• cincPhil
    20
    (1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    (2) Objective moral values and duties exist.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Few things...

    Objectivity doesn't entail God, does it? Science is, supposedly, objective and nowhere do they invoke the divine.

    What does it mean to say moral values are objective? Do we mean that there are some truths, unchanging and universal, about morality? What are they?
  • cincPhil
    20

    To say that a moral value or duty is objective is to say that it is true or binding irrespective of human opinion (regardless of what anyone thinks). For example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively wrong is to say that even if the Nazis had succeeded in winning WWII, and brain-washed or exterminated everyone who disagreed with them, so that everyone in the world believed that Naziism was right, it would still be wrong.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    1) Why are God and objective moral values inseparable?

    But first, you would need to make an argument for 2):

    2) What's the argument for the existence of objective moral values?
  • cincPhil
    20
    On atheism, you don't read morality into nature. Nature is red in tooth and claw. To quote Richard Dawkins, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."

    Now, which premise do you deny? Are you really willing to deny the objectivity of moral values and duties? See my reply to TheMadFool
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    Another way to look at premise one is to say that if atheism is true, then morality is not objective. And that is precisely what atheism asserts. Any atheist worth his salt will tell you that you don't read morality into nature. Nature is red in tooth and claw. To quote Richard Dawkins, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."cincPhil

    So you're argument here is that atheists don't believe in objective morality, therefore...what? Again, back to my question: Why are God and objective moral values inseparable?

    There are many atheists around these parts who believe in some sort of definable morality, even if they don't choose the word "objective". Dawkins is kind of an atheistic piñata at this point, as far as I'm aware.

    Now, which premise do you deny?cincPhil

    I'm not denying any premise, I'm asking questions about your premises.

    Are you really willing to deny the objectivity of moral values and duties?cincPhil

    Nowhere have I done so.
  • cincPhil
    20
    Forgive me. I don't mean to accuse. My argument is not about what atheists believe. It is about the nature of morality.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    I didn't feel accused, I was just clarifying. (Y) No apology needed. I'd still be interested to hear your responses to my questions.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    My argument is not about what atheists believe. It is about the nature of morality if atheism is true.cincPhil

    Ok; can you expand on that?
  • cincPhil
    20
    This strikes a personal cord with me. I've done things I regret. I've hurt people. And I know that if God did not exist, then I would embrace my animal instinct, you know? I would live like the animal that I am. I would rob banks, and maybe worse. I would see no reason not too. I would laugh at any atheist who practiced morality because there is none. Nature is morally neutral. For example, when the lion kills the zebra, it kills the zebra, but it doesn't commit murder. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female shark, it forcibly copulates, but it doesn't rape. On atheism, what obligations, if any do we owe to other homo sapiens? If we are just animals, then what makes us so special? Why think that we have any moral worth? That is premise one, in a nutshell.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    This strikes a personal cord with me. I've done things I regret. I've hurt people. And I know that if God did not exist, then I would embrace my animal instinct, you know?cincPhil

    Yes, you're not alone; everyone has done things they regret, and everyone has hurt someone else. It sounds like your shame for having done those things is leading to you questioning God's existence; yes/no?

    For instance, I think what you mean is "if I believed that God did not exist, then I would embrace my animal instinct". From your theistic perspective, the prospect of God's non-existence presents a nihilistic void where animal instinct reigns. So your belief is what's determining the factors here. On the other hand, regardless of the existence of God, there are morally upright atheists and agnostics who exemplify moral behavior, regardless of whether their views are grounded metaphysically in something substantial. Social context forms moral positions; a metaphysical reality doesn't. That doesn't discount the possibility of a metaphysical moral reality existing. Hope that makes sense...

    On atheism, what obligations, if any do we owe to other homo sapiens?cincPhil

    I'm a theist, so I won't speak for them.
  • cincPhil
    20
    I used to doubt, but not anymore.

    On atheism, it is as you say, that morality is a product of socio-biological evolution. But let me be clear: I'm not arguing that belief in God is necessary for people to be good. I agree that atheists often live good and decent lives–lives that would put mine to shame. I'm arguing that if God does not exist, then morality is just an evolutionary spin-off. It's a kind of herd morality, but it's not really true in any objective sense. As a theist, don't you see God as the foundation of objective morality?
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    On atheism, it is as you say, that morality is a product of socio-biological evolution.cincPhil

    I'm not saying that; I'm saying environment determines our specific moral positions. Atheism or theism doesn't come in to play yet because whether an objective morality exists or not doesn't come into play yet. I'm just making a simple acknowledgement of how environment determines our disposition towards morality.

    I'm arguing that if God does not exist, then morality is just an evolutionary spin-off. It's a kind of herd morality, but it's not really true in any objective sense.cincPhil

    So far you've only asserted that; you haven't made an argument for that yet.
  • cincPhil
    20
    If morality is dependent upon environmental factors, wouldn't it be subjective?

    Also, herd morality and evolution is just what the atheist espouses. Think about premise (1). If atheism is true, then how can morality be objective? That's the question.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    If morality is dependent upon environmental factors, wouldn't it be subjective?cincPhil

    I'm trying to highlight that it's not either/or; begin with experience: experience tells you your environment determines some amount of your moral beliefs. That has nothing to say about whether or not an objective morality exists.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    To say that a moral value or duty is objective is to say that it is true or binding irrespective of human opinion (regardless of what anyone thinks). For example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively wrong is to say that even if the Nazis had succeeded in winning WWII, and brain-washed or exterminated everyone who disagreed with them, so that everyone in the world believed that Naziism was right, it would still be wrong.cincPhil

    I want to believe that there's objective morality. Your Nazi example makes the point well. Indeed, what the Nazi's did and a lot of our ancestors did were, are and will be bad. But, that's from our present perspective. Do you see no possibility that moral values will change with time? There are precedents - your views on the Holocaust are evidence of that.
  • cincPhil
    20
    On atheism, I would agree with you: morality is simply a product of human experience over the course of evolution; it's nothing more than a kind of herd morality. On that view, I see no reason to think that moral values and duties are objectively binding in any way. And if they are not objectively binding, then they must be subjective.
  • cincPhil
    20
    Thanks MadFool. Let me ask your question back to you. Can you give me an example of an objective moral value that changes? For example, can the value of love be sometimes good, and sometimes bad? Or is it always true that it is good for us to love?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Euthyphro would like a word with you. And I notice you failed to provide definitions. What, or who, is God? What are objective moral values? What is existence?
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Thanks MadFool. Let me ask your question back to you. Can you give me an example of an objective moral value that changes? For example, can the value of love be sometimes good, and sometimes bad? Or is it always true that it is good for us to love?cincPhil

    I don't know how to answer your question but I'll try...

    Love is generally accepted to be good but I'm sure you must've heard of the expression ''love hurts''. If ''love hurts'' is true you lose the leverage of happiness in your moral equation and that, I think, is a fatal blow to moral theories based on happiness (I think they call it Hedonism). If your moral theory isn't based on happiness I'd like to know more.
  • jorndoe
    604
    On common usage, subjective is roughly mind-dependent, and objective mind-independent.

    1:

    The conditional seems like a non sequitur, and requires justification.

    Some define God as a mind, implying that morals are subjective.
    (Barring special pleading and word magic (trying to define things into existence).)

    2:

    Requires justification.

    We can assume that anyone likes freedom by default. (Including non-humans.) This informs morals.
    We can assume that anyone dislikes harm by default. (Including non-humans.) This informs morals.
    Liking and disliking are subjective.
    Thus, morals are subjectively informed (in part at least).

    Moral awareness is a prerequisite for moral action.
    Awareness is (part of) mind.
    Thus, morals are subjective.

    3:

    Objective versus subjective morals is misleading, possibly irrelevant.
  • cincPhil
    20
    For God, I might use St. Anselm's concept of a maximal being, "a being than which no greater can be conceived."

    Also, I'm aware of the Euthyphro dilemma. The question is: is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good? If the theist says that God wills something because it is good, then Plato is right, and moral values are independent of God; they are not based in God. On the other hand, if you say that something is good because God wills it then that would seem to make good and evil arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred is good; then we would be morally obligated to hate one another, which is insane. Some moral values like love seem to be necessary, and therefore, there is no possible world in which hatred is good. So the claim is that this shows that the good is not based in God.

    I think this is clearly a false dilemma because the choices are not of the form "A or not-A", which would be inescapable. The alternatives are of the form "A or B". In that case you could simply posit a third alternative C, and escape the horns of the dilemma. I think there is a third alternative: God wills something because he is good. God himself is the paradigm of all goodness, and his will reflects his character. God is by his very nature good, loving, fair, kind, generous, etc. Therefore, he could not have willed hatred to be good. That would be to contradict his own nature.

    So God's commands are not arbitrary, but neither are they independent of God. Instead, God himself is the paradigm of goodness.
  • cincPhil
    20
    I didn't say anything about happiness. Do you really think of love in this way? Do you really think that love hurts? Or is it when we fail to love purely that we hurt each other? Can you imagine a pure, high love that is greater than our attempts at it?
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    I didn't say anything about happiness. Do you really think of love in this way? Do you really think that love hurts? Or is it when we fail to love purely that we hurt each other? Can you imagine a pure, high love that is greater than all our attempts at it?cincPhil

    Well, I'd like to know what your moral theory is based on, if not happiness.
  • cincPhil
    20
    I would agree that moral values are mind-independent. But the objection is that if God is a mind, then moral values are not mind-independent. However, on this view, the distinction between mind-dependent and mind-independent realities collapses. Everything becomes mind-dependent. Even things like galaxies, the moon, people, and cars, which are models of objective reality, become subjective on that view. But then the intuitive distinction of mind-independence vs. mind-dependence goes out the window. That is why I prefer to say, "Independent of human opinion." It avoids this confusion about mind-independent realities.

    We can assume that anyone likes freedom by default. (Including non-humans.) This informs morals.
    We can assume that anyone dislikes harm by default. (Including non-humans.) This informs morals.
    Liking and disliking are subjective.
    Thus, morals are subjectively informed (in part at least).

    Suppose I see someone about to hurt a child; it is clear that he is attempting to kill or capture that child. I don't have a weapon, and I'm not totally sure I can subdue him with my bare hands. But I know that if I step in, the child will at least get away; the child will be spared. Should I let the child die because I dislike pain, and I want to live? Similarly, should I let the child be captured beacuse I do not wish to relinquish my own freedom?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    For God, I might use St. Anselm's concept of a maximal being, "a being than which no greater can be conceived."cincPhil

    Then, if I don't conceive of any such being, your argument doesn't get off the ground. Nothing comes to mind when I hear this definition.
  • cincPhil
    20
    Well, I'd like to know what your moral theory is based on, if not happiness.TheMadFool

    I don't want to try to describe a complete set of ethics. I am open to examples of what is good and what is right. The question I would put to anyone is what basis do we have on atheism for believing that goodness and rightness have any meaning at all? On atheism, it seems me, we are just animals, and anything goes. You don't try to read morality into the animal world. For example, lions kill each other, mate with their relatives, and kill cubs when they take over a pride. However, no one is making a moral judgment that lions are bad, incestuous, child murderers, are they? Or take the example of child torture. Forgive the extreme example, but did you know that certain cultures practice ritual genital mutilation of children? On atheism, it seems to me, that these people are merely being taboo, but why believe that there is anything inherently wrong with that? Animals do all kinds of things that are taboo to us, so why believe that our morality is superior to theirs? To do so is to succumb to an unjustified bias about our own species. What makes us the seat of objective moral reality? On atheism, we are just an advanced species of primate that evolved relatively recently on a speck of dust called Earth, lost the vast ocean of a dying universe, and yet somehow, we are beset with delusions of moral grandeur. So that is premise (1) in a nutshell.

    Premise (2) says, "But wait! Morality really is objective!" Is it wrong to torture a child? Any sane person knows the answer, and I would agree: "Of course it's wrong to torture a child!" We have an objective moral obligation to love children, and to protect them, not to hurt them. Is it wrong to rape, or may I "forcibly copulate" as the male great white shark does? Again, only an insane person would say "I forcibly copulate as the white shark does". Is it wrong to kill my fellow man? The chimpanzee does it. Why not his primate cousin, homo sapiens? Again, it seems obvious to any sane person that each of us has a binding, objective obligation to respect human life, and to not take it just because one feels like it. That is (2) in a nutshell.
  • cincPhil
    20
    Nothing comes to mind when I hear this definition.Thorongil

    Time to get creative. I think I'll be happy as long as you don't posit a flying spaghetti monster.
  • jorndoe
    604
    @cincPhil, how would you justify 1 and 2? (They seem kind of creative or inventive, depending on definitions alone.)

    That is why I prefer to say, "Independent of human opinion."cincPhil

    Note, though, liking freedom and disliking harm are not opinion, not arbitrary or ad hoc, not mere whims of the moment or discretionary. There are shared, involuntary elements involved.

    Should I let the child die because I dislike pain, and I want to live? Similarly, should I let the child be captured beacuse I do not wish to relinquish my own freedom?cincPhil

    It's not just you that like freedom and dislike harm, it's us. Morals are social, and not reducible to self-interest alone. But their existence are dependent on a minimum degree of (individual) moral awareness. Suppose the assailant in your scenario is a lioness, and instead of you a grizzly is present. Then, due to absence of moral awareness, moral action become moot.

    I don't know that it's possible to come up with a set-in-stone cost-benefit analysis that would determine what action to take. :) It's simple enough to determine that the child ought remain free and unharmed, however. The trolley problem, for example, seems to show that moral actions in general are not decidable. Implications for the hypothesis that there are objective morals?

    Anyway, I'm thinking that an evil mass-abuser in your scenario would find themselves in trouble.
  • cincPhil
    20
    What part of the argument are you having trouble with?

    Are moral values really dependent on human beings? It seems to me that would make them subjective. If they are objective, as many philosophers think they are, then they must be independent of human beings; in other words, some things are bad or wrong even if people are oblivious to them. See the Nazi example at the beginning of the discussion.

    Your use of lioness and grizzly is quite perplexing to me, as I have said repeatedly that mother nature is morally neutral. However, I think I understand what you mean by "involuntary elements". On naturalism, only natural causes are considered, and naturalists tend to be determinists. As an oversimplification, everything I do, I do either to avoid painful stimuli, or for the survival of my species. So I might face pain to save a child because the child will advance my species, and the need for species advancement overrides my need to avoid pain. But that's just premise (1). On atheism, morality is not objective. It's just a kind of herd morality that arose as a product of our socio-biological evolution.

    I don't know that it's possible to come up with a set-in-stone cost-benefit analysis that would determine what action to take. :) It's simple enough to determine that the child ought remain free and unharmed, however. The trolley problem, for example, seems to show that moral actions in general are not decidable. Implications for the hypothesis that there are objective morals?jorndoe

    I wasn't commenting on how we come to know right from wrong. I was merely trying to give you an example of a situation in which the right action is clear. Of course, it is not always clear. As you point out, the trolley problem serves to illustrate that sometimes the right action is not clear; sometimes all we have are bad choices. Another example of this is the movie, Sophie's Choice, in which a mother at Auschwitz is forced by the Nazis to choose which of her two children will live. However, these situations need not undermine our belief in objective morality. Neither the person on the trolley nor Sophie is morally culpable for his or her actions. At the trolley tracks, who has tied the people to the tracks? At Auschwitz, it's the madman Nazi "doctor" who is guilty of murder. The moral truth in both scenarios is clear: a murder has been committed, but the person who is forced to make the choice is not responsible for its outcome. Now, you could say that the trolley situation was just a coincidence I suppose. You could say that the people on the tracks just happened to be there, but even if that were true, then the situation is at best an unavoidable accident, but it seems to me that there is some sort of ill-will or bad actor behind it. I mean, what kind of person invents a scenario where people are tied to tracks and your only choice is to run them over? Is this the Joker vs. Batman? At any rate, I have asserted that moral values and duties are objective, and therefore, true or binding. And to say that some situations are difficult does not seem to undermine that.

    What do you believe? Do you apprehend at least a loose set of objective moral values, such as love, freedom, equality, tolerance, etc? Now, what if society as a whole decided to replace them with greed, narcissism, bigotry, and malice? Does that mean that those things are good? In what possible world is malice good? Don't some values seem necessary, like love for example?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Time to get creative. I think I'll be happy as long as you don't posit a flying spaghetti monster.cincPhil

    What might you suggest to make "that than which no greater can be conceived" meaningful and coherent?
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