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Logic & First Principles: What about “appeal to consequences” (vs. reductio ad absurdum)?

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In a current thread, frequent objector, Seversky, posed a one liner objection intended to dismiss an OP: “Argumentum ad consequentiam.

This raises an obvious issue on logic and linked epistemology, as argument by reduction to absurdity (which is broader than simple logical contradiction) is a well recognised argument type. Where, also, the issue is not emotive reaction to logical or operational consequences, but that that which is false or evil often leads to chaos, logical or existential or both. Thus, for example, we learn from history that certain things are manifestly false or evil.

In short, we need a way to responsibly decide on when an argument succeeds as a reductio. For example, dismissing any arguments we do not like the conclusions of or which overturn favoured views with, oh that appeals to bad consequences which is a fallacy, is itself patently absurd.

So, in comment 7, I addressed this: >>It seems the core of the problem (insofar as there is a real issue) is whether there is a FAILED reductio ad absurdum, where all that has been shown is unpalatability or undesirability not actual absurdity. However, when evolutionary materialistic scientism is injected into the picture, what we have is a large number of ways in which self-referential incoherence, amorality and the nihilist’s credo, might and/or manipulation make ‘right’ ‘rights’ ‘truth’ ‘knowledge’ ‘justice’ etc. lead to broad incoherence and needless chaos. That is indeed a general reduction to the absurd.

Sawing off the branch on which one sits —
a model of broader (especially self-referential) incoherence or absurdity

Let me clip logically fallacious dot com:

Reductio ad Absurdum

reductio ad absurdum

(also known as: reduce to absurdity)

Description: A mode of argumentation or a form of argument in which a proposition is disproven by following its implications logically to an absurd conclusion. Arguments that use universals such as, “always”, “never”, “everyone”, “nobody”, etc., are prone to being reduced to absurd conclusions. The fallacy is in the argument that could be reduced to absurdity — so in essence, reductio ad absurdum is a technique to expose the fallacy.

Logical Form:

Assume P is true.

From this assumption, deduce that Q is true.

Also, deduce that Q is false.

Thus, P implies both Q and not Q (a contradiction, which is necessarily false).

Therefore, P itself must be false.

This is the obvious case, and the one widely used in modern Mathematics.

Reduction to absurdity, however, is not just a matter of the necessary impossibility of any candidate possible world in which x and ~x “must” both obtain. There are legitimate broader senses of absurdity, especially those connected to the self-referential incoherence of undermining undeniable moral government of our minds. For, absent such moral government of our intellects through known duties to truth, right reason, sound conscience, fairness and justice etc, the credibility of human reasoning and communication collapses into chaos. We can take it as a corollary that no worldview [i.e. perspective on our world, i.e. a candidate possible world model of our in-common, actual world] that undermines the credibility of having a worldview, could pass the triple test of factual adequacy, broad coherence and balanced explanatory power. In particular, as intellect has to be used to frame such a view, one that radically undermines credibility of mind is broadly incoherent. Thus, absurd.

However, unfortunately, as scientism dresses up absurdity in the lab coat many are tempted to a very different fallacy: clinging to manifest absurdity, through having made a crooked yardstick their standard for straight, upright and accurate. Which is of course one of the issues explored in Plato’s famous parable of the cave.

In this case, News is well within her rights to point out the inherent amorality of evolutionary materialism, which ever since Plato has been known to open the door to nihilism. It is the worldview level absurdity of our evolutionary materialism dominated culture in its present form that is opening the door to raw nihilism. Which, we are going to have to face.

In former days, resulting misanthropy such as that of a Robespierre was relatively rare; now it is becoming a mass problem.

That is something we have to face.

And no, dismissing a genuine worldview level reductio as though it were mere fallacious appeal to disliked consequences without strong substantiation simply will not do. Ask yourself, are you clinging to a crooked yardstick? How are you responding to a naturally straight and upright plumb line?>>

I then added: >>For reference, Plato’s warning:

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].>>

Also: >>Wikipedia raises a viewpoint worth pondering:

Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam (Latin for “argument to the consequence”), is an argument that concludes a hypothesis (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences.[1] This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a type of informal fallacy, since the desirability of a premise’s consequence does not make the premise true. Moreover, in categorizing consequences as either desirable or undesirable, such arguments inherently contain subjective points of view.

In logic, appeal to consequences refers only to arguments that assert a conclusion’s truth value (true or false) without regard to the formal preservation of the truth from the premises; appeal to consequences does not refer to arguments that address a premise’s consequential desirability (good or bad, or right or wrong) instead of its truth value. Therefore, an argument based on appeal to consequences is valid in long-term decision making (which discusses possibilities that do not exist yet in the present) and abstract ethics, and in fact such arguments are the cornerstones of many moral theories, particularly related to consequentialism. Appeal to consequences also should not be confused with argumentum ad baculum, which is the bringing up of artificial consequences (i.e. punishments) to argue that an action is wrong.

Notice, the fact vs value dichotomy here. I note, once there are moral truths (such as that we are governed by duties of reason) this falls apart.>>

So, we must beware lest dismissal on presumed fallacious appeal to consequences becomes in fact an excuse to cling to a crooked yardstick even in the face of a corrective, naturally straight and upright plumb line:

A plumbline

This calls for prudence. END

29 Replies to “Logic & First Principles: What about “appeal to consequences” (vs. reductio ad absurdum)?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Logic & First Principles: What about “appeal to consequences” (vs. reductio ad absurdum)? . . . . we must beware lest dismissal on presumed fallacious appeal to consequences becomes in fact an excuse to cling to a crooked yardstick even in the face of a corrective, naturally straight and upright plumb line . . . especially when it is established as a general result that evolutionary materialistic scientism is self-referentially incoherent and undermines morality, thus necessarily the moral government of our intellectual life by duties to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, fairness, justice etc.

  2. 2
    Ed George says:

    But Seversky was correct with his one line “Argumentum ad consequentiam.“ in response to the OP’s title ”Another Darwinian Mass Shooting”.

    Anyone who argues against Darwin’s theory with things like Eugenics, the holocaust, legalized abortion, same sex marriage or anything like that is arguing from consequences. Sadly, the consequences of something has no bearing on the truth of something. The potential serious consequences of falls for the elderly are never used as arguments against the truth of gravity or osteoporosis. Using eugenics, etc. as arguments against evolution or materialism is just as ridiculous. We should be sticking to the measurable and observable evidence for ID which, sadly, we have done a terrible job communicating to the general public.

  3. 3
    john_a_designer says:

    Subjective opinions, like Seversky’s, are not arguments. They are just arbitrary subjective opinions which carries no interpersonal moral obligation. If all we have in the moral realm are subjective opinions then there is no possibility of finding moral truth or even any kind of common ground. If that’s true the very idea of universal human rights completely collapses. Indeed I think that is what we are seeing is the west. Already in the U.S. there are numerous example of fundamental human rights being undermined or abridged for the sake of new made-up rights. For example, florists, bakers and photographers are being fined and sued for not participating in a same sex wedding.

    “Same-sex marriage” is an idea that has been arbitrarily made up whole cloth by the secular progressive left in that last 50 years. It has absolutely no basis in history, tradition or biology– neither two men nor two women can procreate (make a baby.) However, it is a way for the secular progressive left to carry out its anti-religious agenda. After all where have most people traditionally gotten married? In churches, synagogues etc. Undermining established religion is the real agenda of the secular progressive left. They won’t tell you that but that is their agenda. So you absolutely cannot discriminate against gays but it is open season on people with traditional religious or moral beliefs.

    As for abortion, in the 1970’s legislation in the U.S. was passed that protected the conscience of pro-life doctors (they could not be coerced into performing abortions.) That may be changing.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:


    You have cross-threaded, but I will respond on the point later.

    Before, in my argument above . . . which BTW is about why the dismissive retort, appeal to consequences is itself sufficiently unreliable that we should not trust such claims without detailed justification for the particular case (just what is usually not provided by typical objectors) . . . I point out the pivotal self-referential issue for any evolutionary materialistic scheme of thought. Namely, our intellectual faculties are inescapably morally governed through duties to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, justice etc. But evo mat undermines moral government, it has been known to be radically relativist and amoral since at least Plato in The Laws Bk X.

    Thus, it saws through the branch on which we all must sit and is thus absurd.

    Insofar as the Neo-Darwinist Synthesis and its relatives are framed on evolutionary materialism, they are inherently and inescapably absurd. That must be faced.

    Next, it fails to account for the reason in rationality, so it undermines our ability to do Math, Science etc and discredits itself. Hence, Reppert echoing C S Lewis and Haldane:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], 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 [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] 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.

    So, we see that computation — a dynamic-stochastic process — is simply not rational inference. Which, requires responsible freedom and linked moral government; coming back to the first point.

    All of that is before we get to there being no good empirical warrant for any blind, dynamic-stochastic process being able to create functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits. So, major body plans and linked structures such as complex brains, have never been adequately warranted on Darwinist principles.

    Overall, we have no good grounds for trust in it, we are seeing, frankly, ideological imposition. As say the US NSTA Board clearly documented in July 2000:

    All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. [–> yes but a question-begging ideological imposition is not an accurate view] Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation [–> correct so far]. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts [–> evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed] and the laws and theories related to those [–> i.e. ideologically loaded, evolutionary materialistic] concepts . . . . science, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> censorship of anything that challenges the imposition; fails to appreciate that scientific methods are studied through logic, epistemology and philosophy of science, which are philosophy not science] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science [–> a good point, but fails to see that this brings to bear many philosophical issues], a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations [–> outright ideological imposition and censorship that fetters freedom of responsible thought] supported by empirical evidence [–> the imposition controls how evidence is interpreted and that’s why blind watchmaker mechanisms never seen to actually cause FSCO/I have default claim to explain it in the world of life] that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument [–> ideological imposition may hide under a cloak of rationality but is in fact anti-rational], inference, skepticism [–> critical awareness is responsible, selective hyperskepticism backed by ideological censorship is not], peer review [–> a circle of ideologues in agreement has no probative value] and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic [= evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed by definition, locking out an unfettered search for the credibly warranted truth about our world i/l/o observational evidence and linked inductive reasoning] methods and explanations and, as such [–> notice, ideological imposition by question-begging definition], is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> sets up a supernatural vs natural strawman alternative when the proper contrast since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, is natural vs artificial] in the production of scientific knowledge. [US NSTA Board, July 2000, definition of the nature of science for education purposes]

    There is no warrant to take Darwinist macro evolutionary claims seriously, except as an imposed, lab coat clad ideology.

    Now, turning back to News, in her OP, she opened with the summary that apparently “the shooter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California last July (three killed, two of them children) was a believer in “Might Is Right” and “Survival of the Fittest”” — which clearly speak to beliefs that are underpinned by evolutionary materialism, as has been objected since Plato in The Laws, Bk X.

    News continues, clearly speaking to the ideology and how it gets dressed up in a lab coat:

    How many of us read 1890s “Survival of the Fittest” literature and recommend that others do so? It was really not a clue at all?

    The Guardian tells us (July 30) that there is “no clarity yeton motive”: “Read Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard,” the gunman reportedly wrote. “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white [snip]?”

    Perhaps there will never be clarity on motive. Maybe Darwinian naturalism can’t count as a motive in principle because it is Approved. So commentators cast around for other motives like “white supremacy” – which sounds good but doesn’t really account for the gunman’s hatred of the Silicon Valley palefaces . . . . This story reminds some of us of two things: The Columbine massacre and Finnish massacre, where the shooters’ belief in Darwinism was even more explicit. And also the curious case of Eric Pianka.

    It’s not a surprise that hardline Darwinism affects some people this way but it is a surprise that talking about it is so difficult.

    Notice: Darwinian naturalism . . . in a context of officials and the media failing to note the obvious. An obvious factor that is known to have played a key role in the Columbine massacre and other cases also. Notice, News highlights a failure to cover the facts. Namely, that the attackers also targeted white victims also deemed somehow inferior. (BTW, I am currently having to rethink some things what was not properly noted in my history textbooks etc, regarding slavery in Jamaica, having learned that a 1/4 of slaves at emancipation 1834 in Jamaica were held by black and mixed race owners.)

    This sounds a lot like Social Darwinism yet again rearing its demonic ideological head.

    I do not find in her argument, a claim that because there are Social Darwinists, Darwinism as scientific theory is falsified. Instead, she is highlighting ideological blind spots and apparent no go zones.

    I already spoke to why the underlying worldview fails as self-referentially and morally absurd, which means it cannot ground any cultural agenda. Further, the scientific claims have never been properly warranted as accounting for relevant FSCO/I, including that it undermines rationality and known characteristics and capabilities of embodied rationality, much less brains as computational substrates.

    So, you have set up and knocked over a series of straw men.

    And, objecting to evolutionary materialism that it undermines moral government of our intellects, is thus absurd through sawing off the branch on which we all must sit, and that it is inherently amoral and inviting of nihilism and linked chaos, is the very opposite of an empty emotive appeal. It is a successful reduction to absurdity.

    Let me put it this way: our intellectual faculties require responsible rational, morally governed freedom for them to be credible. Without accepting and building on undeniably known duties to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, justice etc, you have no substance to argue from. As a result, only worldviews consistent with such are serious options. Which, requires bridging the IS-OUGHT gap, only feasible in the roots of reality. That in turn points to needing an inherently good, utterly wise source of reality, with power to create and sustain a world.

    Further to such, law and linked duty and moral government then are at root built into the fabric of reality. And in that context, we have to take the law of our morally governed nature far more seriously than many are wont to do today; including on whatever fashionable agendas are being pushed by the power elites. Which are indisputably riddled with evolutionary materialistic scientism and fellow traveller ideologies. No wonder the reduction to absurdity in our civilisation is playing out on the ground.

    We are heading for the cliffs, heedless of warnings of prudence.



  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:


    you raise several key issues that tie into the built-in law of our morally governed nature. I note here a point from my recently updated discussion on such:

    This principle of built-in moral government under known law also applies directly to gospel ethics, discipleship and evangelism. For, example, it means that “sin” is not merely an oppressive invention of priestcraft designed to bring us under theocratic tyranny — which, is the exact implication of many objections to gospel ethics today. Instead, sin is in the first instance willful moral error, defiance therefore of the inherently good and utterly wise Creator who made us, gave us responsible freedom, commanded us to live by love and truth, and gave us sound conscience as a witness. Therefore, too, we have real guilt against the law of our nature, the law of our creator, not just mere painful emotions to deal with. It is in this context that the gospel is good news: in his love, our creator has made a way for us to be forgiven, rescued and transformed.

    Yes, once law is accountable regarding justice, it cannot successfully be severed from our built-in moral government as rational, responsible, significantly free creatures.


  6. 6
    john_a_designer says:

    Notice that moral subjectivists, like Seversky, must begin with the assumption there is no such thing as moral truth because universal truth claims, at least in the moral realm, are impossible. However notice that this claim is itself logically self-refuting because as a moral subjectivist he is making a universal truth claim that there is no moral truth. In other words, he is making the same kind of claim that he has claimed is impossible.

    Why is this important? If there is no universal moral truth then there are no binding interpersonal moral obligations… there is no basis for the moral prescriptions that underlie criminal and civil law, nor is there any basis for universal human rights.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    John_a_designer@ 3

    Subjective opinions, like Seversky’s, are not arguments. They are just arbitrary subjective opinions which carries no interpersonal moral obligation.

    Quite right, they are subjective, so are anybody’s, including God’s. The moral imperatives dispensed by God in the Old Testament have aptly been labelled as Divine Command Theory. God issues His commands and at no point deigns to explain why He has so decided or provide any sort of rationale for them. We are just supposed to take Him at His word, to obey without question. So, as far as I am concerned, Christians are in no position to complain about ungrounded moral judgments.

    Where morals can be ‘grounded’ – for want of a better term – is in our common interests as human beings. If we choose to live in society with other human beings then those communal groups will be much more stable and cohesive if we voluntarily acknowledge and respect the rights and interests of others as we would have them respect ours.

    “Same-sex marriage” is an idea that has been arbitrarily made up whole cloth by the secular progressive left in that last 50 years.

    Which irks Christians no end because they no longer enjoy the privilege of being the sole arbiters of what should constitute a marriage.

    However, it is a way for the secular progressive left to carry out its anti-religious agenda

    Inasmuch as it is a way of rolling back centuries of Christian oppression of those who don’t share their beliefs, then, yes, it is. The faith has a lot to answer for.

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    ‘ However, when evolutionary materialistic scientism is injected into the picture, what we have is a large number of ways in which self-referential incoherence, amorality and the nihilist’s credo, might and/or manipulation make ‘right’ ‘rights’ ‘truth’ ‘knowledge’ ‘justice’ etc. lead to broad incoherence and needless chaos. That is indeed a general reduction to the absurd.’

    Hilariously pungent, KF. It would have to be you or News who penned it !

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is an argument I have presented before at UD which I think is worth repeating here for some context.

    Only if an eternally existing transcendent moral standard exists is there any basis for universal human rights.

    Metaphysically atheistic naturalism/ materialism does not accept the existence of an eternally existing transcendent moral standard.

    Therefore, atheistic naturalism/ materialism does not have a basis for universal human rights.

    Please notice what I am not arguing:

    (1.) That atheists do not believe in human rights. Many do and do so sincerely if not very strongly. But strongly held beliefs and opinions are not the same as moral obligations. (How am I or anyone obligated to your personal opinions?) Human rights are moral obligations. Atheistic naturalism/materialism has no logical basis for human rights.

    (2.) That atheists do not have human rights. They do. Again the argument is that they have no BASIS for human rights or any kind of objective moral standard.

    (3.) That Christian theism is the only possible basis for universal human rights. Rather the argument is that the standard needs to be an eternally existing transcendent one. Platonic philosophy, for example, at least appears to provide such a standard. Are there others? Apparently so. However, I do believe that Judeo-Christian moral teaching provides a better grounding than Platonic philosophy or any other world view.

    Obviously any kind of antirealist or moral subjectivist view is in even worse shape than an atheistic world view. It’s basically moral nihilism.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:


    only subjects can genuinely reason, warrant (thus know), choose, recognise duties, act freely but responsibly and rationally. So, the issue is not whether agents that are morally governed exist. That is a given, on pain of undermining our simple ability to have a reasoned, responsible conversation. The issue is, objective warrant of truths and particularly of truths regarding OUGHT, bridging the IS-OUGHT gap.

    Where, objectivity denotes that the resulting knowledge is not either mere delusion or else raw or disguised imposition of power; requiring responsible, right reason and prudence. Where, too, we can observe a telling thing, and pardon caps to draw focal attention: YOUR- PARTICIPATION- HERE- (AND- ASSOCIATED- PRESENTATION- OF- CLAIMS- AND- REASONS) . . . AN ORGANIC WHOLE . . . IMPLIES THAT YOU KNOW (AND EXPECT US TO ACKNOWLEDGE) THAT WE ARE REALLY BOUND BY DUTIES TO TRUTH, RIGHT REASON, PRUDENCE, SOUND CONSCIENCE, JUSTICE ETC.

    Indeed, you imply or expect that we will acknowledge that our intellectual lives are morally governed; on pain of turning yourself into the most cynical kind of manipulator. In short, to assert or imply that such moral government does not have objective character — is delusional or merely subjective or an imposition by power and/or propaganda — is absurd. Further to such, only those worldviews that are consistent with such are truly viable. This means, as JAD points out, that there has to be a world root, world-source IS that inherently bridges the IS-OUGHT gap. That requires a root of worlds that is inherently good, utterly wise and powerful enough to account for origin and sustaining of said worlds.

    A familiar figure.

    So, no, Dawkins’ notorious, ill-tempered fulminations against God are wrong-headed, as is wider evolutionary materialistic scientism. Both reduce to massively patent absurdity. One is not ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked to take God seriously as root of reality, and indeed the evil bible thesis has long since passed its discard by date. (And, the cultural marxist oppression thesis so commonly used to try to blanket smear and dismiss the heritage of Christendom reflects ignorance of the fact that history is forever a struggle with the dividing line between good and evil passing right through the individual human heart, leading to the challenge of heart-softening amelioration, moral suasion and reform; which has a track record of repeated success, whilst the radical agendas of the Robespierres of the past 230 years predictably, repeatedly, end in horrific reigns of terror.)

    Where also, core law of moral government will be manifest to sound, responsible, prudent reason, with plumb line truths that are self-evident. I have already linked on that.

    This is no mere imposition, our core duties of intellect, sound conscience, justice and more are a manifest matter of reasonable, responsible service. In short, we all know that we are guilty before the bar of morally governed responsible rationality.

    We are not merely finite and fallible but we are morally struggling (the existential is-ought gap known as “sin” or “wrong”) and too often ill-willed (ditto). So, no, the issue is not arbitrary imposition by priestcraft but our own sound consciences knocking on the doors of our hearts and minds and telling us we have some big problems to answer for.

    Problems which, unless we sort out, we literally cannot think straight enough to sort out the crooked yardstick problems that are now ever so manifest all across our civilisation and particularly so with currently fashionable warped shibboleths that are patently twisted but are obviously backed by institutional and media power leading to lawfare. That we are heading over the cliff as a civilisation is obvious.

    Let me sum it up in words from the Classic that you so obviously wish to discard:

    Isaiah, Is 5:18
    Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
    who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
    let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!”
    Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
    who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
    Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!
    Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
    who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!

    Jesus (I believe, deliberately echoing Plato’s Parable of the Cave, in a central teaching on Gospel Ethics, the Sermon on the Mount): Matt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

    Paul: Eph 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

    20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another . . . 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [ESV]

    And now we know a big part of why.


  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: IEP on Reductio arguments:


    Reductio ad absurdum is a mode of argumentation that seeks to establish a contention by deriving an absurdity from its denial, thus arguing that a thesis must be accepted because its rejection would be untenable. It is a style of reasoning that has been employed throughout the history of mathematics and philosophy from classical antiquity onwards . . . .

    Use of this Latin terminology traces back to the Greek expression hê eis to adunaton apagôgê, reduction to the impossible, found repeatedly in Aristotle’s Prior Analytics. In its most general construal, reductio ad absurdum – reductio for short – is a process of refutation on grounds that absurd – and patently untenable consequences would ensue from accepting the item at issue. This takes three principal forms according as that untenable consequence is:

    a self-contradiction (ad absurdum)
    a falsehood (ad falsum or even ad impossible)
    an implausibility or anomaly (ad ridiculum or ad incommodum)

    The first of these is reductio ad absurdum in its strictest construction and the other two cases involve a rather wider and looser sense of the term. Some conditionals that instantiate this latter sort of situation are:

    If that’s so, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
    If that is true, then pigs can fly.
    If he did that, then I’m the Shah of Persia.

    What we have here are consequences that are absurd in the sense of being obviously false and indeed even a bit ridiculous. Despite its departure from what is strictly speaking so construed – conditionals with self-contradictory – time to time conclusions – this sort of thing is also characterized as an attenuated mode of reductio. But while all three cases fall into the range of the term as it is commonly used, logicians and mathematicians generally have the first and strongest of them in view.

    The usual explanations of reductio fail to acknowledge the full extent of its range of application. For at the very minimum such a refutation is a process that can be applied to

    individual propositions or theses
    groups of propositions or theses (that is, doctrines or positions or teachings)
    modes of reasoning or argumentation
    instructions and rules of procedure
    practices, policies and processes

    The task of the present discussion is to explain the modes of reasoning at issue with reductio and to illustrate the work range of its applications.


  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Let me again put on the table what the relativists and/or subjectivists evidently will not address squarely:


    >> normally responsive people will at least grudgingly respect the following summary of core, conscience attested morality from the pen of Paul:

    Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them . . . .

    Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [NIV, “harm”] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [ESV]

    Where, John Locke, in grounding modern liberty and what would become democratic self-government of a free people premised on upholding the civil peace of justice, in Ch 2 Sec. 5 of his second treatise on civil Government [c. 1690] cites “the judicious [Anglican canon, Richard] Hooker” from his classic Ecclesiastical Polity of 1594 on, as he explains how the principles of neighbour-love are inscribed in our hearts, becoming evident to the eye of common good sense and reasonableness:

    . . . 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 and alluding to Justinian’s synthesis of Roman Law in Corpus Juris Civilis that also brings these same thoughts to bear:] 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, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

    We may elaborate on Paul, Locke, Hooker and Aristotle, laying out several manifestly evident and historically widely acknowledged core moral principles for which the attempted denial is instantly and patently absurd for most people — that is, they are arguably self-evident (thus, warranted and objective) moral truths; not just optional opinions.

    So also, it is not only possible to

    (a) be in demonstrable moral error, but also

    (b) there is hope that such moral errors can be corrected by appealing to manifestly sound core principles of the natural moral law.

    For instance:

    1] The first self evident moral truth is that we are inescapably under the government of ought.

    (This is manifest in even an objector’s implication in the questions, challenges and arguments that s/he would advance, that we are in the wrong and there is something to be avoided about that. That is, even the objector inadvertently implies that we OUGHT to do, think, aim for and say the right. Not even the hyperskeptical objector can escape this truth. Patent absurdity on attempted denial. [–> reductio no 1])

    2] Second self evident truth, we discern that some things are right and others are wrong by a compass-sense we term conscience which guides our thought. (Again, objectors depend on a sense of guilt/ urgency to be right not wrong on our part to give their points persuasive force. See what would be undermined should conscience be deadened or dismissed universally? Sawing off the branch on which we all must sit. [–> reductio no 2])

    3] Third, were this sense of conscience and linked sense that we can make responsibly free, rational decisions to be a delusion, we would at once descend into a status of grand delusion in which there is no good ground for confidence in our self-understanding. That is, we look at an infinite regress of Plato’s cave worlds: once such a principle of grand global delusion is injected, there is no firewall so the perception of level one delusion is subject to the same issue, and this level two perception too, ad infinitum; landing in patent absurdity. [–> reductio no 3]

    4] Fourth, we are objectively under obligation of OUGHT. That is, despite any particular person’s (or group’s or august council’s or majority’s) wishes or claims to the contrary, such obligation credibly holds to moral certainty. That is, it would be irresponsible, foolish and unwise for us to act and try to live otherwise. [–> summary conclusion on the three reductios]

    5] Fifth, this cumulative framework of moral government under OUGHT is the basis for the manifest core principles of the natural moral law under which we find ourselves obligated to the right the good, the true etc. Where also, patently, we struggle to live up to what we acknowledge or imply we ought to do. [–> general, summary thesis, the reductios are already on the table]

    6] Sixth, this means we live in a world in which being under core, generally understood principles of natural moral law is coherent and factually adequate, thus calling for a world-understanding in which OUGHT is properly grounded at root level. (Thus worldviews that can soundly meet this test are the only truly viable ones. if a worldview does not have in it a world-root level IS that can simultaneously ground OUGHT, it fails decisively.*) [–> pointing to worldview consequence]

    7] Seventh, in light of the above, even the weakest and most voiceless of us thus has a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of fulfillment of one’s sense of what s/he ought to be (“happiness”). This includes the young child, the unborn and more. (We see here the concept that rights are binding moral expectations of others to provide respect in regards to us because of our inherent status as human beings, members of the community of valuable neighbours. Where also who is my neighbour was forever answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Likewise, there can be no right to demand of or compel my neighbour that s/he upholds me and enables me in the wrong — including under false colour of law through lawfare. To justly claim a right, one must first be in the right. [–> harvesting what has been produced])

    8] Eighth, like unto the seventh, such may only be circumscribed or limited for good cause. Such as, reciprocal obligation to cherish and not harm neighbour of equal, equally valuable nature in community and in the wider world of the common brotherhood of humanity. [–> mutuality]

    9] Ninth, this is the context in which it becomes self evidently wrong, wicked and evil to kidnap, sexually torture and murder a young child or the like as concrete cases in point that show that might and/or manipulation do not make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘justice,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘law’ etc. That is, anything that expresses or implies the nihilist’s credo is morally absurd. [–> a key test case with its own implicit reductio]

    10] Tenth, this entails that in civil society with government, justice is a principal task of legitimate government. In short, nihilistic will to power untempered by the primacy of justice is its own refutation in any type of state. Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Thus also, [–> harvesting results for community, with implicit framework for governments cf US DoI 2nd Para]

    11] Eleventh, that government is and ought to be subject to audit, reformation and if necessary replacement should it fail sufficiently badly and incorrigibly. [–> an implication of human imperfection and possibility of progress, also foundation of constitutional, lawful, sound democracy]]

    (NB: This is a requisite of accountability for justice, and the suggestion or implication of some views across time, that government can reasonably be unaccountable to the governed, is its own refutation, reflecting — again — nihilistic will to power; which is automatically absurd. This truth involves the issue that finite, fallible, morally struggling men acting as civil authorities in the face of changing times and situations as well as in the face of the tendency of power to corrupt, need to be open to remonstrance and reformation — or if they become resistant to reasonable appeal, there must be effective means of replacement. Hence, the principle that the general election is an insitutionalised regular solemn assembly of the people for audit and reform or if needs be replacement of government gone bad. But this is by no means an endorsement of the notion that a manipulated mob bent on a march of folly has a right to do as it pleases.)

    12] Twelfth, the attempt to deny or dismiss such a general framework of moral governance invariably lands in shipwreck of incoherence and absurdity. As, has been seen in outline. But that does not mean that the attempt is not going to be made, so there is a mutual obligation of frank and fair correction and restraint of evil. [–> general summary of the absurdities]

    * F/N: After centuries of debates and assessment of alternatives per comparative difficulties, there is in fact just one serious candidate to be such a grounding IS: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (And instantly, such generic ethical theism answers also to the accusation oh this is “religion”; that term being used as a dirty word — no, this is philosophy. If you doubt this, simply put forth a different candidate that meets the required criteria and passes the comparative difficulties test: _________ . Likewise, an inherently good, maximally great being will not be arbitrary or deceitful etc, that is why such is fully worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. As a serious candidate necessary being, such would be eternal and embedded in the frame for a world to exist at all. Thus such a candidate is either impossible as a square circle is impossible due to mutual ruin of core characteristics, or else it is actual. For simple instance no world is possible without two-ness in it, a necessary basis for distinct identity inter alia.>>

    It is clear that there is no cogent relativist response to the objectivity or the grounding of moral governance. Indeed, it looks a lot like animosity motivates attempts to undermine what they do not like, while trying to manipulate then through lawfare to usurp the sword of justice and impose will to power.

    Long, grim history paid for in blood and tears serves as a warning, if we will heed it,


    PS: The already linked elaborates this, and as elaborated it can be seen in worldview framing and reformation motivating context here on.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel, there is much more, as you can see. What do you think, why? KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 3: Given the challenge, absence of rational grounding/explanation, kindly allow me to excerpt the OT on the immediate context of what Jesus taught is the core principle on which the system depends:

    Lev 19:Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

    9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. [–> implication, the sojourner and the poor are neighbours with dignity and one must be liberal with one’s possessions and fruit of one’s labour as part of community. Thus, property laws have limits]

    11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. [–> on the other hand, there is property which may not be taken by force, stealth or fraud . . . including one’s right to innocent reputation, now routinely violated by the US Media, Congress and accusatory activists; also, we see here implied tort on defamation] 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. [–> respect for the ultimately good, and that oaths esp for court are solemn]

    13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. [–> neighbourliness vs abuse of power, implying fundamental creation order equality] 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. [–> oppression of the vulnerable is especially heinous]

    15 “You shall do no injustice in court. [–> kangaroo courts are evil, hence the presumption of innocence absent sound proof of guilt] You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. [–> position must not warp justice] 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people [–> defamation as tort, with much broader implications all too relevant to our own day], and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the Lord. [–> life and death are in the power of the tongue and attempted judicial murder by false accusation is heinous]

    17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. [–> frank serious, respectful discussion] 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. [–> The Golden Rule, note Paul in Rom 2 and 13 as cited above] [ESV]

    I think, per fair comment, that adequate explanation has been put on the table long since; only, it has been dismissed without proper consideration and now cultural memory is fading.

    I again point to the natural law framework pamphlet.

    Notice, especially, reason frankly with.


  15. 15
    Axel says:

    KF, your posts are far, far too technical for me to try to follow for more than minute at most, but I wonder if you are adverting to the truth enunciated by J M Keynes concerning the tome recently published by Hayek, that perfectly ilustrated that building an argument on the basis of a false premise, even with the most flawless logic, could only lead to the madhuse.

    It could, of course, be said of so much of the wildly implausible nonsense that you genuine scientists and intellectuals deign to stoop to correct in this bizarro world of ours, where, as Hans Christian Anderson pointed out in that emperor’s clothes story, children are all too often the only genuine intellectuals left standing, apart from the maverick stragglers of science. Thank goodness that seems to be coming to an end, in science, if not always theology. The superior-general of the Jesuits recently declared that the devil is not real, but just the factitious personification of evil (not verbatim), its being actually, abstract !

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel, thanks for thoughts — and yes, technical issues we didn’t have to think about before are now forced onto the table, starting with answering attacks on first principles of reasoning. That is how bad things are now! As you can see in the OP and above in onward exchanges, even basic principles of right reason are now being routinely challenged and dismissed. The dismissive one liner, “appeal to consequences” [intended as marking and dismissing a fallacy . . . but in fact usually only being selective hyperskepticism] is now being used to try to blunt a key element of warrant, argument by reduction of the relevant alternative[s] to absurdity. This for example, is tied to the issue of self-evident truths: manifestly seen as so once properly understood, on pain of patent absurdity. Such is then extended to moral government and knowledge of core moral truths: truths about not what is but what ought to be or ought not to be, given responsible rational, significantly free agents. But then, what about vaunted reason, is that not a case of freedom governed by truths and laws and duties of the ought? Yes. Immediately, the scheme to deride, deprecate and dismiss moral government and natural law fails. For, the one objecting has to rely on what he would dismiss. It is indeed madhouse level thinking to saw off the branch on which we all must sit — morally freighted first principles of right reason. But the mutiny on the ship of state is in full swing, on a civilisation level voyage of utterly insane, suicidal folly. KF

    PS: On Hayek and the Austrians vs Keynes et al, we would be well advised to note that these are the heretics who keep winning Nobel Equivalent Memorial Prizes for economics. That should give some pause. The presumption of bureaucrats to economic wisdom and ability to manage the macro economy, let’s just say, lacks empirical credibility. Yes, some government and regulation are necessary, but let us understand that we are tickling a dragon’s tail here — not something to be done without acute awareness of our degree of ignorance. I find Garrison’s macro picture sobering and instructive, an astonishingly powerful application of production possibilities and tradeoffs, supported by the Hayek triangle of value added in stages and the loanable funds market. Macroeconomics for the rest of us, see here.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    I added an illustration of sawing off the branch on which we sit, as a model of broader, esp. self-referential incoherence or absurdity

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    Thanks for that, KF. Though it became too technical for me, later on, I found the first part fascinating and all too true.

  19. 19
    john_a_designer says:

    A few years ago student activists at Claremont Pamona College in California succeeded in shutting down a lecture by Manhattan Institute scholar and author Heather Mac Donald. In a letter to the school’s president they wrote:

    The idea that there is a single truth — ‘the Truth’ — is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain,” the students’ letter stated, according to The Claremont Independent. “This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny.”

    The following article gives several more long excerpts from the letter:


    Libertarian writer, Kat Timf observes that…

    “Once you start trying to argue that it’s bad to encourage people to seek the truth, you have officially reached peak idiot. For one thing, admitting that you find valuing the truth to be offensive hardly helps your case when you’re literally trying to convince others that something is true.”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/.....-supremacy

    Indeed, you can’t begin to make a moral argument unless it is based on moral TRUTH and that it is true that morality is really grounded in interpersonal moral obligation. It appears the Pomona students reject moral truth but still believe in some kind of interpersonal moral obligation. That is either hypocritical or absurd. Their beliefs and opinions are clearly based on passion not reason. When such idiotic thinking begins to spread through a democratic society it’s putting that society at risk. It will first lead to anarchy and then end up with tyranny or totalitarianism.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:



    It seems they have never learned the difference between truth and opinion, nor the hazards of making self-referential arguments . . . prone to sawing off the branch on which one sits.

    A good start is a paraphrase of Ari in Metaphysics 1011b, truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. Not, what one believes or fears or hopes to be or has as yet warranted to be etc. Yes, many have tried other notions but insofar as they tried to deride this as false (and not merely inconvenient or unpalatable), they fall into incoherent self-reference, zip, zip, zip.

    As you know, my first test case is, E, that error exists.

    Try to deny it, ~E. But such means, it is error to assert E; inadvertently implying its truth. E, the Josiah Royce proposition, is self-evidently, undeniably true and knowable to equally undeniable certainty. And with one sickle-cut, E sweeps away subjectivist and relativist notions of truth. Thus too, the associated worldviews.

    Yes, as we may err we must be humble, but that error is also gives us hope as knowable truth also exists. Where, we may take it to the bank that accurate, credible, reliable, well warranted descriptions of reality insofar as we can get such, are precious. Indeed, they are plumb line, self-evident test truths that detect crooked yardsticks.

    The cultural marxist oppression thesis that would associate prizing, finding and holding to well warranted truth with oppression, cultural imperialism and even racism, is utterly wrong-headed.

    Yes, too, moral arguments invariably pivot on moral truth claims. Irony of ironies.

    We see yet more of how our civilisation has set out on a voyage of folly.


  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Here we go:

    [National Review] Culture
    Pomona Students: ‘Truth . . . Is a Myth and White Supremacy’
    By Katherine Timpf

    April 18, 2017 11:08 PM

    Pomona College campus in Claremont, Calif. (via Facebook)

    A group of students at Pomona College wrote an open letter to the school’s outgoing president claiming that “the idea that there is a single truth . . . is a myth and white supremacy,” according to a report by The Claremont Independent.

    The letter, which was written by three self-identified black students and has been signed by at least 30, claims that “historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity . . . as a means of silencing oppressed peoples” . . . .

    “The idea that there is a single truth — ‘the Truth’ — is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain,” the students’ letter stated, according to The Claremont Independent. “This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny.”

    “The idea that truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples,” it continues.

    On the contrary, there are many perspectives and opinions, but just one reality of our common world. But, insofar as they are accurate, differently phrased descriptions will complement, cohere and agree. Insofar as they differ or express error and ignorance, they invite serious discussion and analysis toward truth, the very opposite of imposition of ideology, which is what is actually being echoed by the students. Seeking and prizing that process of objectivity is to be commended not condemned.

    I say that as someone who is black, of tri-continental ancestry. Nor am I some race-traitor “uncle Tom” as that has come to be construed.

    And I need not more than point out that their assertion is intended to be a truth-claim.

  22. 22
    john_a_designer says:

    In an article entitled, “Morality Requires God … or Does It?” Theodore Schick, tells this humorous joke to illustrate what he thinks are the weakness of “divine command theory.” (DCT was something that was brought up by Seversky @ #7.)

    ‘To better understand the import of the Divine Command Theory, consider the following tale. It seems that, when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, his followers asked him what they revealed about how they should live their lives. Moses told them, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

    “Give us the good news first,” they said.

    “Well, the good news,” Moses responded, “is that he kept the number of commandments down to ten.”

    “Okay, what’s the bad news?” they inquired.

    “The bad news,” Moses replied, “is that he kept the one about adultery in there.” The point is that, according to Divine Command Theory, nothing is right or wrong unless God makes it so. Whatever God says goes. So if God had decreed that adultery was permissible, then adultery would be permissible.’


    Of course, Schick is describing a caricature view that would be rejected by most Divine Command Theory proponents, who argue that God’s commands are based on God’s good character– God is good or as the Platonists would say “the Good.” In other words, we should see goodness as God’s essential nature along with His omniscience and omnipotence.

    Nevertheless if we go with what Schick is describing we end up with a kind of moral subjectivism on the divine level. He goes on to reject Divine Command Theory (at least the only version he knows) because it would, in his view, make the basis for human morals and ethics arbitrary. But if subjectivism on the divine level, involving just one moral agent (God), makes morals and ethics arbitrary, what happens when we multiply it by 300 million moral agents for a country like the US, or 6-7 billion moral agents for the world?

    From the standpoint of moral subjectivism, where by definition morals and ethics must be arbitrary, what basis do we have for universal human rights? Would a country like the US even be possible without a concept of universal human rights? Even though our concept of human rights at the founding of our country was very imperfect (slavery, mistreatment of native people, unequal rights for women) there is absolutely no basis for such universal rights from a moral subjectivist point of view.

    While not infallible the morality of western civilization is based on Judeo-Christian thought. There is no historical evidence that a society based on moral relativism can endure for very long. To suggest that moral subjectivist view would be an improvement over a moral objectivist view is completely irrational. Any kind of moral progress requires moral standards– indeed, it requires an overarching or transcendent standard. Moral subjectivism which is an utterly arbitrary approach is the rejection of all standards.

    Schick, who rejects religion as a basis of morality agrees that society cannot be based on moral subjectivism.

    Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. But they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards. Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, George Edward Moore, and John Rawls have demonstrated that it is possible to have a universal morality without God. Contrary to what the fundamentalists would have us believe, then, what our society really needs is not more religion but a richer notion of the nature of morality.

    Nevertheless, a transcendent moral standard or law-giver is really the only sufficient basis for morality.

    It would be a disaster for democratic societies if they went all-in with subjectivist/ relativistic moralities as several of our regular interlocutors, like Seversky, advocate. Unfortunately that is the not so slippery slope western society, both in Europe and the U.S. is rapidly sliding down– a trend that is hard if not impossible to reverse if you end up going off the cliff at the bottom.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:


    A bad joke and a worse argument, sadly.

    One, pivoting on a failure to understand what a real God would be like, to adequately bridge the IS-OUGHT gap. Where, we note that for instance, starting from our intellectual faculties, to be free, responsible and rational is to be inescapably morally governed: our is of choice may or may not be as it ought to be, on whatever basis oughtness bears on choice. In particular, we are inescapably morally governed by duty to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, justice etc. To see why “inescapably,” just try to reject these criteria and see the immediate absurdity that results.

    Notoriously, the IS-OUGHT gap can only be bridged in the root of reality, on pain of ungrounded ought. In Hume’s words, reasoning is-is-is then poof, suddenly ought. But if the tap-root and source of reality [an is] is also inherently good and utterly wise, IS and OUGHT are fused right there, in the root.

    After centuries of debates, there is just one serious candidate: the inherently good and utterly wise creator-God, a maximally great, necessary being. One, who is worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature. Where, if you doubt such, simply provide another _______ and justify on comparative difficulties. Predictably, objectors will duck this challenge.

    Where, yes, if you happen to respond to moral truths, you will be able to reason correctly about moral things on many topics; hence for instance the core of natural law thought and its basis as in-common. Likewise, we know we too often fail to live up to the truth and the right we know we ought to live by. So, we are guilty of wrong, of sin. These are not arbitrary impositions of priestcraft or would be manipulators and oppressors. But then that brings us to the IS-OUGHT gap and the need to bridge it. So, the issue becomes that oughtness is rooted in the source of reality. Which, in light of the IS-OUGHT bridge challenge is another term for God.

    In this context, the inherently good, utterly wise would teach soundly and would expect us to act in accord with the good. So, there is no good reason to imagine that the good is merely an arbitrary imposition . . . part of the error in the Euthyphro dilemma, so called. Another error in it is that it was originally proposed relative to gods who are not ontologically as was just summarised, and tends to drag over some of that picture when turned against the God of ethical theism.

    Implicit or explicit divine commands to live by truth, right reason, sound conscience, prudence, neighbour love, justice etc are not arbitrary, they are built-in and are testified to by conscience. So, we find that God’s will is good, true and wise, so that his commands will be for the good informed by utter wisdom. And, such wisdom will reflect itself in sound reason and prudence. It seems the suspicion of arbitrary imposition is a fallacy.


  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Looks like a plane slid off a runway and over an edge here this afternoon, as it was wet. Slippery slopes are real.

  25. 25
    john_a_designer says:

    There is no morality without interpersonal moral obligation. Or as Jesus taught morality begins God’s love (God loves us and we are obligated to love Him) and the golden rule.

    That leads to the following argument:

    I have no obligation (epistemically or morally) to accept ungrounded personal (subjective) opinions.

    On the other hand, interpersonal morality requires moral obligation (what we ought or ought not to do.)

    Therefore, it is impossible to base any kind of interpersonal morality on ungrounded personal opinions.

    Morality is about (based on) obligation not on personal subjective opinion. So our interlocutors can continue to argue their baseless opinions about subjective morality all day long but the moral realists here are not obligated to even consider those arguments because are just subjective opinions. So what’s the point of deliberately wasting people’s time? That’s all they are doing.

    Mindless pretense and posturing about morality is not morality. It’s nonsense.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, Notice 12 above. Note, the significance of reductio arguments (especially the matter of self-defeating self-reference), which readily explains why some wish to throw such under needless doubt. KF

  27. 27
    john_a_designer says:

    It would be one thing if moral relativists, who reject traditional morality or objective moral values and obligations were simply trying to live privately according to their own made up moral values and beliefs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Recently, for example, “An art gallery in Toronto canceled a scheduled exhibit of a Canadian artist’s work after she was accused of committing “cultural genocide” against indigenous people with her paintings.”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/.....de-toronto

    (Watch the young artist here and ask yourself of what exactly is she guilty? I honestly don’t see anything. Indeed she seems to be a very unassuming and nice person.)


    In other words, so called “cultural appropriation,” for some people is offensive to the point that they believe it is equivalent to racism and, therefore, it is their duty to censor people who dare to disagree with them.

    Before the fall of 2015, when there was a problem of culturally insensitive Halloween costumes at Yale University, I like no doubt many other Americans had never heard of “cultural appropriation,” (or maybe more correctly “cultural misappropriation.”) Who decided that any kind of so called cultural appropriation is morally wrong and why? Because they feel it is morally wrong that makes it make it morally wrong for everyone else? Who are they to impose their morality on everyone else?

    This is what happens when people start to abandon longstanding moral traditions. They start making up new moral mandates and new rights whole cloth, which they then try to impose as new absolutes on everyone else in society in the name of “social justice.”

    The reason that this is happening is that moral relativism and moral subjectivism just doesn’t work. Humans are highly social beings who need to interact with each other. Rather what starts out as moral relativism morphs into a totalitarian kind of group-think. How ironic. Moral relativists self-righteously reject traditional morality as something oppressive but replaces it with a PC morality that’s many times worse– not to mention incredibly hypocritical.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, some of us need to go read the story of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards, not from the perspective what a great idea, but as a grim warning — resemblance to antifa, so-called, is NOT coincidental. Notice, the underlying strategic scheming and dirty, ruthless power plays that 99% of the ill-advised, brainwashed youthful fanatics were utterly unaware of. Along the way the readers need to learn the problem of cooked yardsticks and how a truly self-evident plumb line test case can help fix the crookedness . . . if people are willing. IF being a very big but short word. KF

    PS: Let’s notice from NR:

    Seriously, what more can people ask than that in terms of cultural sensitivity? Must they completely avoid ever incorporating an influence of a culture other than their own? Because sorry, that’s kind of impossible. [–> alphabet . . . semitic, decimal numerals Hindu-Arabic, English mostly Latin and Germanic with all sorts of borrowed words from everywhere . . . as in you cannot write, figure or even speak] Humanity is far from new, and at this point, pretty much anything you could create runs the risk of having some ancient origin in a culture other than your own. And how far would you take it? I mean, who made the first painting? Someone, somewhere, from some culture was the first person to have the idea of “painting,” and all of its subsequent styles have since developed from there. Should no one else have ever painted at all, for fear of cultural appropriation?

    Notice the highlighted pivotal inconsistency? From the totalitarian, radical, reign of terror perspective, that’s not a bug it’s a feature. By entrapping “everybody” under a regime that turns large masses into scarlet-letter brand-able criminals, then it is only a matter of who the power holders choose to show mercy to for the moment. (And, in the US, criminalising lawful gun owners de jure or de facto is clearly on the cards, as is the broad-brush media amplified delegitimisation and criminalisation of the “right” whatever that means, apart from to Stalin’s right — yes this goes back to the 1930s.) That is, the kangaroo courts are ready to roll at a moment’s notice, whether mob “justice” [self-appointed red guards backed by power factions] or fake courts imposing power under false colour of law . . . sometimes, formerly legitimate courts with all the trimmings and trappings. Terror reigns, prudence and justice are dead, nihilism is in the driving seat and the ship of fools is on a voyage of ruin.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: on voyages of ruin for the ship of state — why do we refuse to learn from sobering history?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Ad.] Of course, said Adeimantus.

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

    [Ad.] Certainly.

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

    [Ad.] I will.

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

    [Ad.] Precisely so, he said.

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

    [Ad.] Yes.

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

    [Ad.] True.

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

    [Ad.] By all means.

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

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

    That’s nigh on 2400 years ago, with the ruin of Athens still raw and fresh in memory.


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