Intelligent Design

The Subjectivists Are Good at Emoting; Arguing, Not So Much

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The responses from subjectivists to my latest post have been drearily predictable.  I invite readers to go back and review the post, but in summary I posited a conversation between a subjectivist named Bob and a Saudi over whether is it good to execute homosexuals.  The obvious point was that Bob has literally no logical argument he can make, because his own premises lead to the conclusion that for the Saudi executing homosexuals is in fact morally good.

Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for vanilla ice cream is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for chocolate ice cream.  In exactly the same way, Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for refraining from executing homosexuals is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for executing homosexuals.

Predictably, the subjectivists raged and scoffed.  Yet not a single one of them was able to provide a cogent logical ground for arguing that one subjective preference is superior to another.  Here is a sampling of their responses and my replies:

  1. In the very first comment JDK writes:

I would make it clear that I strongly disagree with them.

Under some hypothetical situations, I would act to help prevent them killing someone.

REPLY

JDK implicitly concedes my point.  The only thing he could do is to make clear that he has a very strong personal preference regarding the matter, and under some circumstances, he would attempt to impose his preference on others.  Essentially admitting my point is a strange way to argue against it.

  1. In commnet 9 RJ Sawyer says:

I can give a damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason, why in is subjectively wrong. Shouldn’t that be enough?

REPLY

Noticeably absent from RJ’s reply: the “damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason” to which he alludes.  If RJ has a reason why his subjective preferences are superior to the Saudi’s subjective preferences, it is very curious that he did not favor us with it.  File this one under “Bluster and Empty Promises.”

  1. In comment 10 JDK has another run at it:

Saying, “well, you can’t really justify your choices because they are nothing but your choices – they don’t have an objective referent”, is, in my opinion, empty rhetoric that, among things, is wrong because it assumes, without proof, that such objective referents can even exist.

REPLY

Nonsense on a stick.  An argument must, by definition, be based on objective referents.  To argue means that one points to inter-subjective premises that lead to a logically compelled conclusion.  “It is my personal subjective preference not to execute homosexuals” is not an argument.  It is an expression of a personal preference.  I assume JDK would never dream of saying “I prefer vanilla; that settles the question of whether vanilla is superior.”  Yet, he has offered no reason why his subjective preferences with respect to the matter at hand is any different.

Further, JDK is plainly wrong when he states that my argument is empty rhetoric unless I can demonstrate that objective morality exists.  I believe that it does.  But even if it does not, my argument is not affected one wit.  My argument is that there is nothing to arbitrate between Bob’s and the Saudi’s preferences.  This is true if subjectivism is false.  Notice that it is also true if subjectivism is correct.  It may be that I am wrong, and there is no objective morality.  We shall see.  But if I am wrong, that means it really is the case that there is no way to demonstrate that Bob’s preference is superior to the Saudi’s.

  1. JDK writes at 18: “There is no reason why the Saudi’s should care about my beliefs”

REPLY

Good for you JDK.  Given your premises, that is exactly correct.  Again, however, agreeing with the post is a strange way to argue against it.

  1. At 22 JDK tries to walk it back:

I think you made something out of my statement that is not there.

REPLY

So now you are saying there is a reason why the Saudi should care about my beliefs?  By all means Jack; tell us what that reason is.  Should the Saudi also care about your subjective taste in ice cream flavor?

  1. Mimus jumps in at 26:

Why don’t you tell us why they should care about your personal preference for an objective basis to morality?

REPLY

This is just silly.  If there is an objective morality, my personal preferences regarding it are plainly irrelevant.

  1. JDK at 28:

I have moral codes that are different then yours. I support your right to have your moral codes, but I still can, and will, when the opportunity arises, resist your acting on your moral codes if it impacts situations that I am involved in.

REPLY

It is nothing short of astonishing that JDK does not recognize the internal incoherence of this statement.  He literally says “I respect your right to have a different opinion; unless I don’t in which case I will seek to impose my opinion on you.”

It hardly needs to be refuted.  It refutes itself.

  1. Bob O’H jumps in at 30:

One thing I’ve never seen is a statement of these objective moral referents, and a demonstration that they are objective. It seems to me that without that this whole discussion is pointless:

REPLY

As I explained at 3, my argument is that there is nothing to arbitrate between Bob’s and the Saudi’s preferences.  This is true if subjectivism is false.  Notice that it is also true if subjectivism is correct.  It may be that I am wrong, and there is no objective morality.  We shall see.  But if I am wrong, that means it really is the case that there is no way to demonstrate that Bob’s preference is superior to the Saudi’s.

So Bob’s objection turns out to be a red herring that he uses to avoid having to deal with the argument in the post.

Look I get it.  When it turns out that you have literally nothing to say to a Saudi who wants to execute people for being homosexual, it is not surprising that you will come up with ways to avoid having to face that fact.

And the comments went on and on and on in a similar vein.  As of this writing there are 175 comments in the combox.  Not a single one of those comments attempts to refute the argument I made.  To be sure, there is plenty of rage, scoffing, heated rhetoric, personal attacks on me, red herrings, straw men, and other distractions.  But no one has refuted my point.  Bob has literally nothing to say to the Saudi when it comes to making an argument based on reason, because if subjectivist premises are true, there is literally no reason the Saudi should care about anything Bob says.

33 Replies to “The Subjectivists Are Good at Emoting; Arguing, Not So Much

  1. 1
    Mimus says:

    If there is an objective morality, my personal preferences regarding it are plainly irrelevant.

    True enough. But here on earth you and the hypothetical Saudi both believe in objective morality, but disagree whether that objective moral system requires gay people to be put to death.

    What argument can you put to the Saudi that your moral code is the right one and he is wrong? How does it add up to more than your personal preference for one religion over another?

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Minus,

    Everyone realizes you are desperate to talk about anything but the point of the post. If you want to just go ahead and confess, “I got nothing” then perhaps we will address your question. Otherwise, you are obviously merely trying to distract.

    So what is it Mimus; do you have anything other than tu quoque irrelevancies to add to the conversation?

  3. 3
    StephenB says:

    Mimus:

    But here on earth you and the hypothetical Saudi both believe in objective morality, but disagree whether that objective moral system requires gay people to be put to death.

    It is amazing that you continue to miss the main point. Barry is not arguing for objective morality at all, though, of course, he embraces it.

    His point: the gay-friendly subjectivist, who chooses his own morality and justifies it on the basis of that choice, has no rational grounds for arguing against the murderous Saudi, who forms his morality in exactly the same way – by personal choice.

    What argument can you put to the Saudi that your moral code is the right one and he is wrong? How does it add up to more than your personal preference for one religion over another?

    Barry has not argued for that proposition for the simple reason that he knew that you would use it to distract from his main argument, which you did anyway.

    For my part, I answered your question many times and you promptly ignored it in every instance. To sum up, the natural moral law, which is logical and reasonable, can be applied to the task of discerning which, if any, religious world view is reasonable and, therefore, worthy of belief. Obviously, the Saudi’s murderous religion does not pass that test.

  4. 4
    Mimus says:

    I don’t know why you can’t simply answer the question.

    For what it’s worth, I think our moral intuition has evolved to allow cooperation within groups and punish behaviors that break down that cooperation. So, though certain moral instincts are near universal, they can only be said to exist within human brains, and moral and ethical systems are in some way socially constructed from these instincts. So, you can call that subjective if you’d like.

    Though I don’t imagine there would be any point in confronting the Saudi in your example, if I did I would argue that moral codes should balance the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness and thrive in their own lives with the detrimental effects of selfish or antisocial behavior. That leaves no grounds for discrimination against gay people at all, let alone their murder. You might say this is a personal preference for people being happy and there is no cosmic significance in this preference. And the Saudi, being a strict moral objectivist who believed in a divine code that required the brutal murder of homosexuals would in all probability ignore me.

    But I fail to see how a moral objectivist has any more compelling arguments than I do.

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    The moral objectivist can argue that the Saudis are really wrong. The moral subjectivist can only give an opinion. How is anyone, me, Barry, the Saudis etc. be obligated to someone else’s personal subjective opinion, when that person doesn’t really believe his own opinion is necessarily true?

  6. 6
    Mimus says:

    How is a preference for one supposedly objective moral code over another more than a “personal subjective opinion”?

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    Mimus: I don’t know why you can’t simply answer the question.

    I don’t know why you can’t process the answer. The natural moral law is reasonable, the Saudi’s severe standard is not. This is probably the fifth time I have answered the question.

    Though I don’t imagine there would be any point in confronting the Saudi in your example, if I did I would argue that moral codes should balance the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness and thrive in their own lives with the detrimental effects of selfish or antisocial behavior. That leaves no grounds for discrimination against gay people at all, let alone their murder. You might say this is a personal preference for people being happy and there is no cosmic significance in this preference. And the Saudi, being a strict moral objectivist who believed in a divine code that required the brutal murder of homosexuals would in all probability ignore me.

    Your analysis is a little one-sided and does not fully capture the reasonableness of the natural moral law. While it is reasonable that we should not discriminate against gay people insofar as they deserve to be treated with respect, it is also reasonable to point out that their behavior is disordered and is, therefore, immoral. This is not simply a religious world view, it is confirmed by common sense. Your moral permissiveness and license reflects one extreme and the Saudi’s severe reaction to it reflects the other extreme. The natural moral law is reasonable because it meets the common-sense standard of the “golden mean.” That is another reason why it is superior to both your amorality and the Saudi’s pseudo morality.

  8. 8
    Mimus says:

    The natural moral law is reasonable,

    You are welcome to this opinion, my comment about answering the question was addressed to Barry. You seem to be stuck in a loop and almost unable to read, so I think I’ll leave you to that.

  9. 9
    goodusername says:

    Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for refraining from executing homosexuals is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for executing homosexuals.

    If I were to try to convince the Saudi that executing people for being homosexual is wrong, the method I would use is to appeal to what typically has worked in the past in changing a culture’s morality – I would appeal to the Saudi’s sense of empathy and fairness, etc., things that I and the Saudi may have in common.
    If I could get the Saudi to empathize with homosexuals, maybe there would be a corresponding change in how he interprets the Koran or whatever it is that’s convincing him that executing homosexuals is right.

    I don’t know what “logical” arguments Bob could make if he believed that morality was objective to convince the Saudi that killing homosexuals is wrong. The only other method is a theological dispute of some kind, such as going straight to trying to convince him that his interpretation of the Koran is wrong.

    I believe the former method is eminently more likely to work.

  10. 10
    vmahuna says:

    Again, Leviticus tells us, Objectively, that “for a man to lie down with another man is an abomination before God”.

    Ya simply don’t get any clearer than that in statements of Moral Principles in religious books. I’m guessing that there is a similar but separate statement of a similar Moral Principle in the Koran. If I cared, I’d take the time to run it down, or look it up. Odd that in this case “up” and “down” mean the same thing…

    I don’t know of an example from the New Testament where the text orders death as the punishment for a Sin. Even in the case where the sinner has not repented (yet). But then the New Testament changes “not a jot or a tittle” of the Old Testament, so death is probably still the punishment for Blasphemy and witchcraft and half a dozen other things.

    The problem for Atheists is that I don’t believe there is any single, widely accepted “bible” that lists their unchanging dos and don’ts. And of course in practice, Communists, the embodiment of a society based on Atheism, killed just about anybody they wanted for the flimsiest of reasons or no reason at all.

  11. 11
    jdk says:

    JDK implicitly concedes my point.

    Bull….

    I have explained the critical flaw in your point multiple times, and you’ve never even cared to try to understand. That’s all for me.

  12. 12
  13. 13
    jdk says:

    Reading the OP further, I see that it is not merely that Barry doesn’t try to understand my views, he is intellectually dishonest in presenting them. I’m not sure how that squares with his personal moral integrity.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    Mimus

    You are welcome to this opinion, my comment about answering the question was addressed to Barry.

    Your question is fair game for anyone. First, you wail because no one answers your questions, then you complain when the wrong person answers it.

    You seem to be stuck in a loop and almost unable to read, so I think I’ll leave you to that.

    Mindless insults don’t bother me, but that is an exceedingly poor excuse for failing to respond to a substantive comment.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks (esp. JDK re # 13),

    The problem is deeper yet.

    If we look above and onward we see the enablers of subjectivism and/or relativism implicitly appeal to our known duty to truth, sound reasoning, justice and fairness, prudence, the civil peace of justice, etc. That is, to manifest, known, inner, binding duty to the right, thus to objective morality.

    So, is that perception delusional, a mere disguised preference backed up by willingness to use force or manipulation?

    If so, we face self-referentiality and run into the problem of grand delusion, reducing responsibility and rationality to absurdity.

    There is excellent reason to turn from such and instead to acknowledge that we have known duties that start with responsible rationality, duties tied to our being morally governed creatures under the law of our morally governed nature. Those are moral duties and form a part of known moral law.

    In that context, of course, we may readily observe cases of self-evident moral truths such as that it is wrong to kidnap, bind, sexually assault and murder a young child on its way home from school for one’s pleasure. Or, the like.

    Such is not new at all, here is the pagan Roman lawyer and statesman Cicero c 50 BC in De Legibus:

    —Marcus [in de Legibus, introductory remarks,. C1 BC]: . . . the subject of our present discussion . . . comprehends the universal principles of equity and law. In such a discussion therefore on the great moral law of nature, the practice of the civil law can occupy but an insignificant and subordinate station. For according to our idea, we shall have to explain the true nature of moral justice, which is congenial and correspondent [36]with the true nature of man. We shall have to examine those principles of legislation by which all political states should be governed. And last of all, shall we have to speak of those laws and customs which are framed for the use and convenience of particular peoples, which regulate the civic and municipal affairs of the citizens, and which are known by the title of civil laws.

    Quintus. —You take a noble view of the subject, my brother, and go to the fountain–head of moral truth, in order to throw light on the whole science of jurisprudence: while those who confine their legal studies to the civil law too often grow less familiar with the arts of justice than with those of litigation.

    Marcus. —Your observation, my Quintus, is not quite correct. It is not so much the science of law that produces litigation, as the ignorance of it, (potius ignoratio juris litigiosa est quam scientia) . . . . With respect to the true principle of justice, many learned men have maintained that it springs from Law. I hardly know if their opinion be not correct, at least, according to their own definition; for “Law (say they) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.” This, they think, is apparent from the converse of the proposition; because this same reason, when it [37]is confirmed and established in men’s minds, is the law of all their actions.

    They therefore conceive that the voice of conscience is a law, that moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones. They think, too, that the Greek name for law (NOMOS), which is derived from NEMO, to distribute, implies the very nature of the thing, that is, to give every man his due. [–> this implies a definition of justice as the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities] For my part, I imagine that the moral essence of law is better expressed by its Latin name, (lex), which conveys the idea of selection or discrimination. According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimination between good and evil.

    The true definition of law should, however, include both these characteristics. And this being granted as an almost self–evident proposition, the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality. This indeed is the true energy of nature, the very soul and essence of wisdom, the test of virtue and vice.

    In this context, it would readily follow that sexuality, sexual behaviour, self-identity as male or female (never mind rare medical problems which do not affect the manifest realities of how the torch is passed to the next generation) family life etc will be morally governed too. Where SB is patently right, homosexual practices are clearly disordered and so fall under regulation of the inner law even before the outer one. Likewise for say fornication and adultery as well as what now seems a myriad (and growing) of other disordered forms of sexual conduct. The latest being robot sex toys, now forming an industry.

    But that is not all, the issue of the root of such law and how it bridges the IS-OUGHT gap arises. Where, post Hume, such can only be done at the world root.

    That leads straight to the only serious candidate, after centuries of debates: the inherently good (and utterly wise) creator God, a necessary and maximally great being; who, is worthy of our loyalty and of our responsible, reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature.

    That is what is on the table, and it is why attempts to go elsewhere so often rapidly run into absurdities, especially those boiling down to might and/or manipulation make ‘right,’ ‘rights,’ ‘justice,’ ‘truth,’ truth,’ ‘reason,’ ‘knowledge’ etc.

    So, we come to the further force of Plato’s warning in The Laws, the c 360 BC book which inspired Cicero to write his similarly titled work as was already cited:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] 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 . . . [such that] 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 [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] 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, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    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 — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    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 influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

    It is therefore no surprise to see our civilisation, having disdained the above, rushing towards the cliff’s crumbling edge. Collective absurdity and the insanity of refusing to be governed by our manifest nature as responsible, reasonable, en-conscienced creatures.

    Can we turn back before it is too late and the cliff collapses, taking us down into yet another dark age?

    That, is the trillion dollar question.

    KF

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Here is an example that is directly relevant to current attempts to undermine due process and justice (I am sitting here dealing with a live case in point on trying to force a government to address a no confidence motion without having first heard the range of charges to be answered). Note, the newly arrived pagan Roman governor Festus is here correcting the priestly establishment in Jerusalem:

    Ac 26:16 I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man [for punishment] before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has the opportunity to defend himself against the charges. [AMP]

    Resemblance to recent events in the USA is not coincidental. Part of what is at stake is the question of replacing lawful prudence and soundness acting justly i/l/o the civil pact of justice with the howling, angry, manipulated, destructive, ruinous mob.

  17. 17
    Bob O'H says:

    Barry –

    As I explained at 3, my argument is that there is nothing to arbitrate between Bob’s and the Saudi’s preferences. This is true if subjectivism is false. Notice that it is also true if subjectivism is correct. It may be that I am wrong, and there is no objective morality. We shall see. But if I am wrong, that means it really is the case that there is no way to demonstrate that Bob’s preference is superior to the Saudi’s.

    Sorry if this is an odd question, but in what sense do you mean superior here?

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob, it seems to me that in a relativist/subjectivist world, where it was notoriously said that something depended on “what the meaning of ‘is’ is” even words are part of the might and manipulation make ‘right,’ ‘truth’ etc power game. So, perhaps the most revealing fact is that you asked the question. KF

    PS: Here is AmHD:

    superior
    Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
    su·pe·ri·or (so?o-pîr??-?r)
    adj.
    1. Higher than another in rank, station, or authority: a superior officer.
    2. Of a higher nature or kind.
    3. Of great value or excellence; extraordinary.

    4. Greater in number or amount than another: an army defeated by superior numbers of enemy troops.
    5. Presuming to be or suggesting that one is morally or socially better than others; disdainful or supercilious.
    6. Above being affected or influenced; indifferent or immune: “Trust magnates were superior to law” (Gustavus Myers).
    7. Located higher than another; upper.
    8. Botany Inserted or situated above the perianth. Used of an ovary.
    9. Printing Set above the main line of type.
    10. Logic Of wider or more comprehensive application; generic. Used of a term or proposition.
    n.
    1. One that surpasses another in rank or quality.
    2. Ecclesiastical The head of a religious community, such as a monastery, abbey, or convent.
    3. Printing A superior character, as the number 2 in x2.
    [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin, comparative of superus, upper, from super, over; see uper in Indo-European roots.]
    su·pe?ri·or?i·ty (-ôr??-t?, -?r?-) n.
    su·pe?ri·or·ly adv.
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  19. 19
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I was asking Barry what he meant by “superior” because it wasn’t clear to me what he meant by the word in this context. If you know, then it would be helpful if you could explain it.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob, note the highlighted. The root problem extends to even our reasoning, including on this particular matter as I commented in 15 above. KF

  21. 21
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I did note the highlighted. But they say nothing about how to apply the definition of “superior” in this context. And I was asking about the use of the word in this context.

  22. 22
    Mung says:

    I got nothing.

  23. 23
    Mung says:

    If we look above and onward we see the enablers of subjectivism and/or relativism implicitly appeal to our known duty to truth, sound reasoning, justice and fairness, prudence, the civil peace of justice, etc. That is, to manifest, known, inner, binding duty to the right, thus to objective morality.

    So true kf.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob,

    the answer is obvious. While I have a motion of no confidence debate on my plate, let me pause a moment:

    >> in summary I posited a conversation between a subjectivist named Bob and a Saudi over whether is it good to execute homosexuals. >>

    – an action under Saudi law, to be evaluated as good, thus, properly just or else as unjust

    >> The obvious point was that Bob has literally no logical argument he can make, because his own premises lead to the conclusion that for the Saudi executing homosexuals is in fact morally good. >>

    — issue of import of relativism, including that reformers are automatically wrong under that premise, or that might and manipulation make right

    >>Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for vanilla ice cream is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for chocolate ice cream.>>

    — in context, ice cream superiority, implying that tastes vary and prferences are personal, there is a curry ice cream down T’dad way I hear

    >> In exactly the same way, Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for refraining from executing homosexuals is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for executing homosexuals.>>

    — want of a criterion above subjectivist or relativist preferences means no objective yardstick of morality and justice to measure so option B vs option S cannot be compared as to which is more or less just, justice presumably being a highly valuable outcome.

    KF

  25. 25
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I believe StephenB, Barry and KF are making a mistake.

    The natural, objective moral law would not be “thou shalt not subject homosexuals to the death penalty”.

    When you state this kind of formulation, your opponents will think this is merely an opinion. They will ask why that opinion is superior to another. Merely saying that “it’s more reasonable” is not correct. Death penalty for homosexuals is an eminently reasonable action if God has commanded it.

    Natural, objective moral norms are what we would consider “intrinsic” – meaning, “of human nature” and are therefore unchangeable.

    If so, then death penalty for homosexuals – at one time commanded in the Old Testament for example, cannot be defined by an objective, natural moral law alone.

    The objective norm is one of Justice. “Evil must be punished justly”.

    That norm is then applied to society and various evils.

    A very severe evil receives a more severe punishment. A lesser evil, receives a lesser punishment – governed by the virtue of Justice. Amends (atonement) must be made for an evil act that is approximately equivalent to the nature of the evil act.

    Natural, objective moral norms are ’embedded’ into human nature. Since human nature itself does not and cannot change – then the norms cannot change. They are universal, in all times, all cultures.

    One clue that the death penalty for homosexuals is not, actually discerned by the natural moral law alone is that the Bible permitted it. Human nature has not changed since then, so the Bible cannot command a sin against the natural moral law. If forbidding the death penalty to homosexuals was a natural, objective moral norm, it could never be permitted. If God did permit a violation of the natural moral law, then that would be a good argument against belief in God, or a good argument against the existence of natural, objective moral norms. If God Himself changes or ignores them – how could humanity understand them?

    Shlomo Amar, who previously served as the country’s Sephardi chief rabbi, told Israel Hayom newspaper that homosexuality is an “abomination,” and that Jewish law advocates the death penalty for those who choose to engage in same sex relationships.
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-chief-rabbi-calls-homosexuality-an-abomination/

    Jewish law advocates the death penalty for homosexuals.

    This can’t be merely a question of the natural moral law. If so, when did Jews begin to misunderstand the natural moral law – since they are merely repeating the laws given in the Old Testament?

    The natural moral law is only a generalized norms – in this case, the virtue of Justice (balanced by mercy) where society protects itself against evil.

    The Catholic view on this is very different from Jewish, Islamic and Protestant actually.

    In the Catholic view, as society matures and grows, the demands for Justice must change. The natural, objective moral law remains the same “evil must be punished with justice”, but the actual punishments will change according to the understanding and nature of the society. As understanding about the causes of homosexuality increases (from psychology and physiology), so also does the understanding of what repentance and atonement will require. Where some sins are a more serious threat to the welfare of people, the punishment against them will be greater.

    The natural, objective moral law does not ‘develop’ like that. It is objective, unchanging norms. “Murder is evil. Theft is immoral. There is moral goodness to Truth as opposed to falsehood”.

    Those general norms do not change. They can be recognized through human reason alone, by all people, religious or not.

    The correct specific applications of the natural objective norms, however, cannot be arrived at merely by human reason.

    For example, could we tell a Jew that “following the Old Testament moral laws is irrational”?

    The problem for Jews is not that they are incapable of using reason. Instead, they do not recognize the appearance of their Messiah and the New Covenant which fulfilled and transformed their former moral codes.

    So, that’s a theological issue. It’s not that orthodox Jews are being unreasonable.

    It’s the same for Muslims.

    If Islam is the true religion, and God commands through the Koran that gays should be executed — then that would be the correct application of the natural, objective moral law that “evil should be punished justly”. The Koran is just borrowing from the Old Testament and is equal to what some orthodox Jews believe.

    So, this cannot be solved by reason alone. If the revelation of Islam is true, then God made certain commands which must be followed.

    We can argue that Islam is not the true religion using reason, but that must take place before evaluating Islamic moral codes.

    Opponents to the natural, objective moral law should not be posed with highly-specific, culturally-conditioned norms (“it is evil to let a car idle for over 15 minutes because it causes air pollution”) — but rather the general moral norms, which are actually what the natural moral law is. It is not the specific applications. For that example, “it is wrong to deliberately harm people’s health in ways that are avoidable and serious”. Whether pollution in every and any case is evil requires careful understanding and is not a universal moral norm.

  26. 26
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Subjectivism and Natural Moral law are not the only two options a person can choose either.

    So, to argue against Subjectivism (shooting fish in a barrel) does not necessarily prove or affirm the existence of natural moral laws.

    One alternative moral system could be Divine Fiat – like Islam. It’s not subjective. But it’s not a Natural Law system either.

    So, just because Subjectivism is false does not automatically leave Natural Objective Law as the true method.

  27. 27
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    The natural, objective moral law would not be “thou shalt not subject homosexuals to the death penalty When you state this kind of formulation, your opponents will think this is merely an opinion.

    The natural moral law is not an opinion. Some of its elements can be *known* immediately as self-evident truth. Other elements can be derived over time through the reasoning process.

    They will ask why that opinion is superior to another.

    That’s easy. Knowledge is superior to opinion.

    Merely saying that “it’s more reasonable” is not correct. Death penalty for homosexuals is an eminently reasonable action if God has commanded it.

    You are mixing apples and oranges. What God did in the Old Testament as a just execution was based on supernatural wisdom, which is different from the natural human knowledge about the injustice of murder.

    Meanwhile, the natural moral law is much more reasonable that the lawlessness of subjectivism. Please!!!

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    Subjectivism and Natural Moral law are not the only two options a person can choose either.

    They are the only two alternatives available to unaided reason. Even at that, the natural moral law that reason can apprehend is not the whole of morality. The natural moral law, for example, does not necessarily inform us that we should love our enemies. In that case, the Christian faith presents a moral truth (worthy of belief) that can (and should be) integrated into the natural moral law, providing a new context for the latter.

    One alternative moral system could be Divine Fiat – like Islam. It’s not subjective. But it’s not a Natural Law system either.

    You are again conflating something that must be taken on (or known by) faith with something an can be known through reason.

  29. 29
    Silver Asiatic says:

    SB

    Some of its elements can be *known* immediately as self-evident truth. Other elements can be derived over time through the reasoning process.

    I think a line must be drawn between the self-evident natural moral law, and derivations of that law. That which is self-evident is not known through a reasoning process. It is first principles, known to all. What is derived from those principles is not, really, the objective, natural moral law but is what is subject to human reason – with all of the defects that human reason actually has.

    What God did in the Old Testament as a just execution was based on supernatural wisdom, which is different from the natural human knowledge about the injustice of murder.

    Do you believe God’s commands in the Old Testament violated the self-evident, objective natural moral law?

    Meanwhile, the natural moral law is much more reasonable that the lawlessness of subjectivism. Please!!!

    Ok, you’re very far from understanding everything I have written.

    I don’t know how to explain it any more clearly. I wrote a long text, most of which you skipped – and that comment above has no relation to anything I said.

    I very much appreciate you, StephenB – I admire your intelligence and knowledge (you know a lot more than I do in these matters) … but I think we just disagree on some key areas and we can leave it at that.

  30. 30
    Silver Asiatic says:

    SB

    You are again conflating something that must be taken on (or known by) faith with something an can be known through reason.

    You have talked about “unaided reason”. What this means is “reason, unaided by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit”. When reason is “aided” by Gifts (of grace) it can see Truths that cannot be understood by reason alone. Truths like the Trinity, for example.

    However, “unaided reason” can certain make a decision about religious matters. It can be perfectly “rational” to accept a religious text as valid – based just on logic, historical science, testimony.

    In other words, the acceptance of Islam as the true religion is not an exercise of “aided reason”. The Holy Spirit does not communicate grace and truth to show that Islam is true (where Islam actually denies the existence of the Holy Spirit).

    Conformity to Islam, for rational reasons, it not subjectivism. It is belief in a moral code – a written one.

    The same is true for non-religious views.

    There is a communist moral code (or Nazi, or feminist, etc). A person who subscribes to that is not a subjectivist.

    They are conforming to an “objective” (accessible, visible) code of conduct. They are not making up their own morality.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic

    but I think we just disagree on some key areas and we can leave it at that.

    Absolutely. I hope I didn’t come across as being too assertive, because I appreciate those differences. Each time you express them it gives a chance to review and think more deeply into my own opinions. Truly, that is my attitude.

    That is why I express my gratitude after many of our exchanges. In keeping with that spirit, I hasten to add that I did read everything you wrote. but I selected a few choice passages to comment on. Next time, I will try to get at your theme and not be so selective.

    You have talked about “unaided reason”. What this means is “reason, unaided by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit”. When reason is “aided” by Gifts (of grace) it can see Truths that cannot be understood by reason alone. Truths like the Trinity, for example.

    By unaided reason, I mean those things which can be known in the absence of revealed truth and without the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Aristotle, it appears, discovered the natural moral through reason alone (self-evident truths and deduction.)

    For that matter, we can also know that God exists by simply thinking about it. (though I don’t think it is self-evident). The point is that it need not be taken on faith. The discursive reasoning process works from the bottom up through a series of logical steps, while the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, understanding etc) comes in, I think, from the top down in finished form (in no need of a developmental process (premise/conclusion)to be grasped. So some of our disagreement may be a function of definitions. To correct that difficulty, I will try not to use the term unaided reason and just say reason (self-evident truth + deduction.)

    In other words, the acceptance of Islam as the true religion is not an exercise of “aided reason”. The Holy Spirit does not communicate grace and truth to show that Islam is true (where Islam actually denies the existence of the Holy Spirit).

    I would go even further and say that it is an exercise in defective reasoning since there is no logical reason to accept that world view. That is why it appeals to uneducated people and must be forced on so many victims against their will.

    Conformity to Islam, for rational reasons, it not subjectivism. It is belief in a moral code – a written one.

    For my part, the objective moral code is the one that really exists (is true) and existed prior to the subject’s (perceiver’s) existence. The natural moral law, for example, was already in existence when we were born and it is also true. So We discovered it, we didn’t invent it.

    By contrast, I define a subjective moral code as one that was invented by the subject and came into existence only after the subject was born. Thus, since it doesn’t pre-exist the subject (as the true moral code would) we would expect it to be false because the perceiver simply made it up. In that context, I would say that Islam is subjective insofar as it came from the mind of Mohammed, who invented it (obviously after he came to exist). It might seem objective to his followers but I don’t think it is objective in itself for the stated reasons.

    There is a communist moral code (or Nazi, or feminist, etc). A person who subscribes to that is not a subjectivist.

    It seems to me that all these world views are subjecctive precisely because they were invented by the subject (Marx, Feurbach, Hitler whatever)and did not pre-exist the subject.

    In the same way subjectivism in the form of nihilism, constructivism, feminism, socialism are subjective in that same sense. The “truth begins with me crowd,” represented by jdk and Mimus, are also subjectivists. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t think of it first. They either invented or borrowed the invention from another me-first advocate when they embraced their amoral position. There are a hundred ways to reject objective truth and only one way to accept it.

    They are conforming to an “objective” (accessible, visible) code of conduct. They are not making up their own morality.

    Again, I would say that it may seem objective to those who adopt, but it is subjective in itself. The conformists that you allude to have embraced a “made up” morality even if they didn’t make it up themselves. I don’t think a false morality can be objective because the two most important aspects of objective morality are that it is [a]real (not made up) and [b] true (not false).

  32. 32
    john_a_designer says:

    If moral subjectivism and relativism are true (which itself is a self-refuting claim) what is the basis for human rights? Where do our rights come from? Many moral subjectivists or anti-realists argue that we are the ones who invent human rights. For example, J.L. Mackie entitled one of his books, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. However, how can metaethical claims about morality and ethics possibly be true if all statements about morality are ruled in error and therefore false a priori? It follows then there can be no such thing as universal human rights. We should be very concerned where all this is leading, because, the rights you presently believe you have and believe are protected by law can be taken away. So called rights according to the subjectivist and relativist are really ad hoc and arbitrary.

    Former U.S. prosecutor Andrew McCarthy observes:

    “What the vestiges of Western civilization are coming to: I say something that is true; it hurts your feelings, so — of course — you blow up a building; and it’s my fault.”

    In a recent article McCarthy wrote for the National Review he cites the case where “an Austrian woman (identified as “Mrs. S.” in court filings and believed to be Elisabeth Sabaditsch Wolff) who, in 2009, conducted two seminars entitled “Basic Information on Islam.” She included the account of Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha. Though this account is scripturally accurate, Mrs. S. was prosecuted on the rationale that her statements implied pedophilic tendencies on the part of the prophet. A fine (about $547) was imposed for disparaging religion.”

    According to McCarthy Mrs. S’s “thought crime” was teaching that when “he was 50, the prophet of Islam took as his wife Aisha, who was then six or seven. The marriage was consummated when Aisha was nine.”

    But “that’s not a smear,” he argues. “It is an accurate account of authoritative Islamic scripture. (See, e.g., Sahih-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 58, Nos. 234–236.) Yet it can no longer safely be discussed in Europe, thanks to the extortionate threat of violence and intimidation — specifically, of jihadist terrorism and the Islamist grievance industry that slipstreams behind it. Under a ruling by the so-called European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), free speech has been supplanted by sharia blasphemy standards.”

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/free-speech-sharia-european-court-of-human-rights-ruling/

    Is there no longer a right to teach historical truth?

    Could this happen is the U.S? I think it already is. Just this past week NBC parted ways with Megyn Kelly for observing how attitude towards dressing up have changed. How is what NBC is doing any different (except for the money involved) than what happened to Mrs. S before the ECHR?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W4bRdrE2f4

    If we are the ones who invented human right we are the ones that can take them away. Welcome to 1984. Orwell’s prophesy was only off by 34 years.

  33. 33
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is some more thoughts on the Megyn Kelly firing by Victor David Hanson.

    Kelly was let go ostensibly for making a sloppy but not malicious morally equivalent comparison between whites at Halloween dressing up in costumes as blacks, and blacks likewise appearing as whites. But she sealed her fate by uttering the historically disparaging word “black face” as some sort of neutral bookend to her use of “white face.” Her fatal crime, then, was insensitive thought and speech and historical ignorance…

    So when Kelly said something historically dense and insensitive, she should have grasped that she, despite being an emancipated coastal female, was immediately (and ratings-wise) expendable, even if expensively expendable.

    Had Kelly been unapologetically progressive (especially one deemed vital to the cause), like Elizabeth Warren, who fabricated and profited from an entire minority identity, then she might well have survived the incident. Perhaps had she been a minority, such as Sarah Jeong, and written (rather than spoken off the cuff) far more racially offensive things about whites, she would have kept her job — as did Jeong on the New York Times editorial board after her racist tweets surfaced, such as this, from 2014: “Dumbass f****** white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.”

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/megyn-kelly-halloween-costumes-social-media-controversy/

    We have entered very dangerous territory when we start accusing people of thought crimes. This is what happens when we take the absurd view of the moral relativists and subjectivists that ultimately we are the ones who have invented morality and human rights– there is no other foundation or standard. If that is true it all comes down to group think and who has the most power. Therefore, there is no such thing as freedom of thought, conscience and belief. It has been replace by a new right: “the right to not be offended.” As Hanson points out, that can only lead to some irrational or logically contradictory double standards.

    Someone explain to me what was so morally egregious about what Megyn Kelly said that an apology was unacceptable? In Christian thinking there really are no unforgivable sins (apart from rejecting Christ.) That’s obviously not true for the enforcers on the secular progressive left. Wrong words, thinking or believing are not forgivable.

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