As I noted in my last post, sometimes it is necessary to rub materialists’ noses in the morally odious implications of their ethical views. They really hate that, and when one does it, some materialists – grasping the monstrous implications of taking materialist premises to their conclusion – will flop around like a fish on the bank, trying desperately to hold onto their materialist premises while avoiding the conclusions to which those premises ineluctably lead.
Over the last few days Bob O’H has given us an especially amusing demonstration of this. Here are his various positions collected. First, we get several standard materialist statements about how views on the Holocaust are entirely subjective:
1 I’m a moral subjectivist and I’m being precise, I can say that I regard certain acts are good, and I can say that societies (or other groups) regard these acts as good, but I don’t have any external objective standard by which to say that they actually are good
2 By my standards it isn’t good, and wouldn’t be whatever the society thought. But clearly if a society thought it was good, then by their standards it would be good.
3 As far as I am concerned, the Holocaust was evil.
4 I can’t see any circumstances under which I would see the Holocaust (or a similar action) as being morally good, but that is my own subjective opinion. I wouldn’t want to be arrogant enough to say whether anyone else could see any circumstances under which they would consider genocide to be good.
5 I would say that Himmler was wrong, but that is of course based on my own moral views.
After being pressed hard about the implications of his views, Bob shouts (the all caps are his):
6. YES, I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT HIMMLER WAS WRONG THAT THE HOLOCAUST WAS GOOD.
Obviously, statement 6 cannot be reconciled with statements 1 though 5 (especially 1 and 4). In comment 1, for example, Bob says he has no external objective standard by which to judge Himmler’s view that the Holocaust was good. Yet in comment 6 he says he is absolutely certain Himmler was wrong. The only way he can be absolutely certain Himmler was actually wrong (as opposed to being wrong merely in Bob’s opinion) is if he has an external standard by which to judge his own view as compared to Himmler’s view and judge the latter wrong. And in comment 4 he makes the gobsmacking observation: “I wouldn’t want to be arrogant enough to say whether anyone else could see any circumstances under which they would consider genocide to be good.” But in comment 6 he does exactly that.
One of two things has happened. Bob has changed his mind, or he is being incoherent. Not surprisingly, it is the latter, as his later comments reveal. I, of course, pressed him by noting that comment 6 placed him squarely in the “objective moral standards” camp. Bob responded:
7 I can be certain Himmler was wrong because they were wrong by my moral standards, and the standards of the society around me.
Statement 7 is just staggeringly stupid. In comment 6 Bob did not say Himmler was wrong “by my moral standard.” He did not say Himmler was wrong “by the standards of the society around me.” He shouted: “I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT HIMMLER WAS WRONG” period full stop.
Now, not only are comments 1-5 and 6 logically irreconcilable, but also comments 6 and 7 are logically irreconcilable. Bob goes on to flip and flop some more:
8 Also, my moral opinions aren’t objective – I think Himmler was wrong, but that’s based on the morals instilled into me by my family and surrounding society.I’m sure that (by may standards)
9 Himmler was wrong. But I acknowledge that my standards are not objective, and allow for other people having different standards.
10 I’m sorry to say, but you haven’t understood my position. We can all say whether my views on the holocaust are superior to Himmler’s (welcome to democracy!). My point is that I can’t say what the views of people 3000 years (say) in the future will be.
God help us. Bob wants the issue “should we slaughter 18 million men, women and children?” determined by headcount. Having again been pressed on this Bob flops:
11 Has anyone said [they can’t foreclose the possibility that Himmler might have been right]? I know I haven’t (and it’s not what I think)
Oh, so now Bob says he can absolutely foreclose the possibility that Himmler might have been right. Back to the objective moral standard camp.
After being pressed some more, Bob winds up trying to straddle both camps:
12. I can be absolutely sure that [Himmler] was wrong, but that is still only my belief, isn’t it?
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Probably both responses are appropriate. Bob’s antics as he tries to adhere to materialist orthodoxy while avoiding the horrifying moral stances that orthodoxy compels are hilarious. That Bob speaks for many people, and his antics reveal a deep seated inability to think coherently, much less critically, is both terrifying and sad.