effects a world partition and the triple principles of right reason LOI, LNC, LEM, immediately and jointly obtain.

    KF

  356. 356
    kairosfocus says:

    SA:

    On Hitler’s Creation.

    I would suggest that Hitler was in the first instance a result of the procreative act of marriage between his parents, just like the rest of us. I would secondly suggest that little Adolph was once an innocent baby.

    Then, yes, there seemed to be abusive elements in his upbringing and schooling. He did fail to get into art school. He did slip over the border into Germany and was present at the celebration of the declaration of war in 1914 (astonishing as that seems today, so naive were people in that day).

    At no point here do we see more than what is commonplace.

    He joined the army, served as a runner, may have had a love child. He was exposed to war propaganda, served in the zone of the notorious rape of Belgium [which in turn had not been very nice to Africans . . . but then it looks like my remote European ancestors were Belgian]. Thus he was part of the most efficient killing machine to that date, and doubtless was coarsened and partly made callous by that.

    At the end of the war, with the 100 days campaign in full swing he seemed to have been gassed and in hospital. The Armistice came, as a great disappointment . . . pointing to a bit of unreality. He swore to get into politics, was made a spy on the nascent Nazi Party, and at the same time was a chief organiser.

    From that, he went downhill, and became a byword for a merciless demonic dictator.

    Now, is this somehow God’s fault?

    I would suggest that Hitler abused the wonderful gift of responsible freedom, without which we cannot genuinely reason, warrant or know, decide responsibly or love. Which points out that the highest goods, being virtues, require real freedom.

    So, we are back at the problem of evil and the power of the free will defense, cf. here.

    KF

  357. 357
    Vishnu says:

    There are only two possible scenarios:

    1. There is no “higher power.” All morality is subjective, based on mere “blind” natural conditioning, as well as societal conditioning. Any given person’s sense of right and wrong is completely determined by these.

    2. There is a “higher power”, whatever it’s nature, whether it be an impersonal Platonic, inescapable Karmic system, or something like the God of Abraham , Zoroaster, or Zeus, that demands certain behaviors from us, or else punishments will ultimately follow. All morality is a blend of the “Platonic” factors, both (perhaps) designed and undesigned natural factors, and subjective societal conditioning. Any given persons sense of right and wrong is a blend of these.

    All moralities have degrees of subjectivity. This is easy to see since even among groups of people were morality and ethics are highly specified, there is always disagreement among individuals as to the details, even though they may be to fearful to speak about disagreements.

    The Big Question in my view is: how much of my morality is based on the Platonic Morality, if it exists, and how much is based on blind natural conditioning and societal conditioning? Nobody should pretend to have a definitive answer for that… unless you’re making some specific claims to “godhood”. In which case, I have a few tests for I’d like to perform on you. 🙂

  358. 358
    Vishnu says:

    KF @ 356: Now, is this somehow God’s fault?”

    It depends. Did God want Hitler to grow up, wage war, and kill Jews? If so, on what basis was it “wrong?” If not, was God not powerless to stop it? Why didn’t he? I mean, really now, if Yahweh can command Joshua to go and kill every last man, woman, child and baby in Jericho, then surely Yahweh could have arrange for Hitler’s demise while in his infantcy. On the other hand, give his history, it is conceivable that Yahweh wanted Hitler to grow up, wage war, and kill Jews. Who is anyone to say otherwise?

    (Of course, this assumes God exists, and Yahweh in particular.)

    Sticky moral issues, these.

  359. 359
  360. 360
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi V:

    Such logic tangles are why I took time to lay out the issue, first, are we under moral government?

    If so, we have responsible freedom and are therefore . . . responsible. (Without which, BTW, we cannot reason and so all conversations pretending to be reasoned argument are so much noise.)

    Once we are under OUGHT, that has a foundation in the root of reality, an IS that can support it.

    Cutting the long story short, we now invite candidates for audition and interview.

    There’s but one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality who is a necessary and maximally good being. (Zeus for one does not fit; just ask Hera!)

    KF

  361. 361
    Silver Asiatic says:

    * Single moral act/decision: “In every circumstance, whether reasoning with myself or communicating with others, I will always tell a lie.”

    I could restate that: “In every circumstance, whether reasoning with myself or communicating with others, I will always negate the truth.”

    So, we have:

    A = A, True or False?
    With my moral principle in place: False.
    Therefore, A A, True or False?

    At this point, logic has broken down.
    We must reject the moral principle that we will always negate the truth. The standard and ultimate justification for that? Logic itself.

    Subjectivism proposes that we could either affirm or deny that principle (that “I will always negate the truth”), in the way we might find a film funny or not. But on the contrary, it’s illogical to affirm that ethical principle. It destroys the reasoning process itself and contradicts the idea that we can find an ultimate, or any justification for anything.

  362. 362
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Now, is this somehow God’s fault?

    I would suggest that Hitler abused the wonderful gift of responsible freedom, without which we cannot genuinely reason, warrant or know, decide responsibly or love. Which points out that the highest goods, being virtues, require real freedom.

    So, we are back at the problem of evil and the power of the free will defense, cf.

    True – it depends on what we think God is – the nature of God, his creative actions, etc.

    From a materialist/subjective viewpoint, I think Hitler is just a being that did things. We cannot derive an ought from an is. Hitler is just an “is” from history. There is nothing he ought to have done. He had a different taste in films than other people do. That’s sounds callous and harsh but that’s what is proposed in the notion that “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

  363. 363
    Vishnu says:

    KF: There’s but one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator God, the root of reality who is a necessary and maximally good being. (Zeus for one does not fit; just ask Hera!)

    Yeah, I threw Zeus in just for funzies.

    I don’t believe in a “maximally good being” of classical theism. (I’ll give you my reasons if you’re interested.) I only believe in a necessary reality that appears to have as one of its features a ying/yang polarity that is in eternal contention. Space-time is a derivation of that reality. And consciousness is a fundamental part of it. (I.e, consciousness is not a created thing.) That doesn’t mean there are no creator(s) of us lowly human who make demands on us. I think there are.

    Big subjects all. And interesting.

    Thanks for your reply.

  364. 364
    kairosfocus says:

    V: Such a y-y’ being runs into the same problem as dualisms [going all the way back to neo-platonism], inability to ground good. A key insight is that evil is not a substantial entity in itself, it is the frustration or diversion etc of the good. KF

  365. 365
    Vishnu says:

    K: some attempts at “explanation” run into that, but I’m not a dualist. I’m a monist. Non-dualist Vedanta. My view of the ying/yang is two aspects of the same ontology. “Contention” was a poor choice of words. “Opposition” is better. Neither aspects is “good” or “bad.” The relationship between these two aspects leads to all subsidiary manifestations at many, many different levels. I do not believe in a “good” power and a “bad” power. Morality, i.e, “good and evil”, is not absolute, but it does transcend space-time, and has consequences to individual consciousness.

    At any rate, I must stress that I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, and the transcendent reality cannot be expressed in mere words, by mere human reason. If it could, it would not be transcendent! Only bare hints can be expressed. Pointers. Hopefully koens, to jar one out of the certain illusions. Like consciousness itself- you have to be one to know one. 😉 Mere logic will never do. Which is one reason why it’s pointless to argue with people who cannot see that “morality” does, in part, have a grounding in a transcendent reality. You either “see” that (pick your metaphore) or you don’t. You either see the color blue or you don’t. Mere logic will never convince anyone.

    Take RDFish for example. He’s got a fine logical mind. He writes well, states his points well, and quite frankly, I think he’s very intelligent, and I like to read what he writes. But he’s blind in a certain area that mere words are never, ever going to overcome. Words and logic are only useful when both sides already know at some level the meaning of the terminus.

    But I understand the fun of debate.

  366. 366
    Vishnu says:

    … Now having said that about RDFish, methinks he knows more than he lets on. When he says that he feels that torturing puppies and babies is “evil”, I really believe he thinks it is evil, throughout all time and space, in any conceivable universe. I think that if today RDFish discovered that there really is a transcendent reality that is the source for such revulsion, that he would gladly accept and go along. Maybe with a sigh of relief.

    This is to his credit. And all people like him.

    They feel the kingdom, but they can’t quite see the King.

  367. 367
    Mung says:

    In the book On Guard, Chapter 6 asks the question, Can We Be Good Without God?

    While it would be arrogant and ignorant to claim that people cannot be good without belief in God, that wasn’t the question. The question was: can we be good without God? When we ask that question, we’re posing a question about the nature of moral values.

    What is the basis of our values?

    Are they based on:

    1. Social convention?

    2. Personal preference?

    3. Evolution?

    4. God?

  368. 368
    Mung says:

    The Misanthrope – by Moliere – trans Richard Wilbur

    Quoted by the man who refuses to read the posts of the person to whom the quote was directed.

    Hilarious.

    I suppose it’s wrong to be misanthropic.

    But why?

    Mark Frank:

    KF – I ignored 304 (and the 5 subsequent comments) because they written by you.

    If I wanted to avoid the truth at all costs I’d void his posts too.

    Mark Frank:

    Like many people I do not have time to read your many, many comments which are frequently very hard to understand and almost always cannot be addressed without asking for further clarification.

    Intellectual laziness is not a defense.

  369. 369
    kairosfocus says:

    V: One underlying metaphysical problem is the problem of the one and the many, i.e. unity and diversity at the same time in a unified cosmos which has in it people who are morally governed and rational, reasoning and knowing. This includes good and evil as an aspect. This is, again, a comparative difficulties across worldviews challenge and if the answers were easy, it would not be a philosophical problem. (I once defined phil as the discipline that seeks to ask and attempt to answer hard questions . . . about ourselves, our world, its roots, reality etc.) KF

  370. 370
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung,

    IIRC, MF claims a philosophy base. I get the feeling, after some years of generally fruitless exchanges, that it was very strongly shaped by a fairly narrow school of thought, probably analytic phil that used to dominate Oxbridge. That explains a tendency to pounce on language difficulties, real or imagined.

    Wiki introduces:

    The term “analytic philosophy” can refer to:

    A broad philosophical tradition[2][3] characterized by an emphasis on clarity and argument (often achieved via modern formal logic and analysis of language) and a respect for the natural sciences.[4][5][6]

    The more specific set of developments of early 20th-century philosophy that were the historical antecedents of the broad sense: e.g., the work of Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. E. Moore, Gottlob Frege, and logical positivists.

    In this latter, narrower sense, analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical commitments (many of which are rejected by contemporary analytic philosophers), such as:

    The logical positivist principle that there are no specifically philosophical truths and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional foundationalism, which considers philosophy to be a special science (i.e. discipline of knowledge) that investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything.[7] Consequently, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences.[8]

    The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can only be achieved by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions.[9] The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system) to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.[10]

    The rejection of sweeping philosophical systems in favour of attention to detail,[11] or ordinary language.[12]

    It is no surprise to see that I profoundly beg to differ, viewing phil issues as foundational, worldview level issues that must be assessed on comparative difficulties across diverse positions. Where the underlying insight is the old “turtles all the way down” challenge. As finite, fallible thinkers, we must accept that an infinite regress is an impossibility for our thought, and that turtles in a circle is little more than question begging. Thence, the conclusions that:

    (a) the last turtle must stand somewhere,

    (b) foundation has in it partly self-evident truths and partly “first plausibles” [think: presuppositions etc] that serve as reasonable start-points,

    (c) as alternatives are possible, they must assess comparative difficulties if they are to avoid question begging.

    Now, this means I am thinking in terms of worldviews, precisely the “sweeping . . . systems” that are so often despised. To which, my retort is, the unexamined life is not worth living. In particular, an unexamined unconscious worldview is apt to be confused with reality itself, what actually is.

    So, why not accept that we are finite, fallible and inevitably will synthesise a world-picture so let us approach that project incrementally and understanding it as a grand explanatory exercise? One, that inevitably embeds a faith-venture?

    Oops, I said a red flag word.

    In reply, I say with Locke that we must seek a reasonable faith by the candle-light we actually have:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Intro to Essay on Human Understanding, sec 5. Text references added, to document the sources of Locke’s biblical allusions and citations. Yes, they are indeed patently there.]

    The greats are truly profound, and while math symbols, analyses, models etc can be useful, there is something conveyed by a classic excerpt like this that goes beyond skeletal mathematical analyses. Indeed, a love of wisdom — the root meaning of philosophy — and a discernment that is powerfully guiding.

    In addition, I am concerned about an underlying scientism that seems to influence so many of our objectors. The notion at crude level that scientific approaches delimit knowledge, or at more sophisticated levels, that this is the province of first class knowledge.

    Blend in “scientific,” lab-coat clad evolutionary materialism as assumed ideological a priori, and the notion that it has successfully set up a framework for explaining origins so those who question is MUST be in error, the only issue is where.

    Selective hyperskepticism then kicks in, with inconsistencies in standards of demanded warrant. Ironically, it is a symptom of excessive credulity regarding an accepted school, united with fragmentation of worldview level thought so it tends not to register that we must sit to a common table of comparative difficulties at foundational level.

    Oooooooooooooops, another red flag word, foundations.

    My reply on this is, revisit the turtles all the way down case, in light of finitude and fallibility.

    When alternatives such as spiderweb meshes of beliefs or Neurath’s raft always under partial reconstruction are put forward, they invariably include an implicit foundation. A spider web runs on anchor lines in a star, tied to anchor-points, and the raft rests on the sea and the principle of floatation. A spaceship, on its structural core, required systems to function, and the underlying forces and materials of nature.

    That is why I tend to think in terms of factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, touchstones of comparative difficulty analysis.

    (Let me note, the one time when MF addressed this, he tried to trigger an iterative restart at any given foundation point, I believe failing to grasp the implications of finitude. And of course, to ever so many objectors self-evident truths that are like plumblines are suspect as they cut across what they want, and point to a need to submit to rather than invent truth. Hence the underlying intensity of disputes against first principles of right reason. At TSZ I actually saw an objection to SB, that he is suspected of wanting to move from such to “proofs” of God. Attack the imagined motive is not an answer to the matter in hand . . . another problem.)

    And so forth.

    KF

  371. 371
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: IEP has a useful overview here. (NB: I take MF’s tendency to refuse to disclose a system but pose on challenging and dismissing specific focal points in a discussion, with an emphasis in alleged lack of clarity in language, as at least provisionally indicative. It also shows the way that such an approach, in real world context, can become just a tad like tossing the monkey wrench into the works.)

  372. 372
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: On Theistic proofs, I suggest that there are no systems of logical reasoning that are immune to disputes and challenges, starting with mathematics. As for science,t eh matter is notorious. History, moreso, etc. So, my conclusion is that we need to recognise degrees of reasonable warrant suitable to relevant types of cases, and to recognise that we are finite and fallible. So, the issue is at length, reasonable faith. On which basis, we then approach comparative difficulties analysis, and the principle of the rope vs the chain. A chain snaps if one link fails, but a rope twines together short weak fibres so that they grip one another to gain length and strength. Strands are then counter-twisted together or braided together to form a rope as a whole, which is immensely long and strong, well beyond the length and strength of individual fibres. Just so, a reasonable position is based on interacting fibres of evidence that have coherence and are cumulatively adequate for purpose. In this case, the comparative difficulties principle also points out the cumulative difficulties of rejecting all the diverse fibres of evidence, inference and reasoning in a given case: you have implicitly erected a different position, which is subject to its own difficulties. And in the case of lab coat clad evo mat, it is self referentially incoherent and grossly factually inadequate starting with accounting for the gap between blind, GIGO-limited computation and self-aware, rational contemplation. Which last is fact no 1 of our existence, and a self-evident truth. (Recall on this the dispute games over rocks having no dreams? What does that tell us about what is going on when this is not followed up to examine the implications of how a ball and disk integrator, or a boolean gate based processor or a neural summing gate network of processor elements work in light of blind cause-effect chains and the GOGO principle?)

  373. 373
    Silver Asiatic says:

    And in the case of lab coat clad evo mat, it is self referentially incoherent and grossly factually inadequate starting with accounting for the gap between blind, GIGO-limited computation and self-aware, rational contemplation. Which last is fact no 1 of our existence, and a self-evident truth.

    I think what happens is that while the gap is self-evident, some attempt to decrease the size of the gap and claim it could be bridged by certain beneficial mutations. It’s difficult to measure the size of the gap. In my opinion, it can’t be measured because it compares a finite with an infinite. It’s two different orders of being.

    What does that tell us about what is going on when this is not followed up to examine the implications of how a ball and disk integrator, or a boolean gate based processor or a neural summing gate network of processor elements work in light of blind cause-effect chains and the GOGO principle?

    It tells me that a lot of academicians must have a reason that drives them to avoid the implications of materialism. There must be some kind of barrier that prevents them from seeing the most common sense realities.
    They will say the same about religionists but the answers are quite different (people have spiritual experiences/awakenings and religious belief is universal).

  374. 374
    Mung says:

    Many philosophers have thought that morality provides a good argument for God’s existence. One of the finest was William Sorley, who was a professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge University. In his Moral Values and the Idea of God (1918) Sorley argues that the best hope for a rational, unified view of reality is to postulate God as the ground of both the natural and moral orders.

    Sorley maintains that there is an objective moral order, which is as real and independent of us as is the natural order of things. … Just as we assume the reality of the world of objects on the basis of our sense experience, so we assume the reality of the moral order on the basis of our moral experience.

    In Sorley’s view both the natural order and the moral order are part of reality. The question then, is: What worldview can combine these two orders into the most coherent explanatory form?

    On Guard, pp 127-128

  375. 375
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: Reppert put it well, in a way I amplify from direct knowledge of how gates, circuits and processors work:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Trying to conflate computation and self-aware rational contemplation is like trying to get North by heading due West. KF

  376. 376
    Mung says:

    : Atheistic Moral Platonism: Moral Values Simply Exist

    Plato thought that the Good just exists on its own as a sort of self-existent Idea. … So some atheists might say that moral values like justice, mercy, love and so on just exist without any foundation. We can call this view atheistic moral platonism. It holds that objective moral values exist but are not grounded in God.

    First, atheistic moral platonism seems unintelligible. What does it means to say, for example, that the moral value justice just exists? It is hard to make sense of this. It’s easy to understand what it means to say that some person is just, but it’s bewildering when someone says that in the absence of any people justice itself exists. Moral values seem to be properties of persons, and it’s hard to understand how justice can exist as an abstraction.

    Second, this view provides no basis for moral duties. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that moral values like justice, loyalty, mercy, forbearance, and the like just exist. How does that result in any moral obligations for me? Why would I have a moral duty to be, say, merciful? Who or what lays such an obligation on me? Notice that on this view moral vices like greed, hatred, lethargy, and selfishness also presumably exist on their own as abstractions. So why are we obligated to align our lives with one set of these abstractly existing objects rather than any other? Atheistic moral platonism, lacking a moral lawgiver, has no grounds for moral obligation.

    Third, it’s fantastically improbable that the blind evolutionary process should spit forth precisely that sort of creatures who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This seems to be an utterly incredible coincidence when you think about it. It’s almost as if the moral realm knew that we were coming. It’s far more plausible, as Sorley contended, to think that both the natural realm and the moral realm are under the authority of a God who gave us both the laws of nature and the moral law than to think that these two independent realms just happened to mesh.

    On Guard

Leave a Reply